Who is the best shooter in the NBA?
Among the most tangible ways to measure that question comes in the form of a pretty exclusive group of players: The 40-50-90 Club.
Since the three-point shot was introduced in the 1979-80 NBA season, only six players have converted at least 40 percent of their threes, 50 percent of their overall field goals and 90 percent of their free throws.
The all-time clubhouse leader is L.A.'s own point guard, Steve Nash, who's hit the mark four times, and narrowly missed it on three other occasions. Larry Bird is second with two appearances in the club, while Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Durant have all done it once.
Now those are some silky, wet jump shots, folks.
Durant became the sixth* member with an impressive 2012-13 shooting performance, the only player to hit the marks last season since Nash missed it by – literally – three made field goals. The two-time former league MVP was 236 for 475, a rate of 49.7 percent. Had Nash hit 239 of 478, he'd have hit 50.0 percent on the dot
*Jose Calderon put up a 43-52-91 season in 2007-08, but was 16 free throw attempts short of the league minimum to qualify for the leader board. Nash may not have technically qualified in 2012-13, either, due to injuries limiting his games and attempts.
It's not the first time Nash has missed the mark by precisely three shots, because in 2004-05, he was three additional made free throws away from hitting 90 percent from the line, joining his 50.2 percent from the field and 43.1 percent from three. And in 2004-05, he hit 88.7 percent at the charity stripe, about 30 foul shots shy of 90 percent.
Grantland's Zach Lowe recently asked Nash if he cares "about being known as maybe the greatest shooter ever," and if he's aware of the 40/50/90.
"I am, only because people make a big deal of it," Nash responded. "I’ve always wanted to shoot a good percentage for my team, because I’m the point guard, and I can take fewer shots, still score more, so that I can get my teammates feeling good about themselves. That was always my feeling — that if I shoot a high percentage, I don’t have to shoot a ton. Coaches always want me to shoot more, so I try to make more, so that I don’t have to shoot more — so my teammates know they are going to get the ball, and they enjoy playing. That brings everybody up."
One could certainly use the 40-50-90 data to argue that Nash is the game's greatest shooter. But for how long? The Canadian with the textbook form on every shot will definitely get a run for his money from Durant, still only 24 years old, while another great young shooter like Stephen Curry (45.3, 45.1, 90.0 last season) should come knocking at the 40–50–90 door soon enough.
More (Efficient) Threes to Come?