The Chase for 272: Warriors’ Curry, Thompson Pursue the 3-Point Record


Last season Stephen Curry set the record for most 3PM in a season with 272. This year, both him and Klay Thompson have a great chance to set it again. Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

In 2012-2013, Stephen Curry had the greatest three-point shooting season of all time.

Curry passed Ray Allen’s single season record of most made three’s in a season with 272, and did so on 53 less attempts. This combination of volume and accuracy had never been achieved before in NBA history, as Curry finished the season 272-600 from downtown, good for 45 percent. According to Basketball-reference, the only player to have a higher three-point percentage while making 200+ threes was Glen Rice in 1996-1997, but he only made 207 threes compared to Curry’s 272.

Meanwhile, Klay Thompson also had himself a prolific season from behind the arc. Thompson finished the season with 211 threes of his own on 40% shooting, making the Splash Brothers the most prolific three point shooting tandem in single-season history. No other pair of teammates had combined to hit 483 threes before, and this led to Mark Jackson calling Curry and Thompson “the greatest shooting backcourt of all-time.”

While both Curry and Thompson set records last season, they may have taken the league by surprise. While teams knew that they were prolific shooters, they might not have known just how good they were. However, after such a great regular season, and an exciting postseason, coming into this year teams knew they had to guard the Splash Brothers from behind the arc. Opposing defenses this year have made guarding the three-point line a huge priority, but they haven’t been able to stop the Splash Brothers yet.

This year, both Curry and Thompson are firing from deep like they haven’t ever before. Part of the analytics movement in basketball has revealed the value of the three pointer, and when you have two deadly shooters like the Splash Brothers, it makes sense to keep firing them up. This October, ESPN’s Tom Habersroh wrote an article titled, “Hey, Stephen: More 3s please,” begging Curry to shoot more threes, and that’s exactly what Curry (and Klay Thompson) has done. Through 48 games this year, Curry and Thompson have combined to shoot 723 threes, 86 more than they had at this point last season.

The result is that both players are in a great position to have a run at Curry’s record of 272 threes that he set last year. So far, through 48 games, Curry has made a league-best 153 threes, which is 14 more than he had at this point last year. Thompson has made 142 threes this year already, also up 14 from his total at this point last season and three more than Curry had during his record setting campaign.

These totals can be shown in the chart below, which tracks each player’s respective makes against Curry’s season last year, as well as the average 3’s needed per game to reach 272. Although they are both behind the pace required, they are both capable of going on hot streaks that could propel them into the record books.

However, if anyone is going to break the record, it is most likely going to be Curry. Despite starting off the season on fire and right along the record pace, Thompson has been struggling recently from behind the arc, averaging just 2.6 made threes per game over his last 29 games. He would need to average 3.9 made threes per game over the last 33 games of the season, which while possible, is not likely.

Curry on the other hand, is in prime position to break his own record. Curry is way ahead of where he was at this point last year, so it is quite obvious that he has the capability to go on a run necessary to break the record (as he did last year). He is currently averaging 3.4 made-threes per game, and if he was to continue that pace for the rest of the year, he would finish with 269 made threes. However, there are several factors that suggest that he will surpass both that total and the 272 from a year ago.

For one, Curry is currently shooting a career low from three point range. This season, Curry is shooting “just” 40.7% from three, well below his career average of 43.8 percent and below his previous season low of 43.7 percent his rookie year. We would expect his average to rise closer to his career average as the year progresses, and he has shown signs of doing so recently.

After struggling from behind the arc in December and the beginning of January, Curry has been on fire the last 10 games. During that stretch, Curry is averaging 4.3 makes per game on 46 percent shooting, a remarkably number but not unheard of for him (over his final 27 games last year, he averaged 4.3 makes per game on 47% shooting). The result is that Curry is closest to the required pace for 272 than has has been since early in the season. Curry’s recent stretch (along with Thompson’s) can be shown in the graph below.

The result is that Curry has once again put himself in a great position to set history. The league has never seen a shooter as deadly as Curry before, and even though defenses are keying to stop him from behind the arc, he is as dangerous as ever.

Thompson is no slouch either. Although he has struggled recently, if he can get back to his early season form, he may have a shot to break Curry’s record from last year. However, with how Curry’s shooting recently, it still may not be enough to get the all-time record as Curry looks primed to set it even higher this year.