Last night the Golden State Warriors did their usual thing. Without David Lee, the Dubs dropped 131 points, shot 64.6% from the floor and made 14 of 25 three pointers. Following the game, Mark Jackson said that Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are the "greatest shooting backcourt in history." There's no doubt that the Warrior guards can shoot the lights out, but to call them the greatest in history is a bold claim.
You can definitely make an argument that they're the best shooting backcourt in history. Curry set the single season record for three pointers made with 272 and the duo combined for 483 between them, shooting an impressive 42.9% from behind the arc. The Warriors guards launched an average of 14.1 threes per game, making over six a night.
They're clearly a talented pair of shooters, but are they the greatest shooting backcourt ever? There are lots of different ways to analyze shooters: FG%, 3P%, TS% (True shooting combines points, field goal attempts, and free throws to determine overall shooting), and ppg are just
few of the quantitative tools out there. In the end it comes down to opinion and the totally subjective "eye test" but these and other numbers can give some insight and help validate or undermine Jackson's claim.
In 2010-11, Kevin Martin and Kyle Lowry quietly had terrific shooting seasons. They were the first and third leading scorers for the Rockets, tallying 37 points per game (compared to Curry/Thompson's 39.5) and shot a combined 43.2% from the floor. The Rocket guards shot over 300 fewer threes over the course of the year and their 3P% of 38.3 and 37.6 are good, but not quite Curry and Thompson good. Their true shooting percentages, however, are better than the "greatest shooting backcourt in history". Martin's was 60.1%, higher than Curry's 58.9, and Lowry's 55% was higher than Thompson's 53.3%.
Six years earlier, in 2004-05, Steve Nash shot 43.1% from beyond the arc and Joe Johnson shot an incredible 47% from long range. The Suns duo combined for fewer points than Curry-Thompson and Martin-Lowry, but their true shooting percentages of 60.6 for Nash and 55.6 for Johnson and combined field goal percentage of 47.8 suggest that these two were more efficient than the other pairs.
If you care about field goal percentage, look no further than the most dynamic perimeter 1-2 punch in history, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen of the Bulls (yes, I know that they are not technically a backcourt pairing, but Scottie played plenty of point-forward and, come on, just work with me here). In 1996-97, for example, they shot a combined 48.1% from the floor and scored 49.8 points per game between them while hitting on 37% of their three-point attempts. Jordan finished the season with a of 56.7 TS% and Pippen had a 55.4 TS% of his own.
That season, teammate Steve Kerr played 1200 fewer minutes than Pippen and Jordan, but had a TS% of 66.7, shot 53% from the field and 46.4% from three. So Jordan-Kerr could also be in the conversation for best shooting backcourt.
Duos like Mario Ellie-Clyde Drexler, Tim Hardaway-Vashon Leonard, Reggie Miller or Ray Allen and anyone with a pulse, and many others have also had great shooting seasons and could be considered the greatest shooting combinations. While my personal pick is Nash-Johnson, none of these choices are wrong. I disagree with Mark Jackson's statement, but the significance of Curry and Thompson's accomplishments this year should not be overlooked.
What they did this year was remarkable. To shoot at such a high percentage while hoisting over 14 threes a game is unheard of. They may not be the best shooting backcourt in history according to metrics, but they are certainly the most prolific three point shooting backcourt.
The three ball has become integral for many teams' offensive gameplans and the Warriors do it well with Curry and Thompson leading the way. They look for the long ball in transition and they run their guards around picks all game long. You know what they're going to do and you still can't stop it. If that's the definition of greatness, then maybe Jackson was right after all.