The NBA is nearing critical mass for three-point shooting specialists and the desire to have them on a team. Guys like Steph Curry — correction: guys like and Steph Curry is bad sentence formation — are clearly the best three-point shooters. It’s not just the ability to shoot from deep, it’s also the ability to create your own three-point shot. Curry, Chris Paul, James Harden,1 etc are the best of both worlds.
Who are the more unsung heroes of deep shooting though? The guys that help space the floor and shoot well but rarely do it all on their own. They might rely on a good pass to open up their shot after a slicing drive. One conjures up the image of Kyle Korver, but you won’t find him on this year’s list…yet.2
For the below list I used NBA.com’s SportVU data and set the minimum at three attempts per game. This eliminates the riff raff and also gives the volume argument its due. The best shoot efficiently and often.
5. Jerryd Bayless
Bayless is tied for the most attempts of the top five at 3.8 catch and shoot three-point attempts per game. In a great bit of fortune for him, 52.4% of those shots are finding the bottom of the net. This is a nice trend for Bayless, but he’s a career 35.4% three-point shooter and even limiting the sample to catch and shoot threes, which are usually a higher quality shot, Bayless will almost certainly regress after shooting just 30.9% last year. Don’t expect to see Bayless near the top of this list come season’s end.
4. Paul George
The small-ball Indiana Pacers are playing well and feature two players in the top five of catch and shoot three-point shooters. Paul George may be the prototypical 3&D+ guy, which looks like a strange bit of programming language. Nate Duncan noted on his podcast that George is showing a player that is trying to take his mantle, Jimmy Butler, that he’s still the best at his specific craft in the conference.
George is showing that argument’s merit with his catch and shoot threes, taking 3.8 per game while draining 53.3% of them. It shouldn’t surprise that George is most often assisted by Monta Ellis, the new pseudo-point guard who loves the drive and kick style of play. He’s also taking a far higher amount of three-pointers when he’s open (closest defender at 4-6 feet) or wide open (6+ feet).
3. Doug McDermott
Maybe the most impressive person on this list because of the limited minutes he’s been playing and the inauspicious start to his career. At just 20.9 minutes/game, McDermott is taking 3.2 catch and shoot threes for the Chicago Bulls and putting them through the hoop at 54.3% clip. McDermott is actually taking a lower percentage of his shots while open and wide open this year than last, but he’s making a lot more when given the opportunity.
In 2014-15, McDermott shot 35% while open and 25% while wide open. This year, he’s taking more of them at a lower percentage of his total shots and shooting 52.4% and 44.4% respectively. McDermott is the type of player you expect to see on this list, but it might be asking a bit much to see him on this list come season’s end after one year of improvement. But he has the skill set to do it.
2. Langston Galloway
Not that he’s a bad player, but Galloway is likely the most surprising player on this list. Bayless is a volume scorer off the bench, George is a rising star finally getting back into form after a terrible leg injury, and McDermott was drafted for this style of scoring. Galloway shot a very good 35% from three in his rookie year, better than McDermott, but he’s now shooting 55.3% on catch and shoot threes on 3.2 attempts per game.
Galloway’s stats show a bit of an issue though that make him the most unlikely to be here after a few more weeks. Most on this list are shooting well with reasonably unsustainable overall numbers. Galloway on the other hand is shooting 66.7% and 61.5% from the two open categories. Not to mention that he’s shooting 56.1% overall from deep, better than his 55.3% on catch and shoot threes. That’s unlikely to continue.
1. George Hill
Took long enough to find the second Pacers player on this list and it’s their more off-ball now guard, George Hill. He’s shooting a blazing 61.1% on 3.6 catch and shoot threes per game. That won’t continue, obviously. Hill and his new icy hair color are shooting 45.3% overall from deep and much like Bayless, this is well above his career averages.
Hill has shot extremely well on catch and shoot opportunities, but is much lower in the rest of his chances. It’s been fun to watch, but regression is likely on the horizon. We’ll see as this is also a new offensive setup and team surrounding him. He’s working off the ball more and teams are forced to focus on a very capable Paul George playing a small ball four. Not to mention the gravity that Ellis draws on his drives. Hill’s numbers won’t continue, but he might be in the right situation to still be on this list at the end of the year.