Who is the best three-point shooter in the NBA?

After the season, I like to tackle questions like these. To me, a good three-point shooter has to shoot a high percentage and make a good number of threes per game, so I put a few requirements on the eligibility of players:

1. They must have played in a minimum of 60 games during the season.
2. They must make a minimum of 38% of their 3PT attempts.
3. They must make a minimum of 1.0 threes per game.

Here are the results:

(As always, click on the graph for a larger version.)

Most impressive shooter? It has to be the rookie Stephen Curry, who quickly adjusted to the longer distance in the NBA and finished with the fourth-highest percentage of eligible players. He was also in the top 10 in makes per game.

Biggest surprise? Probably Jason Kidd. A career 35% shooter from deep, Kidd has been well over 40% since joining the Mavs. He’s hitting more of his threes because he’s able to play off of Dirk Nowitzki and can spot up instead of trying to hit threes off the dribble.

Best big man shooter? Channing Frye, who hit 2.12 threes a game at a 44% clip.

So who is the best shooter in the NBA? Well, it depends on your criteria. Accuracy and number of makes are important, but it’s even more impressive when the player in question is the first or second option on his team (like Aaron Brooks, Chauncey Billups, Paul Pierce, John Salmons, Steve Nash — or Jason Richardson — and Stephen Curry), and can still make a lot of threes at a high percentage when the defense is game-planning against him.

You be the judge.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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Do the Nuggets have what it takes?

On the heels of their 95-89 loss to the Lakers on Sunday — the first time the Lakers beat Denver in three tries — J.A. Adande is left wondering if the Nuggets have what it takes to win a NBA championship.

As much as they insist they’re not as running-game dependent as they used to be, here’s some evidence to the contrary: Denver now is 0-3 when scoring fewer than 90 points and 5-13 when scoring fewer than 100 points.

Coach George Karl expounded on the Nuggets’ half-court issues, saying, “A lot of our losses, it’s because we don’t offensively trust the pass and have enough patience to fight through the defensive intensity. When we find the open man, when we move the ball and have a high assist night, it’s the key to us winning games.”

When it goes bad, they’ll pull up for the quick jumper or they’ll forget to put the ball in the hands of Anthony, the third-best scorer in the league.

When asked if he thought the Nuggets had a good chance of knocking off the Lakers or the Cavs, Bill Simmons said this in a recent chat:

Absolutely. They’re one big body short, but other than that, they have everything I’m looking for in a legit contender. My 2 questions are these… 1) When is Chauncey going to realize that he hasn’t been Mr. Big Shot in about 4 years? When he waved Melo off vs. Cleveland last week to brick a game-winner, I was in shock. Melo has to get the ball in all big situations. So until they solve that alpha dog issue, I can’t buy in. 2) George Karl teams just have a habit of beating themselves in dumb ways in big playoff series. I worry about them playing a 7 game series against LAL in which they’d win 3 and give away 2 more… a little like the 2002 Kings

I like what Billups has brought to Denver, but Simmons is right — he has to defer to Carmelo in crunch time. (Unless, of course, they occasionally want to use ‘Melo as a decoy, but that should be the exception, not the rule.) However, there is some evidence that Billups is simply better in the clutch. According to 82games.com, Billups’ FG% in the “clutch” (defined as 4th quarter or overtime, less than 5 minutes left, neither team ahead by more than 5 points) is 48% while Anthony’s is just 34%.

But that just seems to be an anomaly. Last season, Anthony was one of the top crunch-time players in the league (57% FG%), so the Nuggets need to keep feeding him the ball. Remember, this is the guy who led Syracuse to a national title as a freshman, hitting a number of huge shots along the way.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Billups scores 39 as Nuggets upset Lakers in L.A.

Chauncey Billups hit 9-13 from long range en route to a 39-4-8 night against the Lakers. The win is mightily impressive, especially considering the Nuggets were without Carmelo Anthony.

Oh, and Ron Artest almost punched Joey Graham. Almost. Take a look…

Nuggets outmuscle Lakers to even series

Typically, an NBA team can expect to score one point per possession (or thereabouts) over a course of a game. So when one team outrebounds another on the offensive glass by a margin of 20-9, it’s really 11 extra possessions and 11 extra opportunities to score. That’s why the Nuggets were able to bounce back tonight from a tough loss in Game 3; they dominated the glass by a margin of 58-40, and went on to win 120-101.

The win is even more impressive considering the struggles of Carmelo Anthony, who went 3 of 16 from the field. Chauncey Billups picked up the slack, and had key back-to-back buckets when the Nuggets were nursing a nine-point lead early in the fourth quarter. He drove to the hole and got the “and one,” and then on the Nuggets’ next possession, he brought the ball up and drained a three. Billups was one of seven Nuggets to score in double figures; J.R. Smith deserves mention for his 24 points and four assists off the bench.

Kobe Bryant posted 34 points on 10 of 26 shooting (39%). Pau Gasol added 21 points and 10 boards, and Andrew Bynum had 14 points and five boards, but Phil Jackson isn’t getting much production from the rest of the roster. Two vets that the Lakers are counting on — Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher — combined to shoot 3 of 15 for 10 points.

The series moves back to L.A. for Game 5 and if the Nuggets can avoid the mental errors in crunch time, they have a good shot to win this series. The Lakers are inconsistent and out of synch, and they really need that supporting cast to raise its game.

Lakers win back home court

The Lakers didn’t play all that well, but they performed well enough to get a win (103-97) on the road in the playoffs, and that is no small feat. Denver had control for much of the game, and with Carmelo Anthony on the bench, the Nuggets built a seven-point lead at the end of the third quarter. But a sorry five-minute stretch to start the fourth quarter was Denver’s undoing. Check out these nine possessions:

11:41 J.R. Smith misses 25-foot three point jumper
10:49 Linas Kleiza misses 5-foot jumper
10:27 Chauncey Billups misses 26-foot three point jumper
10:11 Chauncey Billups makes technical free throw
9:59 Chris Andersen misses layup
9:44 J.R. Smith misses layup
8:53 Nene Hilario misses 9-foot two point shot
8:22 Trevor Ariza blocks Carmelo Anthony’s 15-foot jumper
8:18 Kenyon Martin misses layup
7:39 Pau Gasol blocks Chris Andersen’s layup

That’s one point in the first four and a half minutes of the fourth quarter. By the time they scored again, they were trailing by one. Carmelo Anthony went cold and the Nuggets simply struggled to score. Chauncey Billups launched some ill-advised shots (and hit a few of them), but it was J.R. Smith who seemed to be the go-to man down the stretch.

For the Lakers, Trevor Ariza and Pau Gasol played well in the closing minutes, but down two with about a minute to play, it was Kobe Bryant who hit a huge three pointer to put his team ahead. Denver turned the ball over (again) on the inbounds pass, and again, it was Ariza who made the big defensive play. At that point, the Lakers just had to knock down their free throws, and they did. With the win, the Lakers wrested back control of the series. Game 4 is of the “must-win” variety for the Nuggets.

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