JJ Redick had no trouble coming up with his list of the five greatest shooters ever. "Oh, that's easy," he said during his interview with Draymond Green. "Steph is first. Everybody else is way down the list to me. In no particular order, the other four, it's Klay , Kyle Korver, Ray Allen, Reggie Miller. To me, those are the guys."
Redick on NBA's 3-point revolution
Most NBA fans would agree with Redick's choice-- picking those five is almost consensual. But where are the old-school snipers? Everyone from JJ's list has either played through the NBA's 3-point revolution or has just missed it. But what about the long-range killers that preceded them? Redick explained the logic behind omitting those guys.
When we talk about great shooters, I don't want to disparage the previous iteration of 3-point shooters in the 80s or the 90s. But those guys were not shooting the shots we take today. Those guys were not taking the difficult shots we're taking nor were they shooting at the volume.
JJ Redick, The Volume
"Now we put such a premium on generating three-point looks," Redick continued. "It's not just about the quality of the look, it's the volume of looks." That's why a guy like Larry Bird -- 1.9 3PAs per game for his career -- is never a lock to make a list, although skill-wise, he's without the doubt one of the greatest shooters we've ever seen.
The fallacy in the discussion
Bird didn't have the luxury of playing in an era when players were encouraged to shoot from long range. Today's players are. And not only that; despite the volume of three-point attempts being at an all-time high, teams still want guys to shoot more. Even Steph Curry, who's attempting 13.1 threes per game this season, is being asked to up those numbers.
"I was talking to Bob Myers and he was telling me like, 'Steph's three-point shots are getting up, but all of my analytical guys tell me, he's getting up there, but we need him at 20 a game,'"Draymond said. "I'm like, number one, 20 three-point shots a game, that is brutal on the body, man.'"
Fair on unfair, the high volume of three-pointers impacts the criterion we use when ranking the NBA's greatest shooters. But the same thing might happen to guys who are playing today. Depending on how the league changes in the future, assuming the number of three-pointers per game goes up even more, we might neglect guys from this era who are considered the greatest shooters ever.
That's why numbers-based discussion should always be adjusted to inflation. Otherwise, we're prioritizing numerical while neglecting the contextual. And the game of basketball, as well as shooting, should never be trivialized like that.