Most Efficient Shooters in NBA History
Amid all the many arguments in basketball circles these days, there is one unquestioned truth. Stephen Curry is the king of the 3-point era. The Golden State Warriors' uberstar ranks third in longballs, fifth in success rate and eighth in attempts in NBA history. Does that make Curry the greatest shooter ever? After all, he also shoots better than 90 percent at the free-throw line, right?
Yet if best means most efficient, as many would contend, then not so fast there. The 3-ball is the highest-risk, highest-reward shot in the game. While Curry sinks more than his share of them, he also misses more often than anyone. If the primary goal of every shooter is to maximize opportunities, then we need a metric that compares points scored to point potential.
Well, it just so happens that we’ve got one. It’s called Shooter Efficiency Rating (SER), which measures all-around excellence and a lot that goes with it, i.e., accuracy, shot selection, self-awareness and ability to draw fouls. The formula: points scored / ((3FGA x 3) + (2FGA x 2) + FTA). If a player converted half of his shots in each of the three point values, for example, the result would be a .500 SER. (The league average was .476 in the 2018-19 season.)
We set some arbitrary guidelines to balance the field. A player had to attempt at least 15 percent of his field goals from beyond the arc with a minimum 37 percent success rate. That eliminated Larry Bird, LeBron James and Michael Jordan, to name a few. He also had to be a regular or thereabouts (24.0 minutes or more per game) for the brunt of his career. Sorry, Steve Kerr and Tim Legler, but we want some volume here.
With this criteria in mind, here are the top 25 most effective shooters.
25. Peja Stojakovic
Experience: 13 seasons (1998-2011)
Teams: Sacramento Kings, Indiana Pacers, New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets, Toronto Raptors, Dallas Mavericks
Career statistics: 17.0 points per game, .450 field-goal percentage, 401 3-point percentage, .895 free-throw percentage
Career SER: .4817
Bottom line: Peja Stojakovic was a classic rhythm shooter. When the Croatian had it, no stroke was sweeter. If not for a bum back, the 42-year-old might still be hoisting 3’s today.
The only blemish on his resume: Stojakovic didn’t fare nearly as well in the playoffs as the regular season.
24. J.J. Redick
Experience: 13 seasons (2006-present)
Teams: Orlando Magic, Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Clippers, Philadelphia 76ers
Career statistics: 12.9 PPG. .448 FG%, .413 3P%, .890 FT%
Career SER: .4823
Bottom line: J.J. Redick is pickier than a keto diet, a perfectionist who works on his shot around the clock.
He’s known for his quick draw — his hands are in the shooting position even before he receives the ball, which allows him to pull the trigger before opponents can react when it arrives.
23. Dana Barros
Experience: 15 seasons (1989-2004)
Teams: Seattle SuperSonics, Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons
Career statistics: 10.5 PPG, .460 FG%, .411 3P%, .858 FT%
Career SER: .4841
Bottom line: Remember the pint-sized guard with the oversized "3" on the back of his Sixers uniform? The number fit Barros well.
In the 1994-95 season, he erupted for one of the most efficient 50-point games ever — 21 field goals in 26 tries.
He averaged 20.6 points on a downright silly .490/.464/.899 slash line in what would be his career season.
22. Ray Allen
Experience: 18 seasons (1996-2014)
Teams: Seattle SuperSonics, Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat
Career statistics: 18.9 PPG, .452 FG%, .400 3P%, .894 FT%
Career SER: .488
Bottom line: Ray Allen is one of 46 qualifiers to shoot 40 percent or better from downtown in their careers, but even that exclusive status doesn’t do him justice.
Ray-Ray has nearly 1,000more such attempts than Reggie Miller, who's a distant second on the list.
He’s also No. 7 in career free-throw percentage.
21. Jose Calderon
Experience: 14 seasons (2005-present)
Teams: Toronto Raptors, New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons, Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Lakers, Atlanta Hawks
Career statistics: 8.9 PPG, .472 FG%, .407 3P%, .873 FT%
Career SER: .489
Bottom line: As one of the most fundamentally sound players of his generation, Jose Calderon illustrates the importance of shot selection as well as anyone.
Then again, if Numero Ocho is so good, then how did he miss three free throws (out of 154) in one season?
20. Glen Rice
Experience: 14 seasons (1990-2004)
Teams: Miami Heat, Charlotte Hornets, Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers
Career statistics: 18.3 PPG, .456 FG%, .400 3p%, .846 FT%
Career SER: .490
Bottom line: Glen Rice was the best of all worlds. The 6-foot-8 swingman had the touch to play pop-a-shot from the outside, the size to post up closer to the basket and the handle to drive to the bucket.
In his best five-season stretch (1993-98), "G Money" produced a .470/.425/.857 slash line.
"I've never had anyone like him," coach Pat Riley said of Rice in their Heat days. "He's special. He's unique. He's gifted."
19. Dale Ellis
Experience: 17 seasons (1983-2000)
Teams: Dallas Mavericks, Seattle SuperSonics, Milwaukee Bucks, San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, Charlotte Hornets
Career statistics: 15.7 PPG, .479 FG%, .403 3p%, .784 FT%
Career SER: .498
Bottom line: Strangely, Dale Ellis wasn’t an elite free-throw shooter. But the man who dethroned Larry Bird in the 3-Point Contest could fill it up at the perimeter, where he was among the most lethal jump shooters of his time.
The swingman drained 51 percent of his field-goal attempts inside of the arc and wasn’t too shabby beyond it, either.
18. Kevin Martin
Experience: 12 seasons (2004-16)
Teams: Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Minnesota Timberwolves, San Antonio Spurs
Career statistics: 17.4 PPG, .437 FG%, .384 3P%, .870 FT%
Career SER: .503
Bottom line: Asked whose game was closest to his, dead-eye Reggie Miller said, "Game-wise, I would say Richard Hamilton and Kevin Martin. Thin, great coming off screens, can knock down treys."
Yep, that summed up K-Mart in a nutshell.
17. Terry Porter
Experience: 17 seasons (1985-2002)
Teams: Portland Trail Blazers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs
Career statistics: 12.2 PPG, .463 FG%, .386 3p%, .836 FT%
Career SER: .504
Bottom line: Not only did Terry Porter pack solid mid-range and long-distance games, but he could finish near the basket.
His pet move: a ball fake followed by a reload jumper or drive to the basket.
16. Stephen Curry
Experience: 10 seasons (2009-present)
Teams: Golden State Warriors
Career statistics: 23.5 PPG, .477 FG%, .436 3P%, .905 FT%
Career SER: .507
Bottom line: Steph Curry is the the sawed-off Wilt Chamberlain of his time — his numbers dwarf those around him. He owns four of the top six single-season 3-point field goal totals of all time. So why isn’t St. Stephen of Arc higher on the list?
Largely because about half (48 percent) of his field goal tries have come from downtown. Truth is, he’s among the select few long-distance shooters who achieve more than half of their point potential.
15. B.J. Armstrong
Experience: 11 seasons (1989-2000)
Teams: Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors, Charlotte Hornets, Orlando Magic
Career statistics: 9.8 PPG, .477 FG%, .425 3P%, .856 FT%
Career SER: .5094
Bottom line: Like all his teammates, B.J. Armstrong benefitted from the Michael Jordan factor in his Bulls career, but not as much as one might think.
In the season that His Airness sat out, the combo guard ranked second in 3-point field goal percentage in the league.
Two years later,
Armstrong reached a career-high 47 percent in his Warriors debut before a knee injury shortened his career.
14. Kenny Smith
Experience: 10 seasons (1987-97)
Teams: Sacramento Kings, Atlanta Hawks, Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Denver Nuggets
Career statistics: 12.8 PPG, .480 FG%, .399 3P%, .829 FT%
Career SER: .5108
Bottom line: While Kenny Smith yuks it up with Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal on national television, it’s easy to forget that the man could shoot the rock back in the day.
"The Jet' had his best years in Houston, where he produced a .520/.438/.878 slashline in the 1992-93 campaign.
13. Hersey Hawkins
Experience: 13 seasons (1998-2001)
Teams: Philadelphia 76ers, Charlotte Hornets
Career statistics: 14.7 PPG .461 FG%, .394 3P%, .870 FT%
Career SER: .5110
Bottom line: Five times, Hersey Hawkins finished among the top 10 in free-throw percentage. Four times, he cracked the top 10 in 3-point field-goal percentage.
He sat out all of seven games in his first 11 regular seasons and played in all 82 in seven of them.
Can you say "consistency," girls and boys?
12. Mark Price
Experience: 12 seasons (1986-98)
Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers
Career statistics: 15.2 PPG, .472 FG%, .402 3P%, .904 FT%
Career SER: .512
Bottom line: Mark Price is one of six back-to-back winners in the 3-Point Shootout competition. His 24 points (out of 30) in the 1994 event was a record at the time.
And only Stephen Curry and Steve Nash shot better at the free-throw line in NBA history.
11. Chris Paul
Experience: 14 seasons (2005-present)
Teams: New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets
Career statistics: 18.5 PPG, .469 FG%, .370 3P%, .868 FT%
Career SER: .513
Bottom line: Few have been better than Chris Paul at mid-range and the charity line.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the point guard can get off almost any shot he wants almost any time he wants it.
While not a lethal 3-ball threat, he has been consistent enough to keep defenses honest.
10. Wally Szczerbiak
Experience: 10 seasons (1999-2009)
Teams: Minnesota Timberwolves, Boston Celtics, Seattle SuperSonics, Cleveland Cavaliers
Career statistics: 14.1 PPG, .485 FG%, .406 3P%, .860 FT%
Career SER: .518
Bottom line: Aha! You forgot about "Wally World," didn’t you?
In 10 seasons, Wally Szczerbiak averaged at least 14 points per game on 48 percent from the field five times.
The 6-foot-7 swingman combined size and strength and excelled as a spot-up shooter in transition.
9. Dirk Nowitzki
Experience: 21 season (1998-present)
Team: Dallas Mavericks
Career statistics: 20.9 PPG, .472 FG%, .382 3P%, .879 FT%
Career SER: .520
Bottom line: The Flamingo move was just plain dirty. Lower left shoulder into defender. Create space. Fade off right foot. Release ball. Swish and repeat.
With over 31,500 points in his career, Dirk Nowitzki is not just one of the greatest international players of all time. He is one of the greatest NBA players. Period.
8. Reggie Miller
Experience: 18 seasons (1987-2005)
Team: Indiana Pacers
Career statistics: 18.2 PPG, .471 FG%, .395 3P%, .888 FT%
Career SER: .521
Bottom line: Reggie Miller once went an entire season without a dunk. Rather, the 6-foot-7 guard dominated with savvy, length and a shooter mentality.
He lived for pressure moments. See eight points in nine seconds, New York, 1995.
The guy also could cheat with the best of 'em, more than one defender would tell you. Hence the Reggie Miller rule, which prohibits the leg kick as a way to draw a foul.
7. Steve Nash
Experience: 18 seasons (1996-2014)
Teams: Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers
Career statistics: 14.3 PPG, .490 FG%, .428 3P%, .904 FT%
Career SER: .525
Bottom line: Steve Nash played the game like an Aby cat in a maze — dart, stop, cut, pounce. The result was a slew of high-percentage floaters, pull-ups and lay-ins off the dribble.
He was one of seven members of the exclusive 50-40-90 Club, i.e., at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent at the free-throw line in a season.
He pulled it off a record four times and barely missed a fifth.
6. Kawhi Leonard
Experience: 8 seasons (2011-present)
Teams: San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors
Career statistics: 17.7 PPG, .495 FG%, .383 3P%, .848 FT%
Career SER: .526
Bottom line: Maybe it’s because the two-time NBA Finals MVP never seems to break a sweat that he seldom appears in this kind of list. But ball don’t lie, and neither do his numbers.
"The Claw" has all the tricks in his bag — floater, jump hook, face-up, fadeaway, turn-around jumpers and 3-point bomb.
5. Jeff Hornacek
Experience: 14 seasons (1986-2000)
Teams: Phoenix Suns, Philadelphia 76ers, Utah Jazz
Career statistics: 14.5 PPG, .496 FG%, .403 3P%, .877 FT%
Career SER: .533
Bottom line: What made Jeff Hornacek such a handful was his ability to move without the ball and shoot it at the perimeter.
He was a back-to-back winner in the annual 3-point competition.
Consider the Jazz boasted two of the most efficient shooters ever (more about the other guy later), and it’s no wonder they were a perennial contender in the late 1990s.
4. Drazen Petrovic
Experience: 4 seasons (1989-93)
Teams: Portland Trail Blazers, New Jersey Nets
Career statistics: 15.4 PPG, .506 FG%, .437 FT%, .841 FT%
Career SER: .540
Bottom line: "Petro" made the cut despite a relatively small sample size, but as his career progressed, his shot numbers improved across the board.
The Croatian put up a lights-out .518/.449/.870 slashline in his final season in 1992-93, before a car accident claimed his life.
Sad to say, we probably never saw the best of him.
3. Kevin Durant
Experience: 12 seasons (2007-present)
Teams: Seattle SuperSonics, Oklahoma City Thunder, Golden State Warriors
Career statistics: 27.0 PPG .493 FG%, .381 3P%, .883 FT%
Career SER: .542
Bottom line: There has never been a shotmaker of his size, skill and athleticism in NBA history. At 6-foot-9, Durant can shoot over virtually any defender. He’s lethal anywhere inside 25 feet of the basket.
As if that’s not enough, he also packs the clutch gene. It’s not a fair fight when he’s on the court.
2. Chris Mullin
Experience: 16 seasons (1985-2001)
Teams: Golden State Warriors, Indiana Pacers
Career statistics: 18.2 PPG, .509 FG%, .384 3P%, .865 FT%
Career SER: .546
Bottom line: Among midsized players, the savvy 6-foot-6 swingman had no peer as a pure shooter.
The five-time All-Star made a career off fade-away, pull-up and catch-and-shoot jumpers.
That the brunt of his damage came away from the basket made his career field-goal rate even more impressive.
1. John Stockton
Experience: 19 seasons (1984-2003)
Team: Utah Jazz
Career statistics: 13.1 PPG, .515 FG%, .384 3P%, .826 FT%
Career SER: .558
Bottom line: John Stockton was such an elite ballhandler and distributor that his ability to shoot the rock went somewhat overlooked.
His career field-goal percentage was absurd for a 6-foot-1 guard who averaged 13.0 total shot attempts over 1,504 games.
The guy was money on the pull-up jumper on the break and in the half-court game. None was bigger than the 3-point buzzer-beater that sent the Jazz to the 1996 NBA Finals, the first such trip in franchise history.
Stockton was inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.
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