Taking applications for the 50/40/90 club: Who’s going to make it in 2018?

Lachlan Gault Roar Rookie

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    As the offseason continues its steady march into October, the absence of basketball can leave plenty of time for some wild and way too early predictions. What better to predict than who will gain membership in the exclusive 50/40/90 club?

    In a league so orientated by efficiency and the need for three-point shooting, it would be expected that more players would have achieved this rare feat. To date, there are only seven members, three of whom remain active (Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry).

    Curry was the last entrant in 2015/16 following Durant in 2013/14. The 50/40/90 represents a stat line of shooting at least 50 per cent on all field goals, 40 per cent from three-point range, and 90 per cent from the free-throw line.

    We will examine who (if anyone) is likely to break into this group based on the stat lines of the previous two seasons and predictions for 2017/18.

    Dirk Nowitzki (Honourable mention)
    Over an illustrious career spanning 19 seasons, Dirk has many accolades to his name; NBA champion, league MVP, Finals MVP, multiple All NBA and All Star selections…

    Importantly, he is a member of the 50/40/90 club. In what will be his 20th season, it seems unlikely that Dirk will earn another season in the club. His field goal percentages have been in steady decline over the past three seasons and he will not have an elite supporting cast or system to provide that final push.

    5. CJ McCollum
    After posting career highs in FT% and 3PT% (91% and 42% respectively) it was only FG% that let CJ down in 2016/17. At 48%, he will need to improve his efficiency substantially this year. As a career 41 per cent three-point shooter, this shouldn’t be the issue.

    Looking ahead, it feels unlikely that his efficiency will improve. He and Damian Lillard will look to shoulder the lion’s share of the offensive load in Portland for the foreseeable future. Such dependence on their two stars will surely stymie on any attempt at increasing McCollum’s efficiency.

    4. Kawhi Leonard
    Leaonard has been tantalisingly close in each of his two previous campaigns, recording 50/44/87 and 48/38/88 in 2015/16 and 2016/17 respectively. Through his development into an offensive juggernaut while carrying the load of a declining Tony Parker over the past few seasons, his efficiency has remained quite high.

    Put it down to coach Greg Popovic, down to the Spurs’ ball movement, whatever you want. Providing his supporting cast can draw some attention (looking at you LaMarcus Aldridge), Leonard may be able to push for the club. He’s not the favourite but it wouldn’t be unlikely.

    San Antonio Spurs' Kawhi Leonard.

    (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

    3. Chris Paul
    After shocking Clipper fans and moving to partner up with another ball dominant star in James Harden, this could be CP3’s year.

    Registering a stat line of 47/41/89 in his previous campaign, Paul’s efficiency from the field should improve under Mike D’Antoni’s offence. The offence avoids inefficient mid-range shots like the dentist and for the first time in his career, Paul will play alongside a bona fide star and distributor.

    Against his case is his free-throw shooting. Over his twelve seasons in the league, Paul has managed a 90 per cent clip from the line over a season on one occasion; in the 2014/15 season he recorded exactly 0.900. this may be too big a mountain to climb.

    2. Kevin Durant
    Before being dethroned by Curry, Durant was the most recent member of the club, putting up a huge season in 2012/13. Having come extremely close over the past two seasons, Durant will again be close this year.

    He was extremely efficient from the field in his most recent season (53.7FG%) but missed out due to his free throw and three point percentages (87.5 and 37.5 respectively). Another year of chemistry and some savvy offseason acquisitions should make life a little easier from the three point line.

    Also, being in the midst of one of the greatest free throw shooters of all time in Steph Curry won’t hurt in the slightest.

    1. Stephen Curry
    Curry is the obvious choice. Steph became the most recent member in his 2015/16 MVP season, being added onto a list after his now-teammate Kevin Durant.

    The Warriors’ offensive system is built around Curry. Ball movement, off-ball movement, off-ball screens all designed to get open looks from three-point range. The addition of Durant and the more recent offseason acquisitions of Omri Casspi and Nick Young should further allow Curry to get better looks from outside.

    The extra floor spacing provided should reduce the need for Curry to resort to his mid range looks in favour of more efficient shots at the rim. The greatest shooter of this generation (and likely all time) will continue to add memberships to his name over the coming years. The question shouldn’t be if but when.

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