Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant: Ranking the NBA's Top 10 Shooters

Nick Greenhalf@@NickGee88Correspondent IMarch 31, 2011

Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant: Ranking the NBA's Top 10 Shooters

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 06:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers attempts a shot against Ray Allen #20 of the Boston Celtics in Game Two of the 2010 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 6, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly
    Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

    Some stroke it with unadulterated majesty. Others don’t even touch the rim.

    Shooting remains the most pure skill in basketball and for every guy wheelin’ and dealin’ in the paint, there’s another dodging traffic on the way to his favorite sweet spot.

    To be clear, this isn’t a compilation of the best catch-and-shoot guys in the league.

    James Jones may have won the 3-point contest in Los Angeles, he may be strokin’ it at 40% for the season, but at under six points a contest, that’s just too little an output to be considered in the NBA’s Top 10 shooters.

    Let’s consider three things. To be a great shooter, you have to shoot a high percentage. The stats don’t lie. No one’s ever been offered a max contract banking 35% from the floor.

    Second, you need to be consistent. Great shooters and streak shooters are different things, though great shooters are often both. Find the bottom of the net at home and on the road season after season and you have claims to being a great shooter.

    Finally, you’ve got to be clutch. It won't matter how many triples you hit in the first period if you can’t seal the deal down the stretch. Great shooters get it done when it matters most.

    Here are the Top 10 Shooters in the NBA right now.

10. Steve Nash

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    PHOENIX - JANUARY 05: Steve Nash #13 of the Phoenix Suns puts up a shot over Andrew Bynum #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the NBA game at US Airways Center on January 5, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees t
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Steve Nash is as much a shoot-first point guard as, well, Rajon Rondo.

    The ultimate team player (11.4 APG through the first 69 games), Nash's appearance on this list may come as a surprise to some—especially for a guy who spends more time in the paint than most tradesmen.

    But there's no hiding from the facts. The Canadian has been strokin' it at 43% from distance over his career and owns an equally impressive 49% field goal mark.

    The two-time MVP is still making more than one per game from the perimeter in season 2010-11 and at 37 is averaging above his career mark in points per game. Nash has shot better than 90% from the charity stripe in seven of his last nine seasons, including his past four.

    Is he clutch? Not enough to be higher on this list, but he certainly deserves his place.

9. Matt Bonner

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    SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 04:  Forward Matt Bonner #15 of the San Antonio Spurs takes a three point shot against the Miami Heat at AT&T Center on March 4, 2011 in San Antonio, Texas.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloadin
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Fast forward to late May.

    It's Game 7 in the Western Conference Finals and the Spurs are down two with a couple seconds on the clock. Gregg Popovich draws the play, Matt Bonner runs off a DeJuan Blair screen and catches the inbound from Manu. He rises up with all of Texas, a made bucket enough to take the Spurs to the big dance.

    Sound likely? Not exactly. It's hard to see the ball out of Parker or Ginobilli's hands and it's hard to call Bonner clutch. Not because he isn't. He may well prove to be, but he hasn't had the chance.

    Bonner may be shooting the lights out right now, but averaging under 19 minutes a game over his career isn't enough to land him atop of any great shooter discussion.

    After a slow 2009-10 season, Bonner is shooting a red-hot 47.5% to comfortably lead the league in distance-shooting this season.

    He's been warm all along, making a season-high seven triples at Oklahoma City in November.

8. Jason Richardson

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    ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 24:  Jason Richardson #23 of the Orlando Magic attempts a shot over Tracy McGrady #1 of the Detroit Pistons during the game at Amway Arena on January 24, 2011 in Orlando, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees
    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    J-Rich gets kudos for getting the job done when it counts. He was integral to Pheonix's charge through the Western Conference last post-season, shooting over 50% from the field and going 48 of 101 from the perimeter. That's enormous.

    Richardson (177) is second only to Dorell Wright in 3-point field goals this season and should surpass the career-best 183 he sank with the Warriors in 2005-06.

    Doesn't quite come with the consistency of those further up the list, but Richardson can get to the cup and when he's hot he's a nightmare to defend.

    Who could forget THAT win against the Heat March 3, where J-Rich triggered the 24-point comeback with six huge triples?

    Talk about a trade-up. Poor Vince.

7. Stephen Curry

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    OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 21:  Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors shoots the ball during their game against the Sacramento Kings at Oracle Arena on January 21, 2011 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that,
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Curry sits in the Top 10 for 3-point field goals made for the second year straight. His 166 makes is an all-time rookie record and remarkably, he's improved on the 43.7% mark this season. He's even upped his scoring average in three less minutes.

    It won't surprise many if Curry sits higher on the list deeper into his pro-career, as his consistency and clutch numbers are hard to make note of two years in the league.

    Curry's electric pace allows him to blow-by defenses off a single pump-fake, where he's regularly getting to the line and shooting a breathtaking 93%.

6. Mike Bibby

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    MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 18:  Mike Bibby #10 of the Atlanta Hawks shoots a free throw during a game against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on January 18, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloadi
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    It's no wonder Mike Bibby is still hot property 12 years pro.

    Unanimously regarded as one of the premier perimeter shooters in the league, Miami won the race to sign the Arizona product and Bibby hasn't disappointed, making 50% from the field and long-range since joining the Heat.

    He kept the Heat in the game at Cleveland Tuesday night.

    Bibby's playoff record suggests he can get it done when it matters most. He shot a combined 49% from the perimeter for the Hawks over the past two post-seasons and he's averaged at least one triple a game all but once since his rookie year.

    LeBron James and Dwyane Wade might just think twice before pulling the trigger this fall.

5. Kyle Korver

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    CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 25: Kyle Korver #26 of the Chicago Bulls puts up a 3 point shot in front of referee Joey Crawford #17 against the Memphis Grizzlies at the United Center on March 25, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Grizzlies 99-96. NO
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Korver could almost make this list on the back of his staggering 53.6% perimeter shooting last season.

    The Chicago Bulls were keen to acquire his services and for good reason.

    While not quite maintaining the same illustrious standards, Korver has been a steady 43% outside threat and a reliable 89% at the line.

    When healthy, Korver has had at least 100 3-point makes in all but his rookie season and set a franchise record 226 triples for the 76ers in the 2004-05 season.

4. Dirk Nowitzki

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    WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 26: Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks puts up a shot in front of Rashard Lewis #9 of the Washington Wizards at the Verizon Center on February 26, 2011 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agree
    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Has there ever been a better seven-foot jump shooter?

    We've all seen the move endless times. The pump-fake. Another. Maybe one more. The step back. The high, unblockable release.

    Sometimes over the backboard. Often over the double-team.

    More often than not in the bottom of the net. More often than not Nowitzki ends up in the third row.

    It's truly a masterpiece of its own.

    Nowitzki's clutch prowess is not in question, you can even find a compilation of such moments.

    The German superstar is shooting a career-high in field goal percentage as Dallas re-establishes itself as a threat in the West. Not bad for 12 years pro.

3. Kevin Durant

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    WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 14:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder shoots a free throw against the Washington Wizards during the first half at the Verizon Center on March 14, 2011 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agr
    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Durant averaged 30.1 points in the 2009–10 season, becoming the youngest scoring leader in NBA history at just 21 years old.

    This season, he again leads the league but the improvement of Russell Westbrook in particular has seen a sharing of the load.

    Durant is a career 46% shooter and a sure-thing at the free-throw line.

    If his playoff clutch game is as good as it was against New York in January, Oklahoma City could cause some headaches in the West.

2. Kobe Bryant

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 20:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots a jumper over Nicolas Batum #88 of the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center on March 20, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and
    Harry How/Getty Images

    You might not like Kobe. You might not like the Lakers. But Kobe Bryant is clutch. With no less than six game-winning buzzer beaters in the 2009-10 season, there's no player better equipped to handle the final possession.

    Bryant's field goal and 3-point percentages are up on his career marks and one senses he's only just starting to get serious in time for the post-season.

    Unlike most guys on this list, Kobe can create his own shot and his health will be pivotal to the Lakers' 3-peat chances.

1. Ray Allen

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    BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 10:  Ray Allen #20 of the Boston Celtics breaks the all time 3-point shot record with this three pointer as Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers defends on February 10, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  NOTE TO US
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Career-best perimeter shooting? Tick.

    Career-best field goal percentage? Tick.

    Most 3-point makes in NBA history? Tick.

    Most clutch player in the NBA since 2008-9? Tick.

    All the while being cheered from the stands by Mom? Ok, probably not a major factor, but tick nonetheless.

    'Nuff said.

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