Ranking the NBA's Best Shooters so Far This SeasonDecember 8, 2022
Ranking the NBA's Best Shooters so Far This Season
A glaring limelight was already cast over the NBA's least valuable shooters so far this season. Now, naturally, it's time for us to pay our respects to the absolute best.
The formula for ranking the Association's top snipers remains the same. Three different zones factored in to the returns: mid-range jumpers (twos outside the paint), corner threes and above-the-break triples. Free throws were not part of the process; live-ball shooting is the only focus within this space.
After cobbling together every player's average points generated per shot from each of the three areas, we then subtracted the leaguewide average from each zone and multiplied the difference by the number of field-goal attempts to help account for volume.
This gave us three different scores: one for mid-range jumpers, one for corner threes and one for above-the-break triples. These marks were combined to form what we'll call "total shot value added." The players you see here posted the 10 highest scores from a field of 480. That's, uh, pretty good.
In the interest of full disclosure, this approach has its limitations. Most notably, it is at the mercy of generality. It does not account for the level of difficulty on a player's shot distribution and role. So, theoretically, someone who binges on primarily wide-open spot-up jumpers can outshine a megastar thriving amid bonkers volume and self-creation.
Still, the results prove this exercise isn't being done in vain. The top 10 is far from populated by specialists. More than anything, though, this is solely meant to be a ranking of the most efficient shooters from the perimeter entering games on Monday, Dec. 5. Nothing else needs to be inferred about the returns.
10. Demar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls
Total Shot Value Added: 36.54
DeMar DeRozan skates into the top 10 on the back of his bankable mid-range shooting. Only one other player added more total value from the in-between zone, where the Chicago Bulls' offensive engine is downing a rock-solid-squared 49.8 percent of his looks.
Believe it or not, DeRozan is also helped along by tidy efficiency from above the break. His 36.8 percent clip doesn't come on astronomical volume (7-of-19) but is noticeably higher than the league average of 34.9.
Finishing in the top 10 mostly because of his mid-range reliance is fairly counterintuitive. Then again, DeRozan knows how to maneuver through bodies to reach his spots and is eminently comfortable firing off looks with little airspace. Ergo, he's indulging his preferred mode of offense.
Perhaps most impressively, more than 71 percent of DeRozan's made buckets go unassisted—the largest share of anyone who will appear here. Granted, this on-ball dependence (and shot selection) can be limiting in the larger context of an offense. In this space, though, it's just pleasantly wild.
9. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
Total Shot Value Added: 37.21
Balance fuels Devin Booker's ninth-place finish. He has, still rather quietly by superstar standards, mutated into one of the game's most complete bucket-getters.
There are maybe two other players I'd currently trust more to rain jumpers from mid-range, where Booker is converting 48.3 percent of his attempts. But he is also a monster positive from above the break (38.5 percent), and for good measure, he's nailed 42.1 percent of his left corner treys.
The scalability of Booker's shooting is truly unreal. He receives a lot of attention for his pull-up jumpers—and rightly so. Luka Dončić is the lone player taking more of those shots every game, and Booker is noticeably more efficient on his volume. But he offers similar dependability when he's not on the ball, placing inside the 88th percentile of scoring off spot-ups.
Though the Phoenix Suns have successfully navigated injuries to Cam Johnson and Chris Paul and the pending departure of Jae Crowder thanks to a multitude of factors, you're currently looking at the primary reason they continue to thrive.
8. Bojan Bogdanović, Detroit Pistons
Total Shot Value Added: 38.01
So much for the perimeter slump Bojan Bogdanović was somewhat mired in during the middle of November.
His shooting splits mostly read like typos. Exhibits A thru C:
- Mid-range: 53.2 percent (33-of-62)
- Corner: 47.6 percent (20-of-42)
- Above-the-break: 38.7 percent (36-of-93)
Bogdanović ends up adding at least 10 full TSVA points in each category. Just one other player accomplishes the same, and He-Who-Must-Not-Yet-Be-Named will appear here later. (Much later.)
While not celebrated for more complicated usage, Bogdanović hasn't exactly feasted on bunnies. He ranks inside the top 25 of total mid-range attempts, and those looks are almost never assisted. His 40.9 percent clip on pull-up threes, meanwhile, is a top-eight mark among 50 players who have fired up as many.
The man can flat-out shoot, regardless of context.
7. Devin Vassell, San Antonio Spurs
Total Shot Value Added: 38.03
I did not have "Devin Vassell ranks as one of the NBA's 10 most valuable shooters" on my quarter-mark bingo card.
And yet, here we are.
Vassell reminds me (loosely) of an early-career Devin Booker-Khris Middleton type. He can score efficiently enough from anywhere and is starting to come into his own as a self-creator. His scoring as the ball-handler on pick-and-rolls has dramatically improved to include both extra volume and efficiency (80th percentile), and he's dropping in 47.9 percent of his pull-up jumpers inside the arc.
To be sure, the crux of Vassell's value is buoyed by his plug-and-play touch. He's canned 48.6 percent of his spot-up triples, and nobody on this list registers as a more valuable shot-maker from the corners, where he's knocking down a spine-tingling 62.1 percent of his opportunities.
Setting the table for himself (and for others) is more of an ancillary device that's becoming increasingly necessary for the San Antonio Spurs. And, frankly, that appears to be a good thing.
6. Malcolm Brogdon, Boston Celtics
Total Shot Value Added: 38.03
Scorching-hot above-the-break marksmanship suggests that Malcolm Brogdon may continue climbing up this list. He's shooting 50.8 percent on non-corner threes—the second-highest mark in the league among 280 players who have uncorked at least 15 of these triples.
(For funsies: Al Horford ranks first. Holy hell, the Boston Celtics are loaded.)
Settling back into more of a complementary pump-and-go role has looked gruh-eat on Brogdon. But Boston's offense has been thermonuclear in part because he can diversify his wet work to include the occasional stop-and-pop jumper.
Among 127 players who have launched at least 50 pull-ups this season, Brogdon's 58.3 effective field-goal percentage ranks fourth, trailing only Donovan Mitchell, Desmond Bane(!) and He-Who-Must-Not-Yet-Be-Named.
5. Jerami Grant, Portland Trail Blazers
Total Shot Value Added: 41.25
Speaking of above-the-break flamethrowers, we have Jerami Grant.
Making the most of his corner opportunities has helped, too. He's at 43.3 percent on those looks, including a surface-of-the-sun 58.8 percent clip (10-of-17) from the right corner.
Still, Grant's volume and efficiency from above the break inflate his score more than anything. He has found nylon on 42 of his 87 attempts—a 48.3 percent success rate that boggles the mind.
Yes, we just discussed Brogdon's 50.8 percent accuracy from the same spot. But he's unbottled 63 total above-the-break threebies. Grant is at 87. That isn't a gargantuan number relative to the rest of the league, but of the 67 players to attempt as many, no one is hitting them at a better clip.
Does it matter that Grant isn't creating most of these looks for himself? Perhaps. But only if you expect him to be a playmaking wing more than a secondary scorer who generates most of his own offense going downhill.
So, in other words: It doesn't matter.
4. Andrew Wiggins, Golden State Warriors
Total Shot Value Added: 45.13
Turn the clock back three years or so. Imagine telling yourself that Andrew Wiggins would be a top-five most valuable shooter in 2022, and how that would go over, and how much 2019 You would laugh before ultimately slapping the hell out of 2022 You for being so seriously, mind-numbingly out of touch.
Wiggins has gone from inefficient chucker and mega-draft bust to one of the two or three most important players on the reigning champs. And not only is he the Golden State Warriors' most important and reliable perimeter defender, but he's now one of the league's most deadly shooters, bar none.
Indeed, the role Wiggins plays now is unrecognizable from how he functioned on the Minnesota Timberwolves. That's the point. The Warriors have been able to streamline his usage. Self-creation remains caked into his offensive inklings, but it's merely the dipping sauce to the rest of his meal.
More than 75 percent of his made buckets are coming off assists, and he is automatic on these looks. Among 33 players who have attempted at least 100 catch-and-shoot jumpers, Wiggins' 71.9 effective field-goal percentage is both brain-bending and leads the pack. He has so far hit 48.4 percent of his spot-up threes...on top-seven volume.
Don't call it a mid-career turn. It's more like a reinvention.
3. Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers
Total Shot Value Added: 45.19
Donovan Mitchell has done the vast majority of his damage this season on above-the-break threes. He finished with a net-negative score on mid-range jumpers, which he's converting at a 40.3 percent clip, and he hasn't taken enough corner threes (14) for it to be a material difference.
That kind of makes this top-three finish even more incredible. Mitchell has attempted 184 above-the-break triples, the fifth-most in the NBA, and hits them at a 42.9 percent clip.
His off-the-dribble efficiency from deep has been mesmerizing. He has put down 45.8 percent of his pull-up treys while making the second-most in the entire league.
This would seem to imply there's room for Mitchell to fade. But his 37 percent success rate on catch-and-shoot threes actually feels...low. He can afford to slip off the bounce, and then some, if he nudges up the efficiency on his assisted looks.
2. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
Total Shot Value Added: 46.36
Leave it to Kevin Durant to emerge as the second-most efficient shooter alive without delivering hellfire from deep.
Regardless, despite grading out as a negative-value shooter beyond the arc, Durant has a higher mid-range score than anyone else alive. His 177 attempts trail only DeMar DeRozan, and he's finding the bottom of the net on those looks a logic-defying 55.4 percent of the time.
It's almost scary that KD has the runway to improve—and the track record to suggest that he will. His 33.9 percent clip from long range would be the second lowest of his career. He's one typical-KD-shooting stretch away from seeing his score skyrocket.
As you'll see in a second, though, it's just not going to matter.
1. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Total Shot Value Added: 86.39
This is so incredible it's stupid.
"The best shooter alive grades out as the best shooter alive" isn't a groundbreaking headline. Most of us probably would've expected Stephen Curry to bag first place going into this exercise. But the degree to which he secures it is absurd.
Curry more than doubles up the total shot value added of the second-place Durant. Literally, actually, what the hell?!?
Don't bother trying to suss out Curry's weak point. He has none. His above-the-break three-point shooting makes up the lion's share of his score, but only because he takes so many—more than anyone else. And he hits them at a 43.7 percent clip.
He pairs this lava-hot touch from ultra-deep with 50.9 percent shooting from mid-range and a 58.3 percent hit rate on corner triples. The circumstances under which he bombs away don't matter, either. His 1.55 points per spot-up possession lands inside the 100th percentile, and among 87 players to attempt at least 25 pull-up treys, his 48.6 percent clip ranks first.
Not one for the nitty-gritty details? Well, the basics are just as effective in this case. Steph is ripping nylon on 44.1 of his 11.9 three-point attempts per game. His volume and efficiency are two anomalies rolled into one. We've reached the point where neither he nor any of us need to watch his outside looks fall. From the moment the ball leaves his fingertips, we just assume it's going in.
Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of NBA.com, Basketball Reference, Stathead or Cleaning the Glass and accurate entering Monday's games. Salary information via Spotrac.
Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale), and subscribe to the Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes.