Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Making It Rain

**Edit - After reading this article for the first time, one of our editors looked like Dwight in this scene after realizing Steve Nash wasn't included.  Sadly, I have to agree and acknowledge that I messed up. Watch this...start at around 0:40.  His form is perfect, his hair is flowing, and his career shooting averages are absurd (49/43/90 - yeah you read that right).  So my apologies to all 7 of our readers.**

Watch this video. Specifically, watch Ray Allen.  Notice how he disappears from the screen for a while?  Rondo runs a fast break, and you never see Ray – not until the ball is kicked out to him in the corner for a sweet three.  It’s important that you see this.  It’s important that you know that instead of making a cut towards the basket for a layup (like most kids are taught), Ray runs to the corner and spots up.  It’s important to note that Ray Allen would do this even if it weren’t a fast break (he would run around screens until he popped open in that spot).

This is important because this is how I play basketball.  Pick-up, intramurals, in my backyard.  I run to the three point line and cock my wrist back, ready to pull the trigger.  I don’t mean to say I’m anywhere near as effective as Ray is at this strategy, and due to my size people will occasionally confuse me for a point guard and let me walk the ball up the court.  But make no mistake – half court, fast break, off a steal: I’m headed to the three point line and not going any closer than that.  That’s how people get hurt!

Given this style of play, my “shoot if I touch the ball near the three point line and otherwise get rid of it asap” mentality, you will understand why I have such a high appreciation for shooters.  (This also comes from playing with my dad, a former coach, and having free throw contests in the backyard – I still haven’t won one of these.)  There’s nothing I love more than a fluid shooting motion releasing a deep ball that winds up swishing through the net.  Not only is a swish a great sound, but the way the net clips up just looks so…sweet.  So if you’re trying to decide whether or not to watch an NBA game that’s on TV, take note of whether or not any of these guys are in the game.  They are, as far as I’m concerned, the greatest players to watch shoot the three ball.

*Honorable mentions: Carmelo (doesn’t always extend his arm all the way), Mike Miller (I have a deep hatred for the Heat for no reason at all…and also he hobbles around like Agassi did during his match with Baghdatis at the US Open. What? No one understood that reference?), Lebron (same Heat issue, but also his sheer size lends his form to be less fluent, which clearly isn’t an insult at all), and the league’s current 3-point percentage leader…Brian Scalibraine Matt Bonner!

Chris Paul
Kyle Korver
Kobe Bryant

Career 36, 42, and 34% three point shooters.  In retrospect, I probably should have snagged Korver for my intramural team.

The more I watch Chris Paul the more I am simply head-over-heels for how well he plays the game.  Look, I would be hard pressed to pick someone not named Lebron or Durant if you asked who I wanted on my team to close a ball game.  But if you were more specific and said, “There’s two minutes left and you’re up/down two/three/four points, who do you want on the floor to finish the game and get a win?”…I probably say Chris Paul.  And unlike Rondo (no disrespect), Paul has a pretty jumper and plenty of range, and shoots the ball from deep fairly well.  Seriously, he may be the best player in the league. I know, I know, I know – blasphemy. I said maybe.

Korver’s past four season averages from three: 53.6, 41.5, 43.5, 43.9.  Are you serious?? 42% from three for his career!?  Just watch him splash shot after shot in this three point contest – and watch Allen Iverson go nuts at the end.

Kobe’s percentages are less favorable, but often his shots are much more fiercely contested from this range.  Plus, as I’ve written before, it’s Kobe.  His form is awesome to watch: the way he rises, keeps his elbow square even as a defender pokes a hand in his face, the way he finishes his shot.  It’s all so pristine.  And it doesn’t change if he is bothered or off balance. (Check out this clip. The first one is luck. You can’t ask Sefolosha to do anything better on defense on the second one.) Look, I almost left Kobe off because there are plenty of people I love watching shoot, and his percentages aren’t great (which probably has something to do with volume of shots as well).  But when he turns in the post or curls off a screen, his form is always incredible. And for that, he makes this list.

Jason Kidd
Steve Novak
Stephen Curry

Check this out: in Kidd’s first 10 seasons he averaged 33.0% from three, shooting above 40% a fat zero times.  In his next 9, he averaged 38.2% (if he finishes with the mark he has right now…which he probably won’t but stop arguing) and two seasons over 40%.  Talk about becoming a steady performer.

Obviously Kidd and Novak are on here to increase the number of “token white shooters” (also known as Jack Petersons) on this list.  (Side note – the Knicks have 3 of the top eight three point shooters so far this year??) But Novak also shoots 43.6% for his career! Which is about what Chris Bosh shoots on dunks. (Heat burn! Get it? Wait…just flashed back to the time I got posterized in a pick-up game. I take back that burn. Shudder.)

Would you be surprised if I told you Steph was 3rd in 3-pointers attempted this year? Would you be surprised if I told you he’s already taken 220 (a stunning 6.5 a game)? Would you be surprised if I told you the man in 2nd (more like kid) was on his team?  Would you be surprised if I told you Ryan Anderson is first with two-hundred and sixty? Would you be surprised if I told you the player in 4th had 180…and was Danny Green?

(No. Perhaps. Yeah. Whoa. Who?)

Anyway, Steph may have made it his mission to try and catch Ray Allen on the all-time 3s list. Which will be tough to do both because of Steph’s ankles and because who knows how long Ray will pretend he can keep playing and cash in on 60 threes a year. But I had the pleasure of watching Steph in person at Davidson, and boy oh boy is it pretty.  He’s also having a career year.  It is only out of respect for the next two players that he isn’t #1 on this list. Believe me, it was a tough set of decisions.  (Steph clip 1 and Steph clip 2 – start at around 0:16.)

Kevin Durant
Ray Allen

Of course Ray is number one. He’s the all-time leader in my favorite shot (maybe second favorite shot to the floater-in-the-lane-while-avoiding-contact, a category in which Nash is the leader…and he should probably have made this list as well).  And now Ray gets to play on the Miami Lebron-and-shooters.  Which means his looks are much easier to come by than they were last season (and he is relied on a little less).  His catch and shoot in the corner…sometimes fading out of bounds, sometimes not even looking…is just so awesome.  He’s so smooth curling off a double screen. And he was in He Got Game.

Durant, meanwhile, is on pace to join the 50% from the field/40% from three/90% from the free throw line in a single season club. (For reference, the stat he’s closest to missing right now is the 90.)  And like Chris Paul, every time I watch him my respect and admiration grows.  The number of times he releases and the ball just rips straight through the net is so many and so pretty it boggles my mind.  Some might say his shot looks awkward. I think it’s because his arms are so long. His form is actually gorgeous (even under pressure, sorry Mavs fans), and he is so consistent, and I would love to see him and his Thunder-brethren work their way through a tough Western Conference and back to the finals.  I’m going to stop before you think I’m actually in love.

But seriously, CP3 and KD in the Western Conference finals duking it out to play a rejuvenated Bulls team with Derrick Rose doing his best Adrian Peterson imitation?  Wow would that be fun.

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