Last week, Ray Allen drained three-pointer No. 2,561 of his distinguished career, becoming the NBA's all-time leader in made threes. He's made four more threes since breaking the record in the first quarter of a home game against the rival Lakers, raising the mark to 2,565. He's 35, but keeps himself in shape with meticulous dieting and conditioning, so it's likely he'll continue adding to that record for another two or three seasons, putting it further out of reach.
But with more teams realizing the value of the three-point shot, and with a large pool of talented young players taking gobs of them, it's fair to wonder how long Allen's record will stand, and who has the best chance of eventually catching him atop the leaderboard.
Let's suppose Allen abruptly decides to retire during NBA All-Star weekend. How many years would we have to wait for one of the NBA's up-and-coming stars to dethrone him as the all-time three-point king?
A look at the numbers suggests it'd take quite a while.
Part One: Contenders
Has 252 threes in 127 games; needs 2,313 threes to tie Allen
Curry's only in his second season, but he's already established himself among the NBA's elite class of shooters. The 6-foot-3 guard owns a 42.9 percent career three-point shooting mark, and leads the league in free throw shooting this season at an astonishing 94.1 percent. He's a little more than three weeks away from turning 23, so time is really on his side when it comes to challenging Allen.
In fact, Curry is well ahead of Allen's pace. In Allen's first two pro seasons, he made 251 threes in 5,819 minutes over 164 games. Curry, in 37 fewer games and 1,348 fewer minutes, has 252 triples.
The issue for Curry, then, is staying healthy. At his current per-minute pace, he'll need to play another 1,166 games to reach 2,565 threes, the equivalent of more than 14 seasons.
Has 301 threes in 157 games; needs 2,264 threes to tie Allen
Gallinari entered the league two seasons ago firing away from deep, even as a 20-year-old. He's taken more than half of his career field-goal attempts from beyond the arc and converted them at a solid 37.7 percent clip, though he's slumped throughout this season. Like Curry, he's ahead of Allen's pace. An issue for Gallinari is durability and playing time. Back issues limited him to 28 games as a rookie, and he's averaged just 30.8 minutes in his career. Allen averages 37.1 and Curry gets 35.2, meaning he's at a deficit here.
It is worth noting that Gallinari isn't far off from Allen in per-minute shooting, as he averages 0.062 threes per minute to Allen's 0.064. Should he maintain his health and continue to play close to 35 minutes per game this season, he and Curry may find themselves in a race to beat Allen's record. But we're 14 seasons away from that point, so don't mark your calendars just yet.
Has 330 threes in 181 games; needs 2,235 threes to tie Allen
Gordon ranks as a true up-and-coming superstar, ranking ninth in the league in scoring (24.1 points per game) at age 22 this year. He certainly has the combination of skill and raw talent to make a big run at the three-point record. Think about it: he's the Clippers' lone perimeter scoring threat, he's already close to averaging 25 points per game, and he's going to log between 35 and 40 minutes a night when healthy.
What hurts him, though, is his versatility, oddly enough. This season, as he's developed into a better dribble-drive scorer, Gordon has attempted only 31.3 percent of his shots from three-point range; he's also averaging 7.2 free-throw attempts per game. If this trend continues, he won't take enough threes per game to challenge Curry and Gallinari near the top. Still, we project he'll reach the 2,565 treys in another 15 seasons, as he nears his 37th birthday.
Interlude: Peja Stojakovic's Tale of Woe
With 1,725 career threes, Dallas Mavericks forward Peja Stojakovic ranks third among active players, and fourth among all players, on the leaderboard. He won't turn 34 until this summer and probably has enough game left in him to surpass Jason Kidd, his soon-to-be-38 teammate.
But a back injury four seasons ago slowed Stojakovic considerably, and he's played in just 226 games since the start of the 2006-07 campaign. Despite the limited appearances, he still managed to sink 564 threes in that span, more than all but 20 players.
Where would he stand if he averaged 75 games per season, starting in 2006-07, instead of missing all that time? At his current rate of 2.5 made threes per game, he'd have an additional 208 three-pointers, which would put him at 1,970 for his career, behind only Allen and Reggie Miller.
Even if Stojakovic maintains his career average of 33.9 minutes per game -- which is impossible, given his age -- he'd need to play only four more seasons to catch Allen. He'd stand a far better chance of really challenging for the record were it not for his balky back, which is one of the reasons we'll remember Stojakovic as merely a good player instead of a great one.
Part Two: Pretenders
Has 375 threes in 286 games; needs 2,190 threes to tie Allen
Durant's probably the odds-on favorite to win the scoring title year-in and year-out for the next half-decade or so, but he doesn't stand much of a chance to break Allen's three-point record despite his youth (he's not even 23 yet!) and overall skill level.
Durant, see, prefers to do most of his offensive damage inside the arc, either from the foul line or off the dribble on long two-pointers. This season, Durant has attempted 63.6 percent of his jump shots inside the arc. Further, his career splits suggest he's not as great a three-point shooter as his reputation suggests: he shot 42.2 percent from the outside, on 230 attempts, as a sophomore, but for the rest of his career, he's a 33.7 percent outside shooter on 825 attempts. Which sample do you trust more?
It's possible that with age and practice, he'll develop a more consistent outside shot. In his later years, as he piles on the minutes, he may necessarily revert to a specialist role, which will increase how often he takes threes. Overall, based on his career output, we estimate he'll need to play another 20 seasons, at 38 minutes per game, to reach 2,565 threes.
Has 300 threes in 176 games; needs 2,265 threes to tie Allen
Morrow's one of the league's best against-the-odds success stories. An undrafted free agent in 2009, the Golden State Warriors called him up and he's gone on to become the NBA's all-time leader in three-point accuracy, at 45.5 percent, just ten-thousandths of a point ahead of Steve Kerr. At 0.062 threes per minute, he's not far off from Allen's career pace (0.064, as previously mentioned), either.
Morrow's problem in challenging the record, then, is playing time. He's averaged just 27.3 minutes per game in his career and, as he doesn't rebound, defend or create plays for others, doesn't really deserve more time than that. If the Nets, his current employer, had more depth on the wings, he wouldn't even log the 31.9 minutes per game he's averaged this season. Unlike Curry, Gallinari, and Gordon, Morrow does not have age on his side; he's already 25. We think he'll need to play another 16 seasons if he's to challenge Allen.