Earlier this week, we began our examination of the league’s top shooters through the lens of Second Spectrum’s player tracking data with a look at the top catch-and-shoot scorers in the NBA. We continue by breaking down the top pull-up shooters in the game today, which is a collection of All-Stars and a pair of former MVPs.
There is only one player that appears in the top 12 in both catch-and-shoot scoring and pull-up scoring, and he just so happened to make a bit of news this week by becoming the NBA’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made at 2,977 and counting – Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors.
Through games played on Dec. 15, Curry ranks fourth in catch-and-shoot scoring (7.4 ppg, 60.5 eFG%) and fifth in pull-up scoring (10.1 ppg, 55.3 eFG%). Here is the rest of the top 12 in scoring on pull-up jumpers, minimum 15 games played.
A few things immediately jump out when looking at this collection of players. First, the star power of this list is undeniable. These 12 players have a combined 54 All-Star selections (CJ McCollum is the only member of this group without an All-Star appearance), four won Rookie of the Year honors (Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, Luka Doncic and Kevin Durant) and two have taken home Most Valuable Player awards (Curry and Durant).
While the catch-and-shooter leaderboard featured a number of shooting specialists – players who have the role of stretching the floor by being outside the 3-point line, ready for a pass from a teammate for an open look – this list is filled with players that constantly have the ball in their hands, initiating offense for their respective teams. The group feature four of the top players in time of possession (Doncic, Young, Paul and Lillard), seven of the 13 players in the league with a usage rate over 30% (Doncic, Young, George, Mitchell, Durant, Booker, Curry), and seven of the top 10 scorers in the league (Durant, Young, Curry, DeRozan, LaVine, Doncic, George)
It also features three sets of teammates: Chicago’s DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine, Portland’s Lillard and McCollum, and Phoenix’s Devin Booker and Paul. The dynamic between Paul and Booker is interesting – Paul ranks fourth in the league in time of possession (7.6 minutes per game) but 90th in usage rate (20.3%, the only player in this group below 26% usage), while Booker ranks 63rd in the league in time of possession (3.6 minutes, last among this group) and 11th in the league in usage (30.8%).
While Paul is the lowest overall scorer (14.5 ppg, 74th in NBA) among this group of pull-up leaders, 61.0% percent of his points come on pull-ups, which is the highest percentage of any player on this list – no other player is higher than 47% (Doncic, 46.9%).
Since this group includes so many high-usage players, some can rack up a lot of pull-up shooting points on low efficiency; while others make the most of more limited opportunities. Doncic ranks second in pull-up scoring (12.0 ppg) but averages 13.5 pull-up attempts per game with an effective field goal percentage of 44.2%. Compare those numbers to Curry, who ranks fifth in pull-up scoring (10.1), while only averaging 9.1 attempts per game thanks to an eFG% of 55.3%.
Again, this underscores Curry’s well-earned reputation as the greatest shooter ever – he combines incredible efficiency with a high degree of difficulty on his pull-up attempts. Looking at his shots dashboard, we see that he shoots 40.1% on catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts and 39.9% on pull-up 3-point attempts. Catch-and-shoots are supposed to be a much easier shot than the pull-up, but he knocks them down at nearly the same rate.
No player on this leaderboard shoots a higher percentage on pull-up 3s than Curry at 39.9%. Young comes closest at 38.6%, followed by Durant at 37.5% and McCollum at 36.4%. Curry’s 55.3 effective field goal percentage on pull-ups not only tops this leaderboard, but ranks second in the league among the 103 players that average at least three pull-up shots per game. Only Utah’s Mike Conley (58.9%) has a higher shooting percentage on pull-ups than Curry, but on nearly four fewer attempts per game (5.2 for Conley, 9.1 for Curry).
We highlighted teammates when we looked at the top pull-up scorers, but it’s only right that we highlight the Curry brothers when looking at pull-up efficiency. While Steph ranks second, his younger brother Seth ranks fourth in the league at 54.3% as he is averaging a career-high 15.4 points this season with Philadelphia. While Steph is connected with his biological brother in elite shooting, his splash brother Klay Thompson is getting closer to his return as well. We’ll see where the Warriors’ Splash Brothers rank when we revisit these rankings later in the season.