In the opening minute of regulation against the Houston Rockets on Saturday night, Jordan Poole picked up his between-the-legs dribble and whipped a pass to Draymond Green in the short corner. Green caught the pass and rose to drain his only points of the night. It had no effect on the final score, but Green’s bucket had significance beyond the box score in a 19-point win over one of The Association’s worst teams. Green’s 581st triple passed Michael Jordan on the career 3-pointers made list. Yeah, you read that correctly.
If there was ever an instance to illuminate how much the game has changed and how numbers deserve context it’s this moment. Counting stats with no context says Draymond Green and Michael Jordan were equals beyond the arc. Green’s legacy will always be tied to his status as an offensive fulcrum in the most transcendent shooting lineup in league history. However, much of his value has been his ability to find open shooters or set screens that spring their shooters open. Green’s triple doubles are more valuable than him shooting triples. Green is essentially Golden State’s incarnation of Anthony Mason. He’s a career 31.5 percent 3-point shooter with a hunchbacked shooting form and a nasty disposition.
In addition to being the standard by which all players have measured themselves against, Jordan is still the most efficient and prolific mid-range shooter the NBA has ever seen. He’s also a mere 32.7 percent shooter beyond the arc, just a hair better than Green. In spaced out contemporary offenses, even the Draymond Greens have to shoot 3-pointers at a higher rate than the most dominant scorers of the 90s.
Jordan’s 3-point shooting is an oft-critiqued data point used to discredit him as the greatest player of all-time. However, that shortsighted analysis is akin to considering James Harden the second-best shooter of all-time if he eclipses Ray Allen for second on the all-time list later this season.
Jordan’s numbers would suggest that he was a subpar shooter. In reality, Jordan played in a time before the efficacy of 3-point shooting was a consideration. In 1990-91, the league attempted 7.1 3-pointers a game and made 32 percent of those shots. Today, attempts from beyond the arc have increased 500 percent while the league average shooting percentage has improved to 36 percent.
Jordan never incorporated the shot into his repertoire because he didn’t need to during his era. Instead, Jordan retired with the highest career scoring average in part because he was much of a virtuoso shooter from mid-range territory as Steph is between the arc and logo. Kirk Goldsbery’s chart illustrating how Jordan’s shooting profile compares to the best shooting guard in the modern NBA illuminates how the game has changed.
As for Green, passing MJ on the career 3-pointers list is the latest notch in his belt during a season in which he’s been surprisingly consistent. Green’s three was his only field goal of the night against Houston and while his detractors will use that item as another shred of evidence against Golden State rewarding him with a contract extension. However, aside from a one-game slump against a Houston team the Warriors sleepwalked through, Green is in the midst of a resurgence after the fraught highs and jagged lows he endured last season.
Green remains the most interesting single-digit scorer in the league, delivering bone-rattling screens and anticipating where scorers will be, then delivering clairvoyant passes before the defense can catch up to the present, but he’s approaching league average efficiency for the first time since 2016. The night before, Green drilled a 3-pointer from the left wing that Kerr called the “shot of the night.”
The ball has never rolled off of Green’s fingertips as easily as it is right now. Green is likely going to present the front office with a difficult choice to make if he opts out next summer. His execution this season makes it even more likely that he will and complicates the tough financial decision, team president Bob Myers will have to make.
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