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Are Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson ‘the greatest shooting backcourt in the history of the game,’ as Mark Jackson says?

Apr 25, 2013, 4:44 PM EDT

Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson

Warriors point guard Stephen Curry just completed the best 3-point shooting season of all time (3.6 3-pointers made per game, 45.3 3-point percentage), and Golden State shooting guard Klay Thompson had a pretty good year outside the arc, too (2.6, 40.1).

Mark Jackson even called them “the greatest shooting backcourt in the history of the game.”  Via Kyle Bonagura of CSN Bay Area:

“I’ve watched the history of the game and as player, as a fan, as an announcer, as a young kid and I’ve not ever seen two guys in the same backcourt shoot as well as these two guys,” Jackson said.

Let’s look a little deeper.

Curry and Thompson comprise one 11 backcourts all with two players averaging at least 2.0 3-pointers per game.

2012-13 Golden State Warriors:

  • Stephen Curry (3.6, 45.3)
  • Klay Thompson (2.6, 40.1)

2012-13 Brooklyn Nets:

2012-13 Portland Trail Blazers:

2009-10 Denver Nuggets:

2008-09 Denver Nuggets:

  • Chauncey Billups (2.1)
  • J.R. Smith (2.2)*

2007-08 Phoenix Suns:

2006-07 Phoenix Suns:

  • Steve Nash (2.1, 45.5)
  • Raja Bell (2.6, 41.3)

1999-00 Seattle SuperSonics:

  • Gary Payton (2.2, 34.0)
  • Brent Barry (2.1, 41.1)

1996-97 Detroit Pistons

  • Lindsey Hunter (2.0, 35.5)
  • Joe Dumars (2.1, 43.2)

1996-97 Miami Heat:

  • Tim Hardaway (2.5, 34.4)
  • Voshon Leonard (2.5, 41.4)

1994-95 Philadelphia 76ers

  • Dana Barros (2.4, 46.4)
  • Willie Burton (2.0, 38.5)**

*Smith didn’t start either season – coming off the bench for Afflalo in 2009-10 and Dahntay Jones in 2008-09 – but he played more minutes per game than the starting shooting guard in both cases.

**Burton started just 31 games, but that was most of any 76ers shooting guard that season.

Not only did Curry and Thompson make more 3-pointers this season than any teammate duo in NBA history, they shot a combined 42.9 from beyond the arc (fourth among the above teams, behind the 07-08 Suns, 94-95 76ers and 06-07 Suns),

But what about backcourts before the NBA adopted the 3-pointer, like the Lakers’ Jerry West and Gail Goodrich? Via Kyle Bonagura

“Well, I humbling submit to you that I’ve seen Jerry West and Gail Goodrich and it’s no disrespect to them,” Jackson said. “I was a guy that’s not guessing. Those were two good shooters. I’m dealing with two great shooters. I’m talking about great.”

I never saw West and Goodrich, but considering how much better 3-point shooting has become since the arc was instituted, I find it difficult to believe they were the best. For a long time, players struggle to make jumpers when the incentive was three points. If you notice, no backcourts made the above list until 15 years after the NBA adopted the 3-pointer. Perhaps, in a different environment, West and Goodrich could have become the best shooting backcourt of all time, but there just wasn’t enough of a premium on outside shots when they played.

So back to Curry and Thompson. They lead by volume, but Nash and Bell lead by efficiency. Plus, Nash and Bell did it for multiple seasons.

Curry and Thompson are more likely than not to become “the greatest shooting backcourt in the history of the game,” but Nash and Bell still hold the title for now.

  1. eltrilliardo - Apr 25, 2013 at 5:50 PM

    Since when did “greatest shooting” equate to “must have made 2 threes a game”?

    As an 80s baby, I have to think of some of the better back courts I saw when I was younger –

    Stockton and Hornacek?

    Armstrong and Jordan?

    Kevin Johnson and Dan Majerle?

    • eltrilliardo - Apr 25, 2013 at 5:55 PM

      At a quick first glance, Stockton and Hornacek both shot over 50% for 3 straight years… BJ/Michael were at 49% in 92-93. Forget “Thunder Dan” – I retract his name.

      Thompson and Curry were at 42% and 45%, respectively.

      There certainly has to be others I’m forgetting (trying to think about NBA jam duos).

      • eltrilliardo - Apr 25, 2013 at 5:58 PM

        Oh yeah..

        The two back courts I hated most:

        Thomas/Dumars

        Price/Ehlo

  2. sportsnut101 - Apr 25, 2013 at 6:02 PM

    I will not agree after one season at a high level.

    Yes curry can shoot but he was injured way to much the first few seasons But I’m sure he can keep shooting like this he’s a great player

    Now Klay has a great upside. But this is a breakout yr for him n he disappeared in lots of games. His shooting was nowhere to be found.

    So of all time or for one season Let them plays for another 4 yrs togethers

  3. sportsnut101 - Apr 25, 2013 at 6:05 PM

    I was hoping when James harden was traded he would go to warriors so thunder could get Klay but thunder didn’t want beideins contract Imagine thunder with Klay

    I woulda signed James harden to max deal. Traded Westbrook for Klay n a 1st rd pick n.a 2nd

  4. jrod2173 - Apr 25, 2013 at 6:10 PM

    “but Nash and Bell lead by efficiency. Plus, Nash and Bell did it for multiple seasons…but Nash and Bell still hold the title for now.”

    I can see the multiple seasons argument. But efficiency? Keep in mind Curry and Thompson averaged 1.7(07-08′) and 1.5(06-07′) more attempts per game this season. They did this while only shooting .85%(07-08′) and .7%(06-07′) worse. With such a large gap in attempts vs a small percentage difference in makes I think you give the “efficiency” edge to Curry and Thompson.

    • jrod2173 - Apr 25, 2013 at 6:21 PM

      And to even take it a step further for the hell of it, Curry and Thompson averaged 2.64 pts per attempt vs Nash and Bells best year of 2.04 pts per attempt. That is efficiency.

  5. qdoggydogg1 - Apr 25, 2013 at 6:44 PM

    Delly Curry and Glenn Rice!

    1996

    • seanpanderson - May 15, 2013 at 4:09 AM

      Doesn’t count. Rice played the 3.

  6. Mr. Wright 212 - Apr 25, 2013 at 6:50 PM

    Tough call. Gimme Fat Lever and Michael Adams though.

    • seanpanderson - May 15, 2013 at 4:12 AM

      Good call. Everyone forgets about Michael Adams.

  7. chilid322 - Apr 25, 2013 at 7:29 PM

    “…In the History of the Game”??

    Jerry West/Gail Goodrich?
    Walt Frazier/Earl Monroe?
    Bob Cousy/Bill Sharman?

    • Kurt Helin - Apr 25, 2013 at 11:58 PM

      It is so hard to judge this across eras because of the three point line, and even in the last decade when the three has become a more prominent weapon.

  8. cjispro - Apr 25, 2013 at 8:11 PM

    Stockton/Hornacek in 95/96 were shooting .42%/.46% for the season. That’s pretty darn good albeit their attempts were 225/223. Curry had more makes than these guys had attempts individually.

  9. seattlenative57 - Apr 26, 2013 at 2:04 AM

    FYI: Lillard and Mathews do NOT play in Houston.

    Best duo for my money: Fred Brown and Gus Williams

  10. kavika6 - Apr 26, 2013 at 2:08 AM

    I used to have respect for Mark Jackson.

    Shouldn’t winning percentage make a difference for greatness? Shooting percentage is one thing, winning is another. Warriors barely made the playoffs.

  11. LPad - Apr 26, 2013 at 11:39 AM

    Nash and Bell. That is the combo you want to say is the best shooting backcourt of all-time. I get Nash, but Bell is only an above average spot up 3 pt shooter. To have the best shooting backcourt of all-time you need two great shooters. Bell doesn’t shoot well off screens or off the dribble.

    Also, the metric you are using to come up with this list is flawed. As evidenced, by the names this list produces Gary Payton, Tim Hardaway, Lindsay Hunter. All good to great players. But the scouting report for every one of them is to let them shoot from deep. The only one you would even bother to run at is Hardaway. No scouting report, would tell you to leave Steph and Klay open. The only backcourt that would be consider a good shooting backcourt is DWill and Joe Johnson. But no one, would think that they are one of the best shooting backcourts of all-time.

  12. jcrileyesq - Apr 26, 2013 at 2:57 PM

    Jackson also said Reggie Miller was the 3rd best shooting guard…. EVER!!…. mama check that man for PEDS

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