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updated: 1/5/2014 10:09 PM

Korver streak amazing, but Kerr best 3-point shooter

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  • Atlanta Hawks guard Kyle Korver has the NBA record for consecutive games with a made 3-pointer, which now sits at 103 and counting.

    Atlanta Hawks guard Kyle Korver has the NBA record for consecutive games with a made 3-pointer, which now sits at 103 and counting.
    Associated Press


Legendary writer Sam Smith had an interesting idea this weekend, asking if Atlanta's Kyle Korver is the greatest shooter in NBA history.

Spoiler alert: He's not.

But Korver does own the NBA record for consecutive games with a made 3-pointer. He ran the streak to 103 during Saturday's 91-84 loss to the Bulls at the United Center.

The column got me thinking about the NBA's best shooters, and the first problem is, there are different categories in play here. Korver is basically a spot-up shooting 3-point specialist. He was the Hawks' sixth-leading scorer in Saturday's game with 8 points.

A go-to scorer like Golden State's Stephen Curry gets more opportunities to handle the ball and hoist shots, but there's also pressure to create scoring opportunities, which causes more difficult, challenged attempts. So it's difficult to compare those two players, although Curry deserves the nod as the best shooter in the league today.

In the 3-point specialist category, there is a clear winner. The best ever is not Korver but Steve Kerr.

Kerr owns the best 3-point percentage in NBA history at .454. but there is more to it than that. I probably gained a greater appreciation for Kerr's shooting skills from watching him play for the Spurs and Blazers after the Bulls' championship era. Seeing him once or twice a year, it was obvious that Kerr released his shot faster than any player in the league.

He couldn't shoot over defenders, so Kerr relied on the quick release to get his shot off, and to do that with such a high success rate is an incredible accomplishment.

Fred Hoiberg could hit 90 out of 100 3-point attempts after practice at the Berto Center. But he needed more time to get his shot off, and you don't often get that with NBA-caliber athletes playing defense.

As the best shooters in history, Smith picked Ray Allen, Reggie Miller, Larry Bird, Chris Mullin and Mark Price in his top five, modern edition. It's difficult to argue with any of those selections.

I wondered if statistics could tell us anything about the best shooters in history. Former Bulls center Artis Gilmore is the NBA's all-time leader in field-goal percentage at .599, but he was strictly a post-up player, which is a different skill.

Maurice Cheeks has one of the best career shooting percentages for a guard at .523, but he shot just 25.5 percent from 3-point range. He probably scored the majority of his points on drives to the basket.

A special place on any shooting list should be saved for the late Drazen Petrovic, the only player in league history to shoot better than 50 percent overall and 40 percent from 3-point range (.506 and .437).

Players who shoot better than 45 percent overall and 40 percent from 3-point range should qualify for elite status, but that list is surprisingly long: Petrovic, Kerr, Jeff Hornacek, Steve Nash, Wally Szcerbiak, Jose Calderon, Dale Ellis, B.J. Armstrong, Mark Price, Matt Bonner, Mike Miller, Trent Tucker, Craig Hodges, Brent Barry, Hubert Davis, Dana Barros, Dell Curry (and son), Wesley Person, Glen Rice, Ray Allen, Anthony Morrow and Peja Stojakovic.

How about Hornacek as the NBA's greatest shooter? The Chicago-area native finished his career at 49.6 percent overall and just above 40 percent from 3-point range. He will be in town Tuesday coaching the Phoenix Suns.

On the historical list, Michael Jordan shot 49.7 percent and certainly was a top-notch outside shooter later in his career. Among players whose careers predated the 3-point line, Oscar Robertson shot 48.5 percent for his career, Jerry West .475.

Is Steph Curry a better shooter than Allen, Miller or Bird? We'd probably need a game of H-O-R-S-E and a time machine to settle that argument.

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