Spotlighting the NBA's Best Shooters This Season

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistDecember 6, 2021

Spotlighting the NBA's Best Shooters This Season

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    D. Ross Cameron/Associated Press

    Now that we're over a quarter of the way into the 2021-22 NBA season, we can start to take a lot of numbers around the league a little more seriously.

    Sure, wild hot or cold streaks could still have a dramatic effect on an individual player's numbers, but samples are now big enough for meaningful takeaways.

    And that includes numbers on the game's best shooters. To determine who's most deserving of that distinction, we used the same formula deployed in last week's "Exposing the NBA's Worst Shooters This Season."

    Take everyone's average points per attempt from 10 feet and out, subtract the league average from the same range and multiply that answer by the player's number of attempts.

    This yields a number that tells us how many more (or fewer) points a player has scored than a perfectly average shooter from a given range and during a given time frame. It also accounts for both efficiency and volume of jump-shooters throughout the NBA and gives us a top five that's not all that surprising (always a good sign).

    But before we look at those players, a little FYI on some close calls and the bottom of the list.

    Those within shouting distance of fifth place include Kevin Durant (plus-46.7), Pat Connaughton (plus-45.7) and Desmond Bane (plus-42.7). Then, there's a bit of a dropoff to a group that includes Fred VanVleet, Joe Harris and Karl-Anthony Towns.

    As for the final five, those are Saddiq Bey (minus-34.1), Davion Mitchell (minus-34.6), Jalen Suggs (minus-35.0), De'Aaron Fox (minus-39.6) and Anthony Davis (minus-43.8).

    The five below are on the opposite end of the spectrum.

5. Seth Curry (+47.3)

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Seth Curry deserves this nod and is rightfully getting more attention than he has in years past, thanks in part to more offensive responsibility from Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers.

    He's posting career highs in points per game (16.3), shots per game (11.6) and free-throw percentage (90.2). And with a 42.7 three-point percentage, he hasn't sacrificed much efficiency from deep.

    But this is hardly a new thing from Curry. He's getting more shots now, but he's been lighting up nets in the NBA for long enough to be considered one of the greatest shooters of all time.

    He's second in NBA history in career three-point percentage (44.3) and tied for 28th in career threes per 75 possessions (2.8).   

4. Mike Conley (+50.2)

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    Alex Goodlett/Associated Press

    There is plenty of time for his numbers to cool off a bit, but Mike Conley is off to an outrageously hot start as a jump-shooter.

    A 7-of-7 performance from three against the Boston Celtics on Friday brought his three-point percentage up to 47.0. And it was his 10th game this season with a 50-plus three-point percentage.

    That night also bumped Conley's true shooting percentage up to 66.8, which is not only a career high but also leads the league (among players with at least as many three-point attempts).

    Conley certainly had his fair share of great seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies, but the way he's been unleashed as a shooter for the Utah Jazz (with whom over 50 percent of his shots have been threes) has arguably made him an even better offensive weapon, despite entering the post-athletic-prime phase of his career at age 34.

3. Grayson Allen (+51.1)

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    The Milwaukee Bucks' offseason acquisition of Grayson Allen felt like a fairly low-impact move at the time, but he turned out to be a life preserver for a team that was decimated by injuries early on.

    On the season, over 70 percent of his shots have come from three, and he's connecting on 42.6 percent of those attempts and averaging a career-high 13.8 points per game.

    That kind of high-volume efficiency is crucial on a team featuring Giannis Antetokounmpo. The two-time league MVP, of course, is one of the game's best attackers. So, if he's not surrounded by shooting, opposing defenses can pack the paint against him. With a shooter like Allen spacing around Giannis' drives, defenses are put in a pick-your-poison scenario.

    This season, Milwaukee is scoring 112.6 points per 100 possessions and outscoring opponents by 9.2 when Allen is on the floor. Those numbers drop to 110.2 and minus-0.7 without Allen.     

2. Patty Mills (+55.4)

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    Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

    The absence of Kyrie Irving due to COVID-19 protocols was one of the preseason's biggest stories, but the Brooklyn Nets are in first place in the Eastern Conference. And Patty Mills and his shooting are a big reason why.

    Mills leads Brooklyn in net rating swing (the difference in the team's points per 100 possessions when a given player is on or off the floor). It's plus-13.0 points per 100 possessions when he's on the floor and minus-9.3 with him off.

    Perhaps even more instructive, the two-man net rating of Kevin Durant and James Harden plummets from plus-11.6 with Mills to minus-6.1 without him.

    With those two superstars, there is plenty of ball-handling on the floor. And though Mills can be counted on to create a little, his willingness to mostly be a floor-spacer makes him an ideal complement.

    In this role, Mills is putting up career highs in points (12.7), threes (3.1) and three-point percentage (47.4). And that last mark also leads the NBA this season.

1. Stephen Curry (+72.4)

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    In the least surprising news of today's slideshow, Stephen Curry not only leads the league in this number but he's also blowing the field away. The distance between his mark and second place is about the same as the distance between second and ninth.

    And this huge lead is still in place after a recent three-game stretch in which he shot just 27.5 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from three. When you're as good as Curry, you can afford a few cold streaks here and there.

    On balance, Curry has been about as absurd as ever, particularly from three. Assuming he plays every game for the rest of the season, he's on pace for 438 triples, a number that would crush his current record of 402 in a single season.

    As if we needed more evidence to establish his best-shooter-of-all-time status.


    Advanced stats courtesy of Cleaning the Glass unless otherwise noted.