Naming the game's best 3-point shooter isn't as easy as that little contest at All-Star Weekend would have us believe.
Take last season's Phoenix Suns, for instance. Joe Johnson shot 48 percent on 3-pointers last year, which would seem to make him one of the game's best. On the other hand, he didn't shoot that many on a per-minute basis (just two made 3s per 40 minutes). Was he really a better 3-point shooter than his teammate Quentin Richardson (the 3-point champ), who made a much larger number of attempts but shot a lower percentage? And is either that great, when one considers that neither had done much the year before?
To resolve these questions, I developed my "Top Gun" ranking of the game's 10 deadliest 3-point shooters. I wanted to find out which players had done the most to increase their team's scoring. And I wanted to find out at what rate their 3-point shooting helped the team, so I measured every player's output per 40 minutes of playing time.
For each player, I determined the number of points a team gained from a player's 3-point shooting expertise. To do this, I figured out the the difference between the player's shooting accuracy and what a mediocre (or "replacement level") player would shoot. I computed the "replacement level" figure by taking 90 percent of the league average in 3-point shooting, ending up with 32.0 percent in 2004-05.
Then I took the difference between the player's percentage and "replacement level" and multiplied it by the player's 3-point attempts. That resulted in the number of points the player added to (or subtracted from) his team's total with his 3-point shooting, compared to the "replacement level." Finally, I divided that result by the player's minutes and multiplied by 40. That produced a per-40-minute rating for the value of each player's 3-point shooting. (For instance, as shown in the chart below, the 3-point shooting of Damon Jones added .90 points per 40 minutes he played to the Miami Heat's scoring in 2004-05.)
However, the examples of Johnson and Richardson show that 3-point percentages aren't as consistent from year to year as some other numbers. Thus, I looked at two seasons' worth of data. I weighed the 2004-05 season twice as heavily as the 2003-04 season, although in the case of rookies I could use only the 2004-05 data. Once that was done, I had a final score for each player.
Before I introduce the top 10, let's discuss a few surprising names who didn't make the list. Reggie Miller, for instance, had a horrendous 3-point year last season, making only 32.2 percent. Steve Nash is a great shooter (41.8 percent career) but hasn't shot the long ball with nearly the frequency of many other top shooters, so he didn't qualify either. And Johnson, despite his 47 percent mark a year ago, didn't come close. His low frequency of '04-05 attempts and his inaccuracy in '03-04 combined to keep him well behind the leaders.
With that said, let's take a look at the top 10: