Basketball is (maybe, possibly) on the horizon. To help reintegrate us to a life of Giannis hammer dunks, James Harden dribbling for 24 seconds, and 76ers fans yelling at you for some reason, we’re rolling out top-five rankings in 20 different categories. Most of the rankings were voted on by The Ringer staff, but each day will feature one writer’s subjective skill-based list.
Evaluating a shooter can be boiled down to two key factors: the ability to make shots (duh) and the ability to create them. Shot creation doesn’t necessarily have to be done with the ball—it can be done by manipulating an off-ball screen or wisely relocating after a drive. Regardless, it matters. With that in mind, here are the league’s five best shooters.
5. Kyle Korver, Bucks
If you want to replace Korver with someone who plays more than his 16 minutes a night, I totally get that. Volume matters here, too.
I just can’t in good conscience leave Korver off a list like this. He’s shot at least 37 percent from behind the arc in 17 straight seasons, an NBA record. Even though he’s playing with a talented second unit in Milwaukee, he’s still curling off dribble handoffs and shooting his patented leaner whenever he gets even the tiniest bit of breathing room. Only two players (Duncan Robinson and Davis Bertans) have attempted more 3s per 36 minutes this season and shot a higher percentage than Korver, and there’s something warm and cozy about falling back on a career sample size of 2,437 made 3s at a 42.9 percent clip. If we can all agree to pretend The Irishman was a great movie, we can give Korver this fifth-place nod as a lifetime achievement award, too.
4. JJ Redick, Pelicans
It’s almost laughable how money Redick is—he shot 58.8 percent on wide-open 3s this season, the highest percentage of any player (minimum 80 attempts) since the league started tracking closeout distances back in 2013-14. Only a select few play at a higher average speed offensively than the 35-year-old, but no one has better brakes than Redick:
Look at those little legs go! With Lonzo Ball pitching it ahead and Zion Williamson drawing multiple defenders, all at the breakneck pace Redick excels at, there’s no reason to think one of the league’s greatest shooters will stop putting up 45-45-90 campaigns anytime soon.
3. Kevin Durant, Nets
The definition of a good shot can vary wildly from player to player. For Durant, it’s a good shot if he’s, oh, somewhere inbounds. There’s something to be said for not needing to be selective. In his last full season, Durant shot 461 attempts from the midrange, where the floor is lava. Except, because he’s Kevin Durant, he hit 55.1 percent of those attempts. For context: Durant made more midrange jumpers in 2018-19 than 10 different teams did this season.
Maybe you take someone else on a wide-open 3, but if a weirdly basketball-obsessed serial killer ever makes you choose someone to hit a shot with your life hanging in the balance, then Durant is the easy choice. No one in today’s game renders defenders more irrelevant.
2. Klay Thompson, Warriors
Thompson has shot over 40 percent from 3 in each of his first eight seasons, something only he and Steph Curry have accomplished in NBA history. Since the league started tracking catch-and-shoot 3s in 2013-14, Thompson has never finished less than second in total spot-up 3s made. While some of that is a function of the teams he’s played on, don’t discount the fact that Thompson can quickly let his shot fly regardless of where the pass hits his hands—a skill we’ve never seen mastered to this extent. Some of these passes during his record-setting 37-point quarter were in different area codes:
You may not subscribe to the “hot hand” theory, but Thompson’s streaks are unlike any shooter’s in the league. For as much as his teammates molded the modern game, we are quickly approaching a decade’s worth of 3-and-D players falling short of Thompson’s lofty standards.
1. Steph Curry, Warriors
There’s simply no case for anyone else being the greatest shooter in the league right now … or ever. Curry is more prolific than Steve Nash and Steve Kerr and more efficient than Reggie Miller and Larry Bird, and he gets shots in a greater variety of ways than all of them. Put him in iso to create something off his own dribble, run him off screens, spot him up off the ball, put him in a box with lox—it doesn’t matter. Curry is elite at all of it. No one has averaged more points per game over their career on a higher true shooting percentage. He’s the best free throw shooter (minimum 1,000 free throws made) in NBA history at 90.6 percent. You can go on and on.
Curry’s shooting changed basketball forever. He ushered in the high-volume 3-point-shooting era, leading the league in 3-point makes and attempts for five straight seasons. And he broke boundaries on how deep you could jack a 3 without giving your coach an aneurysm. In a time where the NBA has never seen so many great shooters, Curry remains head and shoulders above his peers.