Golden State Warriors

The three 3-pointers that make Stephen Curry the most feared shooter of all-time

He's baaaaack!

After missing almost all of the 2019-20 season with injury, Stephen Curry is back to playing at an MVP level. Entering Golden State's matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday, the six-time All-Star has the Warriors one game above .500 despite a slow start with numbers that rival his unanimous MVP season.

Not only is he averaging 29.9 points per game, ranking him behind only Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (32.9) for most in the league, Curry is having one of the best 3-point shooting seasons of all-time. As of this writing, he is attempting 11.5 3-pointers per game and making them at a 42.9 percent clip. Prior to this season, the only players in NBA history who have shot that well on that volume from 3-point range are Damian Lillard and Curry, who has already done it twice.

Curry lighting it up from the perimeter is nothing new, and yet the fact that he continues to set the bar as he enters his mid-30s serves as a reminder of what makes him arguably the greatest shooter we've ever seen.

With that in mind, let's take a look at three particular 3-pointers that make Curry the most feared shooter in NBA history.

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Don't fall asleep

It's funny to think that one of the knocks on Curry coming out of college was that he was a shooting guard trapped in the body of a point guard, because he's proven to be the best of both worlds in the decade since. Not only is he arguably the best off-the-dribble shooter we've ever seen - more on that in a minute - he's equally as dangerous when he doesn't have the ball in his hands, allowing him to alternate between playing point guard and shooting guard.

The numbers back it up. According to NBA.com, only once in the last five seasons has Curry not been among the top-five leading scorers off of screens. That one season he missed the cut was 2019-20, which is when he appeared in only five games due to injury.

Curry matched that volume with remarkable efficiency, ranking in the 90th percentile or better in each of those seasons.

Stephen Curry off of screens (NBA.com/Stats)
Season Points Per Game (rank) Points Per Possession Percentile
2015-16 4.3 (3rd) 1.20 92.3
2016-17 4.0 (5th) 1.18 90.5
2017-18 5.0 (2nd) 1.27 90.8
2018-19 6.1 (2nd) 1.29 97.0

What's unique about Curry is that he never seems to run out of gas. It's rare to see him standing still on offence.

"He never stop moving," Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Anthony Edwards said after facing Curry for the first time. "You can try to switch everything, but you're going to make a mistake. I don't know how he got so much energy. He played the whole first quarter and never stopped moving. He's just hard to guard."

Because he is such a threat to score off of screens, Curry has gravity. It feels as though at least once per game a teammate of his gets a wide open shot as a result of him drawing the attention of multiple defenders, like so:

That's two All-NBA level defenders in Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet botching a switch and following Curry out to the 3-point line out of fear of him getting a sliver of daylight. Norman Powell also gets caught up in the action, leaving Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre Jr. totally unguarded underneath the basket.

To add another layer to all of this, Curry doesn't always need a screen to get open off-ball. If his defender loses sight of him for even a split-second, Curry will punish them by moving to the open spot or relocating.

Like Edwards said, "he never stop moving." Guarding Curry quickly turns into a track meet because the defence can never let their guard down.

Otherwise...

Taking this show on the road

I've sort of buried the lead here.

As important as Curry's off-ball movement is to his shooting ability, it's what he does with the ball in his hands that makes him arguably the greatest shooter of all-time.

Take this season as an example. Heading into Monday's matchup with the Cavaliers, Curry has made 76 pull-up 3s, representing more than a quarter (28.2 percent) of his made field goals on the season. According to NBA.com, only three other players in the entire league have made 50 pull-up 3s. Their names? Lillard (71), Luka Doncic (52) and Zach LaVine (51).

Furthermore, Curry has converted those pull-up 3s at a 42.5 percent clip, which ... is absurd.

It would be one thing if Curry was only a threat to pull-up after one or two dribbles, but he's not. According to NBA.com, he is 22-for-57 (38.6 percent) on 3s after three-to-six dribbles and 27-for-59 (45.8 percent) after seven or more dribbles.

Some of those are the result of him bringing the ball up and running a pick-and-roll almost as soon as he crosses halfcourt...

...but Curry's ability to string together different moves and pull-up on a dime is what makes him one of the league's best isolation scorers.

Similar to how he operates off of screens, all Curry is looking for is the defender to make one small mistake when he has them on an island. Then, he pounces.

That step back? Curry's been doing it a lot more this season. When he set the NBA record for 3s made in a season in 2015-16, he attempted 59 step back 3s over the course of 79 games, per NBA.com. Through 27 games this season, he's already taken 48 step back 3s.

It's yet another thing defenders have to worry about.

This season hasn't been an outlier either. Since the NBA started tracking pull-ups in 2013-14, Curry has consistently been among the league leaders in both makes and efficiency, even in the seasons where he missed extended periods of time with injury. Just an incredible shooter off the dribble who continues to add to his game.

From the parking lot

Oh yeah, Curry can shoot it from deep as well.

According to Stathead, Curry has made a total of 262 3-pointers from 28-plus feet in his career, doing so on 727 attempts (36.0 percent).

For reference, this is listed as being a 28-footer on NBA.com:

And this is listed as a 36-footer:

Why is that notable? It's the second-most 3s anyone has ever made from that distance. The only player who has made more is - you probably guessed it - Lillard. He's up to 296 28-footers in his career, albeit on a few more attempts (850) than Curry.

All of this is to say: Curry is someone who puts pressure on teams almost as soon as he crosses halfcourt. If they don't, they run the risk of him pulling up from the parking lot.

Combinations

Of course, what puts Curry over the edge is how he flows seamlessly from one of these to the next.

Keep up with him off-ball? Great. Now defend him in a pick-and-roll, where he's a threat to pull-up as soon as he turns the corner.

Prevent him from pulling up at the logo? Now defend him in isolation.

Force him to give up the ball? Better stay glued to him.

Put it all together, and it's no wonder why Curry continues to shred defenses. And the scary thing is that he's showing absolutely no signs of slowing down.

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