Stephen Curry and the 3: How both have changed the NBA



The NBA is very different place than what it was when Stephen Curry came on the scene.

The Warriors star has been at the forefront in a dramatic shift to the way the game is played. Gone are the days when physicality was the predominant attribute required to succeed. Now, the 3-point shot reigns supreme.

Five years after Curry claimed the first of his two successive MVP awards, we use Stats Perform data to analyze the increasing importance of success from beyond the arc:

Deadly from distance

Curry entered the league as the seventh overall pick in the 2009 draft, with Ray Allen proving the benchmark when it came to 3-point shooting.

MORE: Curry jokes about dropping 60 on ‘everybody’

No one has hit more shots from downtown than two-time NBA champion and 10-time All-Star Curry’s 2,973.

Prior to 2012-13, he also held the record for the most 3-pointers made per game in a season when he averaged 3.4 in 2005-06. Curry has beaten that mark six times in his eight campaigns since.

The Warriors guard set a record of 5.1 3-pointers made per game in 2015-16 and, after dipping to the still-impressive averages of 4.1 and 4.2 in the two subsequent seasons, he matched it in 2018-19.

On course for history

Curry has played 699 games in the NBA and has made 2,495 3-pointers. That is close to 700 more than the next-best record for successful 3-pointers in a player’s first 700 games, which is teammate Klay Thompson’s total of 1,798 in 615 appearances.

The most previously was 1,632 by Allen.

A leaguewide trend

It’s not just Curry, though. The average number of 3-pointers made per game has been a league record in each of the past eight seasons. Furthermore, the rate of 24.3 combined 3-pointers made per game in the NBA this season is more than twice that from 2005-06 (11.5).

Consistently accurate

In Allen’s 2005-06 season, he made a record 269 3-pointers – that is now the 11th-best total all time. Five of the top 10 tallies belong to Curry, including the top two. He set a benchmark when he made 402 shots from downtown in his MVP season.

James Harden (378 in 2018-19 and 271 in 2019-20), Paul George (292 in 2018-19), Buddy Hield (278 in 2018-19) and Thompson (276 in 2015-16) are the other top-10 entries.

There have been 38 player seasons in NBA history with at least 600 3-point attempts; six of those were by Curry. In those 38, the Warriors star’s percentages rank first, second, third, fourth, eighth and 11th.

Often prolific

When Curry entered the league, the record for the most games with at least eight 3-pointers made was held by Allen, who at that point had nine. Since then, Curry has racked up 48 such games, more than twice as many as Harden, who is second all time with 21.

Only four players had managed to score 11 3-pointers in a game before Curry’s emergence, and each of them had only done it once. In his NBA career, he has managed to achieve the feat eight times.

Not just the guards

The big men are also getting involved.

Players who are 6-8 or taller are attempting more of their shots from 3-point range. From 1979-80 to 1984-85 just 0.9 percent of their field-goal attempts were from beyond the arc; that increased to 8.7 in the seasons from 1995-96 until 1999-2000.

The figure since 2015-16 stands at 24.1 percent.

A new NBA

The upward trend across the league can also be seen when looking at the top scorers in a season. Before 2013-14, no more than four of the leading 10 players in points per game in a given season had made more than two 3-pointers per game. Since then, at least five have done so in six of the seven seasons. As things stand in 2019-20, the number is up to an unprecedented seven.

Indeed, there are 18 players in the top 25 for points-per-game this season who have averaged more than two 3-pointers.





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