Who will be the next 50-40-90 guy?

jose-calderon

Not him. He’s already in the club. 

Look, Jose Calderon is not perfect, I know that. Just look at this video of him getting faked out by some loser twice.

But if I die having spread the message that Jose Calderon was a member of the 50-40-90 club for one season, then I will have died a happy man.

In ’07-’08, Calderon shot 51.9% from the field, 42.9% from three, and 90.8% from the free throw line, all while playing 82 games and averaging 30.3 minutes per game. Dios mios!

(This guy shot 98.1% (151/154) from the line the year after that, which is a record in the NBA that will likely never be broken)

I had to clear that up because he is such an outlier in the 50-40-90 club that people often overlook his credentials, assuming he didn’t play enough or shoot enough or whatever.

The other members: Larry Bird (twice), Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Steve Nash (four! times), Dirk Nowitzki, and Kevin Durant.

That’s it!

One of these things (Jose) is not like the others. The only non-HOFer (Durant will make it) in that group besides Calderon is Mark Price, who was an elite-level point guard on very good Cleveland teams from ’89-’94.

It is worth noting that Steve Kerr’s ’95-’96 season is statistically the best shooting season ever compiled. His 50.6/51.5/92.9% shooting splits seem like fake numbers, but he only played 23.4 minutes per game, and only shot the ball 482 times in 82 games, so that season is widely accepted as a non-acceptance to the club.

482 shots = six shots per game. In ’05-’06, Kobe Bryant shot the ball 27 times per game, in case you were wondering.

Back to the central question here, who will be the next NBA player to enter this group of HOFers plus Mark Price and Jose Calderon? 

The simple answer to that would be Steph Curry who, through 43 games this season, is averaging 51.3/45.6/91.3% shooting splits—just jaw-dropping numbers for a guy who touches the ball as much as he does and shoots more than 10 three-pointers per game. Let’s just move on and put him in the group.

Even if he falls off this year, he will absolutely get there at some point in his career. If not in his prime, it will happen when he assumes a smaller roll and becomes the best spot up second option of all-time.

Here’s a list of the seven most likely candidates, analyzed:

Kyle Korver

If Korver was to qualify, don’t you think it would have happened by now? The 34-year-old enjoyed a delayed peak last season, turning in one of the most efficient shooting seasons ever. He made the All-Star Game based entirely on the collective awe his shooting inspired in the first 50 or so games of the season.

Before the ladder stretch of the season, Korver was on pace to become the first qualified player ever to achieve 50/50/90 splits, but he fell off after the All-Star break a bit, and finished the season barely missing out on all significant shooting clubs, with a 48.7/49.2/89.8% season in 75 games.

Still one of the best shooting seasons ever, but no good for the purpose of this list. Now his numbers have dropped uncharacteristically low, and the NBA seems to have figured out the. With all that in mind, and with Korver’s age playing a big factor, I’m guesstimating that the swingman will be forever left off the list.

J.J. Reddick

Reddick is living out a shooter’s dream. All he is asked to do is shoot, and he is playing in a backcourt along side one the best point guards ever. He has an elite scorer to distract defenses from him (**had, because Blake Griffin punched some guy and broke his hand), and he has a great rebounder to coral offensive boards, which sets up kick out, spot up shooting opportunities. There isn’t a better situation for a knock down guy in the entire league.

But this core, which is not going to beat the Warriors and the Spurs in the playoffs, is stale. The Clippers best three players have had four cracks at a title now, and have never reached round three. The long term trajectory of this team is completely up in the air.

So for Reddick and his admirable situation, it could be this season or not at all. He will enter his game tonight with 49/49.3/88% splits, so it’s certainly possible that he reaches 50/40/90. He has also effectively taken Korver’s title of best swingman shooter in the league with nearly identical stats and a better scoring average.

If he keeps shooting like he has in the last 22 games (50.2/51.9/87.8), his field goal percentage will eventually get to where it needs to be.

It’s those pesky free throws. Reddick has shot 90% or better from the line six times in his previous 10 years, so there is some legitimate hope, but for a shooter who only averages about three attempts per game, every miss and every make means something.

Curious what he needs to average the rest of the way to reach 90%? Don’t worry, I did the math!

Through Reddick’s first 40 games (he’s missed four out of a possible 44), he has hit 110/125 attempts. Assuming his average of 3.1 trips to the line per game holds up, and assuming he plays the remainder of the Clippers final 38 games, Reddick will take 117.8 more free throw attempts (obviously not possible to take .8 free throws, but stick with me for the sake of this math stuff).

So if he makes 109 of those final 117.8 attempts, for an average of 92.5%, then he will boost his season percentage up to 90.1%.

Doug McDermott

Here is an interesting one. McDermott, who posted a ludicrously bad 6.1 Player Effeciency Rating last year (the league average is around 15), is suddenly looking and acting like a real NBA player. Though his PER is still a little low (10), he is actually seeing meaningful minutes, playing passable NBA defense, and is doing what he does best: shooting the ball.

The college phenom/NBA project is playing 20.6 minutes per game, with shooting percentages of 43.1/42.7/84.2. Respectable! Who knows what will happen in year three, four, five, and so on of the McDermott project. You want my opinion? Here it is!

Best Case Scenario: At 6-8, he bulks up, continues his efforts to become a more respectable NBA-caliber defender, improves on his already stellar shooting, and becomes a coveted piece for an acclimated team in this era of pace-and-space shooting. I see his statistical ceiling at something like 18 points per game and seven rebounds per game.

Worst Case Scenario: His defense never improves, his body never develops into an NBA type mold, and his shooting becomes his only dimension. I see his statistical basement at something like 10 points per game and three rebounds per game.

His best case scenario is his best bet at a 50-40-90 type of season. I don’t think that’s an unrealistic situation, either. But it’s really too early to tell. He’s only taken 19 free throws this year.

Klay Thompson

I reluctantly added Thompson to the list because he plays for the Warriors and he is already one of the best three-point shooters ever.

But as far as the numbers go, I don’t see a 50-40-90 happening for him. In his current role, Thompson takes too many shots to reach 50%. His free throw percentage also fluctuates an abnormal amount from year to year. Right now, it’s at 82.8%.

The best historical comparison for Thompson is Reggie Miller (although Thompson’s defense is far better), and Miller’s only 50-40-90 season came when he was taking 13 shots per game, three less Thompson’s current rate.

Maybe if he accepts a smaller role somewhere down the line, but right now, Thompson is too busy scoring points to worry about any percentage clubs.

James Hardan

He’s too much of a/too good of a scorer to ever eclipse 50-40-90. At his current rate of about 20 field goal attempts per game and 10 free throw attempts per game, the volume of times Hardan throws the basketball at the hoop is too high.

The last guard to average at least 20 field goal attempts per game while shooting 50% or better from the field was Michael Jordan in 1992, and while Hardan is great, he is no Michael Jordan.

Hardan’s best year in terms of efficiency came during the ’11-’12 season, the last time he wasn’t a number one option. Coming off the bench as the third option behind Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, Hardan was outstanding. He finished with shooting splits of 49.1/39/84.6.

Had OKC GM Sam Presti just sucked it up and paid Hardan what he wanted, it’s very likely that he would have achieved 50-40-90 numbers by now, but instead he went to Houston and became one of the games five or six best players. Great for Hardan, not so great for shooting specific stat nerds.

Is it possible Hardan could join the club before he retires? Absolutely.

Is it possible Hardan could join the club as a number one option? Absolutely not.

Here’s the scenario in which I see him joining the club:

While statistically prolific and visually outstanding, teams figure out surefire ways to stop the number one option version of Hardan in the playoffs.

Suddenly sprouting a whiff of self-awareness, Hardan realizes this, plays out his existing contract until 2018, then jumps ship and becomes a second scoring option somewhere else (Ray Allen!).

A Paul George type, someone who can be bothered to play defense, is the type of player I have in mind. A two-way player who is unselfish and would have no problem deferring to Hardan in certain situations.

If all that were to fall into place, a 30 or 31-year-old Hardan could average something like 20 or 21 points per game, with shooting averages around 51/42/90. It could happen.

Or that hypothetical could be a total waste of time and thought if Hardan’s ego never settles for something less than supreme leader of a franchise. TIme will tell.

Khris Middleton

All of the hype around the Milwaukee Bucks is gone. They were the darlings of the NBA in September. They were a trendy pick to become a top four team in the Eastern Conference. Now they are 19-27, a team in semi-disarray with a bunch of pieces that may or may not work out in the long run.

They are a disappointing team for sure, but Khris Middleton is making the five year, $70 million contract he signed in the offseason look like a steal.

His year four numbers: 17.7 PPG (his scoring average has improved every year), 4 APG, also a number that his risen each year. He is shooting 44.4/42.3/87.8%, and he takes 14 shots per game, and he’s only 24!

With all those non-shooting slashers (Carter-Williams and Antetokounmpo drive to the basket a combined 13.7 times per game, per NBA.com/stats), Middleton is the beneficiary of a lot of open catch-and-shoot shots, which obviously bodes well for FG%.

Only 10 players have more catch-and-shoot opportunities per game than Middleton (4.9, making 45.1% of them). Of those 10 players, only two (Curry and Reddick) have a better % on such shots.

Skip to 3:30 and you’ll get an idea of the type of shot the drive and kick creates for Middleton.

The Bucks are bad, but there future is still bright. If Milwaukee can sift through the growing pains and keep this core intact, Middleton has the chance to be the knockdown second option scorer he was meant to be. As long as his shot selection improves, he will be in the running for a 50-40-90 type of year for the next ten years.

Kawhi Leonard

When Leonard entered the NBA, he was an unknown commodity that the Spurs stole in a straight up trade for George Hill (Paul George and Kawhi Leonard could have played together, imagine that).

Now he is an undisputed top six player, the best defender in the league, and an MVP candidate on the second or first best team in the league. Only the Spurs.

His overall FG% has always been stellar (around 50% for his career), and his three-point percentage this year (48.1%) has been the scariest news for the rest of the league besides everything the Warriors are doing.

His free throw percentage went from good to great this season (88.5%), and there is really no reason to believe all of that stuff won’t keep getting better.

He is wildly efficient (19th in scoring, just 33rd in shots per game), and he has perhaps the best second, third, and fourth scoring options in NBA history.

He has the intangibles, and all those other important basketball terms, and if J.J. Reddick doesn’t do it this year, Leonard is the most likely player in the NBA to join the club.

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