Zach Lavine gulped down a swig of blue Gatorade and pondered the difficulty of joining the elusive 50-40-90 shooter’s club.
A first time NBA All-Star, LaVine sits on the cusp of reaching the milestone, connecting on 52.3% from the field, 43.5% from 3-point range and 85.7% at the charity stripe.
“I think it should always be something you shoot for because that means you’re taking a lot [of shots] and making a lot,” LaVine said. “So, obviously, I’ve been shooting the ball really well. I think the hardest part about it is the free throws. I’ve been really close a couple of times. You miss a couple of free throws and you’re pretty much screwed.”
Free throws? Really?
“Trust me, I wish it was as easy as just walking up,” LaVine said. “They are free. But man, if you miss a couple of them, [free-throw shooting percentage] goes from 89[%] to like 87 and trying to make up those points is almost terrible.”
Yet tremendous best describes the focus needed to shoot at least 50% from the field, 40% from deep and 90% at the free-throw line over the course of an entire season, given the milestone has been reached on just 12 occasions by eight players (Larry Bird, Steve Nash, Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Malcolm Brogdon) in NBA history. Elena Delle Donne increased 50-40-90 club membership to nine in 2019 with the WNBA’s Washington Mystics.
For the current shortened 2020-21 season, players longing to join the club need to hit the 50-40-90 threshold over the course of at least 51 games played, while knocking down at least 264 field goals, 110 free throws and 72 buckets from long range.
Here’s a look at the necessary qualifiers.
In gauging the players with legitimate shots of joining the club, we look at the shooters achieving the mark of 47-37-87 over the first half of the season:
Khris Middleton (49.5 | 43.2 | 88.4)
The picture of consistency, Middleton entered the All-Star break having scored 20-plus in three of his previous four games, but he was shooting just 47.8% in those outings. The two-time All-Star missed out on the festivities this season, despite averaging a career-high 5.7 assists to go along with 20.6 points and 6.1 rebounds.
Khris reaches 9k points as a Buck in clutch fashion!
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) March 5, 2021
Nikola Jokic (56.7 | 41.8 | 88.1)
One of the favorites to win the Kia NBA MVP, Jokic is on the way to establishing career highs in scoring (27.1 points per game), rebounding (11.0), assists (8.6) and steals (1.6), and his current shooting percentage is the best in his career. What’s more is he’s played in every Nuggets game this season.
Chris Paul (48.6 | 39.1 | 95.4)
The engine that keeps the Suns shining, Paul moved past Magic Johnson as the All-Star Game all-time assists leader. But Paul is so consumed with sending Phoenix to its first playoff berth in 11 seasons that he’ll view his numbers over the second half of the season as inconsequential.
Paul George (49.9 | 45.0 | 88.8)
Good to see George and Damian Lillard work out their differences over the All-Star break. Now as the second half commences, pay close attention to the net rating (plus-17.5) George and Kawhi Leonard achieved as a duo over the Clippers’ first 38 games.
— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) March 8, 2021
Brandon Ingram (47.2 | 37.9 | 88.6)
Short in all three metrics, Ingram could end up taking more attempts in all three categories as he looks to spark a Pelicans squad that lost four out of five going into All-Star break. Over that span, Ingram connected on 6 of 16 from deep.
Kyrie Irving (51.0 | 41.1 | 88.7)
Led the Nets to a 10-1 record going into the All-Star break. His 27.2-point scoring average and shooting percentage are career highs, while his current hit rate from deep is just shy of his career-best mark of 41.5%.
Kawhi Leonard (51.1 | 38.7 | 87.3)
This defensive stopper consistently puts up numbers performing double-duty as the Clippers’ go-to option. Leonard’s 25.9% usage rate is the lowest it has been since his 2015-16 season in San Antonio.
Stephen Curry (47.8 | 41.1 | 93.4)
Scorched the field to win the 2021 MTN DEW Three-Point Contest, becoming the seventh player to capture multiple Three-Point Contests. Curry finished the first half of the season with the second-highest scoring output of his career, second to his 2015-16 MVP season.
Tobias Harris (51.3 | 40.2 | 88.7)
Averaging career-highs in FG% and FT%, and his shooting percentage from deep is his best since the 2018-19 season. Missed a pair of recent games due to a knee injury, but the break should do him good for the second half of the season.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) March 4, 2021
Norman Powell (48.8 | 43.8 | 89.9)
Became a full-time Raptors starter on Jan. 22, and he’s putting up career numbers from 3-point range and at the free-throw line. Powell has also been Toronto’s leading scorer (23.1 points) since becoming a full-time starter, and he could be in line for a nice payday should he decide to opt out of his deal.
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) March 5, 2021
Kevin Durant could hit the magical 50-40-90 mark for the just the second time in his career, as he’s hitting 49.3% from the floor, 38.2% from deep and 88.2% at the line. But the question is whether he’ll play enough games to qualify. Durant played in just 19 games during the first half of the season, and the Nets’ schedule consists of just 35 more outings, which means he could afford to miss just three games over the second half before falling out of the league’s minimum requirements.
Players such as Joel Embiid, Nikola Vucevic, Gordon Hayward, John Collins and Kyle Lowry appear to have a fighting chance at achieving 50-40-90, but currently sit just outside our barometer of 47-37-87. Karl-Anthony Towns, Joe Ingles, Miles Bridges and Jeremy Lamb are also putting together strong shooting seasons, but none are currently on pace to qualify for entry into the elusive 50-40-90 shooting club.
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NBA.com senior writer Steve Aschburner contributed to this report.
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