Steph Curry talks his implausible yet achievable 3-pointer NBA record


OAKLAND -- The number sits in the distance, a beacon in the night, teasing every long-range gunslinger in the NBA. They can stare and fantasize about getting there, wondering how must it feel to go where only one human has ever gone.

Stephen Curry has that knowledge. He alone has experienced the light-headed feeling of soaring beyond 300 3-pointers in a single season. He did it two seasons ago, one year after zooming all the way to 402.

Let’s repeat that: 402 3-pointers in one season. As records go, this one feels simultaneously implausible and yet fully achievable.

“A lot has to go right, from playing enough games and being in the right system and having the right teammates,” Curry told NBC Sports Bay Area this week. “It wasn’t that long ago when 200 was rare. Getting to 300 was pretty crazy. It took a lot.

“But 400? So much had to happen. I think that one might be around for a while. For a good little while.”

The NBA game has changed rapidly this decade and no player is more responsible than Curry. Before he entered the league in 2009, three players -- Ray Allen (269), Dennis Scott (267) and George McCloud (257) -- had broken 250. Curry did it five times in a row. Klay Thompson has done it twice, as has James Harden.

Dozens more must be coming to join them, right? The revolution is here, in full effect. Offenses have never been as sophisticated, and more predicated on movement and spacing, all with the goal of generating more 3-point shots.

NBA teams averaged a total of 1007.8 3-point shots during in 1997-98. They averaged 1,486.1 in 2008-09, the year before Curry entered. Six years later, the average was up to 1,838. Then came last season, with an average of 2,378 3s per team.

Seven seasons after the Thunder, as a team, fired up 949 3-pointers, Curry in setting the record launched with 886. The second-highest total belongs to Harden, with 756 in 2016-17.

How long before somebody chuck 1,000? It’s a different game now. Blame or credit Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni. That’s what Steve Kerr does.

“Houston’s the one team that has decided they’re really going to push the envelope,” said Kerr, who holds the career record for 3-point percentage (45.4). “Mike is the guy who keeps raising the bar. If they average 35 (attempts per game) one year, he tells them let’s get to 40 the next. If it’s 40, let’s go for 45.”

The Rockets last season shot 3,470 3-pointers, an average of 42.3 per game, almost seven more than the Nets (35.7), who finished second in attempts. The Warriors, who finished fourth in attempts while winning the title in 2014-15, finished -- get this -- 17th last season.

That “little jump-shooting team in Golden State,” as some have described the Warriors, have fallen back in the middle of the pack in heaving bombs.

“The way we’re built, we’re not even going to be a top-10 team in attempts,” Kerr said. “Our offense creates a lot of midrange shots. Our focus is always good shots, in rhythm, no matter where they’re from.

“We want as many open shots as possible. If they’re 3s, that’s great. I’m never getting on a guy for taking a 3, even in transition, three-on-one. If it’s open, take it.”

This is why Curry and Thompson both have a chance to get back to 300 and at least approach 400. But not now, when there’s no need. The Warriors have Kevin Durant, conceivably the most complete scorer in NBA history, and his production is essential for the team to reach its potential.

So others will take their chances. Harden led the league in 3-pointers last season, with 265, in 722 attempts, also tops in the NBA. Following Harden were Paul George (244 of 609), Kyle Lowry (238 of 596), Kemba Walker (231 of 601) and Thompson (227 of 521).

Twelve players drained 200 shots from beyond the arc, and 29 more dropped between 150 and 200. In 2008-09, Magic forward Rashard Lewis was the lone player to crack 200, making 220, while 16 others finished between 150 and 200.

“Shooters are just getting better,” Thompson said. “The shooting in the NBA is pretty amazing right now. I remember when with 200 you’d probably lead the league. Now that’s just normal for great shooters.”

Curry dropped in “only” 212 triples last season, when he missed 31 games with various injuries. That’s 4.16 makes per game -- or roughly 340 over 82, which would be the second-highest total in NBA history. Yet still 62 short of 402.

“It’s not like I’m going to be going to my grave taking that number with me,” Curry said. “But know what it takes to get there, and I don’t see it (falling) anytime soon.”

What is apparent is that even as the team numbers have grown exponentially, individual numbers have been rising at a slower pace. Because the 3-ball is so prevalent, each team has multiple players launching from deep. The load is shared.

That everybody is shooting 3s may be the most logical reason for 402 being safe for the foreseeable future. Curry’s record is a bit like that of Marvin Harrison’s NFL record for catches in a season. He had 143 receptions in 2002, and even though there are more passes than ever, no individual has gotten there.

A few players have, however, gotten close. Four players have cracked 120.

No one has gotten within 100 of Curry’s record, aside from Curry himself the following season.

“I think that record’s going to hold or a while,” Kerr said. “Steph is such an exception, rather than the rule, in terms of his shooting prowess and his mentality. There’s going to be a lot of teams that shoot tons of 3s, but I don’t know if we’re going to get one guy that shoots that many.

“I guess somebody like (Hawks rookie) Trae Young could come into the league and shoot 15 every game. I don’t know. But it’s tough to see anybody breaking that record anytime soon.”

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