Steve Nash is the best shooter of all time

Posted by on March 10th, 12:53 am

Believe it or not, the numbers say Steve Nash is the greatest shooter ever. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Believe it or not, the numbers say Steve Nash is the greatest shooter ever. (AP Photo/Matt York)

I know what you’re thinking at first glance, what kind of homer Suns blog is this?

But I give you Professor John Hollinger of ESPN Insider, who devised a rating system to rank players by adding up their two-point, three-point and free-throw percentages.

He calls this “Combined Shooting Rating.” By this measure Nash is the greatest shooter of all-time, and it’s not even close. Nash grades out with a 1.849 CSR by shooting 51.5 percent on twos, 43.1 percent on threes and 90.3 percent from the line for his career.

Nash’s 1.849 is so impressive that it beats out the No. 2 guy on this list (ironically Suns GM Steve Kerr, who wasn’t a bad shooter in his day either) by 0.37. Five more players are bunched up behind Kerr in another 0.37 deviation.

This isn’t even factoring in how players get their shots. Unlike Kerr, who was a spot shooter who collected open shots when superstars like Michael Jordan and Tim Duncan drew double teams, Nash is the ultimate creator. He gets most of his threes pulling up off the dribble instead of spotting up and waiting for an open shot.

When you look at the rest of the list you see guys like Kerr, Reggie Miller, Jeff Hornacek, Chris Mullin and Peja Stojakovic, dead-eye shooters who couldn’t run an offense if their season depended on it. Nash, meanwhile, is on the top 10 of the NBA’s all-time assists list and has run the NBA’s most efficient offense for eight consecutive years and counting (soon to be nine). It’s amazing that a player could be running away with this title when shooting isn’t even the first thing you think of when it comes to his offensive game.

Nash is also one of only seven players to ever shoot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three and 90 percent from the line in a season, and Larry Bird (twice) is the only other player to do it more than once. Nash is set to do it for a fourth time this year if he maintains his percentages the rest of the way, and it would be five in a row if you round up his 89.9 percent performance from the free-throw line in 2006-07.

If he keeps this up, Nash will own four of the top seven true shooting percentages in all-time 50-40-90 seasons, with Kerr’s stellar 1995-96 leading the way in the category and Nash’s 2007-08 second.

For all his career greatness, with Nash having hit just 1-of-10 three-pointers in March, that leads to one obvious conclusion: Nash’s back must have really been killing the NBA’s all-time best shooter last week.

Michael Schwartz founded ValleyoftheSuns in October 2008 and is the owner/editor emeritus of the site. He is currently working toward his MBA in sports business at San Diego State University.

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Tags: Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Analysis · Steve Kerr · Steve Nash

12 responses so far ↓

  • 1 john marzan // Mar 9, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    anthony morrow is the best shooter in the nba today.

  • 2 The Z. Man // Mar 9, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    Nash is the best.

    Not Morrow and not Kobe and not even Dirk.

    Suns are very fortunate to have him run the show. John Stockton, Jason Kidd, and Magic Johnson could not even come close to what he can do with the ball. Soon Nash will have his buddy the Brazilian Blur back. They are nearly unbeatable when they play with each other.

    MUST start and also finish with LB. Let's go SUNS!!!!

  • 3 Mike // Mar 10, 2010 at 2:13 am

    It's going to be a long time before we have another player quite like Steve in Phoenix. Fans here need to cherish every moment before he's gone, because we're truly witnessing history in the making.

  • 4 AHL // Mar 10, 2010 at 5:29 am

    This methodology was bogus. Straight up adding together percentages? I mean, we already have TS% as a start for a combined shooting%, why take a step backwards? I mean, Hollinger could have atleast weighted it by how many of each shot was taken, ugh.

    By his metric, the #1 would actually be Eddy Curry, who in 13002 career minutes posted a 54.5-100.0-64.2 for a 2.186 score!

  • 5 Matt // Mar 10, 2010 at 6:19 am

    @AHL Players had to have at least 250 made 3 pointers to even be eligible… Eddy Curry has only taken two 3 pointers in his career so is obviously not even in the running. I don't necessarily agree with the system but what you suggested is a straw man.

  • 6 PZ // Mar 10, 2010 at 8:01 am


    Weighting it for how many of each shot was taken would be the exact opposite of what you are trying to accomplish. That would be a “true shooting percentage” which is misnomer and should be titled “true scoring efficiency.” That sort of metric tells you how efficiently you get your points, but not how good of an overall shooter you are. That would reward someone like Shaq that is simply dominant on 2 point field goals or someone like Brent Barry/Reggie Miller that were specialists that had an opportunity to take a greater percentage of three point shots than a point guard can.

    Hollinger’s method is hardly ideal, but he was simply trying to compile a list of players that shoot the ball well from two point range, three point range and the free throw line.

  • 7 Kyle Fleeger // Mar 10, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    I think this is awesome and a sweet answer this weekend when Laker fans are talking about how Kobe deserved one of Nash's MVP's.

    It's also an argument for why he should be in the top 5 in voting this year!

    Can't wait to read about the Laker game.

  • 8 Julia // Mar 11, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    Nash is simply the best.

  • 9 Nash reaches 1,000-game plateau| Valley of the Suns // Mar 16, 2010 at 12:50 am

    [...] His 11.2 assists are his highest since the 2006-2007 season (11.6), and the second highest of his career. Nash’s 16.9 points per game is also his highest since 2006-2007. His numbers speak for themselves, and ESPN’s John Hollinger even dubbed him the best shooter of all time. [...]

  • 10 Laura // Jul 11, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Not to nitpick, but I’m not sure that is really a proper usage of the term ironic.

    I would argue that Kerr was a slightly superior shooter to Nash because I think degree of difficulty should be taken into account and free throws not weighed as heavily. The free throw comparison is a little unfair because Steve Kerr never ever ever got to the line, so he simply didn’t have the gametime reps necessary for practice.

    If you look just at 3 point shooting plus 2 point shooting, Kerr leads Nash .948 to .946. 3 pointers, which are a more difficult shot, Kerr leads Nash .454 to .431. If you take away all the easy layups Nash got over his career using skills that Nash just didn’t have, his 2 point shooting becomes a little less impressive. I’d be more interested in seeing a comparison of strictly long 2 pointers and 3 pointers. That’s really measuring shooting.

  • 11 To Be A Modern NBA All-Star: Guards | The Same Page // Feb 15, 2013 at 10:02 am

    [...] Nash won two MVP awards playing a style that completely engaged his abilities as a creator and under-rated  shooter. Jason Kidd was an elite defender, rebounder and creator, leading his New Jersey Nets to two Finals [...]

  • 12 Elephant in the Room Pt 2: The Painful Realization that Steve Nash is no longer Steve Nash | Circus Shots // Nov 18, 2013 at 1:01 am

    […] more on precision than physical attributes. His passes were mostly on the spot and he was arguably the best shooter of all time in terms of efficiency, as he averaged above 50% from two pointers, 40% from threes and 90% for his entire career. He has […]

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