NBA

Stephen Curry and the three-point shot - the NBA's much-changed landscape

By Sports Desk May 04, 2020

The NBA is very different place to what it was when Stephen Curry came on the scene.

The Golden State Warriors star has been at the forefront in a dramatic shift to the way the game is played.

Gone are the days when physicality was the predominant attribute required to succeed. Now the three-point shot reigns supreme.

Five years on from Curry claiming the first of his two successive MVP awards, we use Stats Perform data to analyse the increasing importance of success from beyond the arc.

 

Deadly from distance

Curry entered the league as the seventh overall pick in the 2009 draft, with Ray Allen proving the benchmark when it came to three-point shooting.

No one has hit more shots from downtown than the two-time NBA champion and 10-time All-Star's 2,973.

Prior to 2012-13, he also held the record for the most three-pointers made per game in a season when he averaged 3.4 in 2005-06. Curry has beaten that mark six times in his eight campaigns since.

The Warriors guard set a new record of 5.1 three-pointers made per game in 2015-16 and, after dipping to the still-impressive averages of 4.1 and 4.2 in the two subsequent seasons, he matched it in 2018-19.

On course for history

Curry has played 699 games in the NBA and has made 2,495 three-pointers. It is close to 700 more than the next best record for successful three-pointers in a player's first 700 games, which is team-mate Klay Thompson's total of 1,798 in 615 appearances.

The most previously was 1,632 by Allen.

A league-wide trend

It's not just Curry, though.

The average number of three-pointers made per game has been a new league record in each of the past eight seasons.

Furthermore, the rate of 24.3 combined three-pointers made per game in the NBA this season is more than twice that from 2005-06 (11.5).

Consistently accurate

In Allen's 2005-06 season he made a record 269 three-pointers – that is now the 11th best total in the all-time list.

Five of the top-10 tallies belong to Curry, including the top two. He set a new benchmark when he made 402 shots from downtown in his MVP season.

James Harden (378 in 2018-19 and 271 in 2019-20), Paul George (292 in 2018-19), Buddy Hield (278 in 2018-19) and Klay Thompson (276 in 2015-16) are the other top-10 entries.

There have been 38 player seasons in NBA history with at least 600 three-point attempts.

Six of those were by Curry and in those 38 the Warriors star's percentages rank first, second, third, fourth, eighth and 11th.

Often prolific

When Curry entered the league the record for the most games with at least eight three-pointers made was held by Allen, who at that point had nine.

Since then Curry has racked up 48 such games, more than twice as many as Houston Rockets guard Harden, who is second on the all-time list with 21.

Only four players had managed to score 11 three-pointers in a game before Curry's emergence, and each of them had only done it once. In his NBA career he has managed to achieve the feat eight times.

Not just the guards

The big men are also getting involved.

Players who are 6ft 8in or taller are attempting more of their shots from three-point range.

From 1979-80 to 1984-85 just 0.2 per cent of their field-goal attempts were from beyond the arc, and that increased to 3.0 in the seasons from 1995-96 until 1999-2000.

The figure since 2015-16 stands at 8.5 per cent.

A new NBA

The upward trend across the league can also be seen when looking at the top scorers in a season.

Before 2013-14, no more than four of the leading 10 players in points-per-game in a given season had attempted more than two three-pointers per game.

Since then, at least five have done so in six of the seven seasons. As things stand in 2019-20, the number is up to an unprecedented seven.

Indeed, there are 18 players in the top 25 for points-per-game this season who have attempted more than two three-pointers.

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