Triple Threat Weekly: Mid-March Updates

Weekly NBA Content by Back of the Jersey

This week for Back of the Jersey’s Triple Threat Weekly, Jim and Tyler scan the league for the most interesting headlines. Kyle Korver’s historic shooting season, Paul George nearing a return for the Pacers and the debate for the candidacies of Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry for MVP.

Korver's unreal season continues.

Can Kyle Korver become the first player with a 50-50-90 season? Only time will tell.
(Photo courtesy of NBA.com)

Kyle Korver is on the verge of a 50-50-90 season. Is he the greatest shooter of all-time?

Tyler

Kyle Korver’s season has truly been historic. It’s been fitting that the Hawks are having a historic season as well. Atlanta currently sits at 50-14, good enough for first in the Eastern conference. And, while very few give Atlanta credit for their impressive record (because they play in the East), Korver certainly deserves his due.

These last few weeks of the NBA season may not be that important for the Hawks as they are chasing something far more serious – a trophy in June. But, for Korver, these last few weeks will be pivotal. There have been just six players all-time to achieve 50-40-90 seasons. That is, shoot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from the three point line, and 90 percent from the free-throw line. Korver isn’t simply trying to become the seventh on that all-time list. He’s trying to become the first player to accomplish a 50-50-90 season. And, he may well do it. As of now, Korver is shooting 49.7 from the field, 50.1 from three-point range, and 90.1 from the free-throw line. What makes it even more impressive? Well, Korver plays 33 minutes per game, therefore, he is not doing this in minimal attempts. The twelve year veteran from Creighton is on another planet right now, and any NBA fan could make the case he’s the greatest shooter the game has ever seen.

Jim

Greatest shooter of all time is a lofty perch to hold. Greatest shooting season of all-time? Yes, Korver certainly has the inside track to that distinction. Kyle Korver is an incredible shooter but if you were to poll 100 NBA fans over the age of 30 on who they want taking a 3-pointer for the win, I don’t think Kyle Korver’s name accounts for more than 10% of these responses. That being said, here are the list of shooters who have come close to a 50-50-90 season.

  • Steve Nash (’07-’08 season) – 50.4% FG %, 47.0% 3-PT, 90.6% FT

That’s the list. Steve Nash came within 3% points of joining this hallowed club. Nash (4x) and Larry Bird (2x) are the only players to post multiple 40-40-90 seasons. Korver has a puncher’s chance to create a new type of club. Korver is on pace to shatter his previous career high of 226 3-pointers made in a season (currently at 189 through 64 games), averaging 3 3-pointers per contest. Impressive, impressive season from the soon to be 34-year old marksman.

Does the impending return of Paul George for the Pacers alter the Eastern Conference playoff landscape?

Tyler

Short answer: no. Without Paul George, Indiana is a 40 win team at best. With Paul George, Indiana is a 50 win team at best. The Pacers are currently playing well (winners of 12 out of their last 14), but they are nothing more than .500 team – even in the East. Despite their recent hot streak, they are 29-33.

I have heard many say “When Paul George gets back, I can see the Pacers emerging from the Eastern Conference.” In my opinion, this is nonsense. First of all, George will take time to get back into the flow of the game and get his legs underneath him. This will at least take a month, and by then, the playoffs will have already started and it may not even include Indiana. Secondly, the Pacers are an aging team who lacks a point guard to compete with Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland and Washington.

It would be a nice story to see Paul George return and play a competitive first round series against one of the top dogs in the East. But, to win the conference? That is laughable.

Jim

Agree with everything Tyler mentioned above. The Pacers just don’t have the horses at the wing positions to keep up with the likes of LeBron James, Bradley Beal, Kyle Korver or DeMar DeRozan (they’re running into one of these four guys in the first round). They have size in Roy Hibbert and David West to inhibit what those teams do down-low but just don’t match up on the outside, even with Paul George back from injury (at less than 100%).

Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Watson have been outstanding for the Pacers, combining to average 23 PPG, 7 APG & 6.5 RPG. They have essentially combined to replace the production of Paul George (21.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG & 3.5 APG last season). The Pacers might win a game in the first round, but if they end up playing the Cavs…expect them to be dispatched in 5 games.

You’re starting a franchise today. You have to pick between Steph Curry and Russell Westbrook. Who do you take?

Russell Westbrook

Image courtesy of USA Today

Tyler

This is tough. I mean, really tough. This is probably the toughest question we have posed on Triple Threat Weekly.

Ok, well, not really. Think about it: you can’t go wrong.

I am taking Russell Westbrook. He’s the better defensive player and better rebounder. There is no doubt Curry is the better shooter, with far more range, but Westbrook’s size, strength and defensive ability makes him the best choice. Both are having unbelievable seasons, and if I had to vote for the MVP, I would have to take Steph Curry at this point. His team has 51 wins in the Western conference, while Westbrook’s has just 35 wins. And while team success is not everything, when the players are this close in skill and stats, it has to be tiebreaker.

Jim

Ditto Tyler’s sentiments. This argument is razor thin. Westbrook is 8 months younger than Curry (Happy 27th birthday Steph Curry) yet Westbrook has an extra season (2,500 minutes) of tread on his tires, since he is in his 7th season and Curry is in his 6th season. That’s a wash.

Both have career averages of exactly 20.8 PPG and 1.7 SPG, while both averaging 7 APG (Curry – 6.9 APG, Westbrook – 7.1). Eerie…but a wash.

Curry is the much better all-around shooter both due to him being a better shooter but also due to his shot selection. Let’s compare (below are career percentages):

FG %: 46.9% vs. 43.3% — Curry wins

3-Point %: 43.6% vs. 30.3% — Curry wins

Free Throws: 89.7% vs. 81.8% — Curry wins

The only statistical area where Westbrook edges Curry is in RPG – 5.2 vs. 4.2. With all that being said, I have to go with Westbrook. He’s just a flat-out winner. OKC has won the Western Conference once (’12) and has been to the Conference Finals on two other occasions (’11 & ’14). Curry has never been past the second round in his career. I’m going with Westbrook.

About Tyler Michels

Tyler is an NC State alum living in Raleigh, NC. Growing up in Northwest New Jersey, Tyler developed a love for New York sports teams, driving his desire to become a writer. In his free time, Tyler can probably be found on a golf course.

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