NBA’s Top 25-and-Under Floor-Stretchers

One of the most amazing things about today’s NBA is how many talented shooters there are. We’ve never seen so many prolific long-range threats in the league at one time.

Most young gunslingers coming into the NBA have been practicing the three-ball their entire lives, and it shows. And those who haven’t been working on their jumper from day one are quickly incorporating it into their workload.

The latest installment in my series on 25-and-Under standouts is focused on these young floor-stretchers. We’re looking at the most talented marksmen who pull defenders beyond the arc because they’re so dangerous.

There are a slew of gifted young shooters, but only the most lethal threats made the cut here. Our 2019-20 rankings are based on a mix of three-point stats, as well as an eye test factoring in the players’ talent, floor-spacing gravity and team situation.

Don’t be too bummed if your favorite shooter didn’t crack the top five. There are a bunch of extremely talented youngsters who didn’t make the cut.

Honorable Mentions: Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Luke Kennard, Devin Booker, Kevin Huerter, Tyler Herro, D’Angelo Russell, Kristaps Porzingis, Aaron Holiday

5. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks G

Jan 14, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) attempts a three-point basket against Phoenix Suns forward Elie Okobo (2) in the first half at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Age: 21.5 Years old, 2nd Season

Stats: 36.0% 3FG, 4.4 3FG per 100 poss, 59.6 True Shooting, 112.5 Team O-Rtg On Court

Young represents a group of gunslingers who don’t have outstanding efficiency but are dangerous on any given night. Devin Booker, D’Angelo Russell, etc. would make this subset list (and Booker just missed the cut of the five overall).

But when you consider Young’s shooting volume and how much opponents respect his range, he belongs on this list as much as anyone.

A wide-open three-point shot is seemingly a free-throw to Young, and he’s hitting 44.6 percent of those. Shooting a step or two beyond the arc is still not much more than an afterthought.

Young doesn’t even start showing restraint until the 30-plus foot range, and even then he’s drilled 31 triples from that distance.

He stretches the defense and makes them extra vigilant about staying close because his release is so quick. Opponents can’t afford to stray a step away and then lunge to close the gap when Young’s about to shoot.

There just isn’t that kind of time. He gets rid of the rock smoothly and comfortably in a blink.

Part of Young’s middle-tier efficiency is due to youthful mistakes. The other part can be attributed to his ecosystem: He’s on a club filled with other young players, and they’re still learning how to consistently operate as a cohesive unit. Even so, he’s stretching defenses and will only do more as he polishes his game in the coming years.

4. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics F

Age: 22.0 Years old, 5th Season

Stats: 39.8% 3FG, 4.0 3FG per 100 poss, 56.6 True Shooting, 116.3 Team O-Rtg On Court

Boston’s third-year forward has made the leap from “rising star” to full-fledged superstar this season. He’s starting to fully tap into the multidimensional offensive potential that we saw as far back as high school and Duke.

This sequence against Cleveland illustrates how Tatum stretches the defense off the bounce. The Cavaliers blitz him to throw off his pull-up game, but that opens up options for Boston. Tatum’s dump-off pass turns into a layup for Daniel Theis:

Tatum’s scoring versatility has helped streamline the Celtics’ offense, and it will make them a scary playoff opponent.

He’s not the kind of floor-spacer who spends most of his time on the weak side as a role player. Rather, Tatum is one of Boston’s top initiators, and he forces defenders to play up high in isolation and on ball-screens.

His pull-up shooting repertoire is elite, even from three-point range, so he spaces the floor even when he’s initiating the offense beyond the arc.

In fact, he’s shooting better on pull-up threes (40.6 percent) than catch-and-shoot threes (38.5 percent) this season. And we’re not talking about a small sample size, either. Pull-up triples account for 24.2 percent of his field-goal attempts.

3. KARL-ANTHONY TOWNS, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES F/C

Nov 18, 2019; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) shoots over Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) in the first quarter at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Age: 24.3 Years old, 5th Season

Stats: 41.2% 3FG, 4.5 3FG per 100 poss, 64.2 True Shooting, 115.7 Team O-Rtg On Court

Amid KAT’s injuries and the Timberwolves’ roller-coaster year, the fifth-year center is posting elite numbers from beyond the arc. He’s one of the top stretch-5’s in the whole league, let alone the 25-and-under crowd.

Towns was quite efficient from deep the last couple of seasons, and he’s maintained the accuracy in 2019-20 despite a huge bump in volume. He’s attempting 7.9 threes per game after hoisting just 4.6 last season. One-third of his overall shooting diet is catch-and-shoot three-pointers, and he’s sinking those at 42.5 percent.

In a piece for SB Nation earlier this season, Ricky O’Donnell noted how valuable Towns’ perimeter game is to Minnesota:

…The Wolves have finally allowed him to turn up the volume on his long-distance shooting. Minnesota is reaping the benefits…Towns’ shooting numbers this year are elite by any definition of the word.

A lot of big men like to launch three-pointers, and quite a few of them have moderate success to shoot 35 percent or better. But the vast majority don’t have Towns’ smooth shooting release, and there is only one center (Kelly Olynyk) who’s shooting better than him from downtown.

2. Landry Shamet, Los Angeles Clippers G 

Mar 24, 2019; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Damyean Dotson (21) and Los Angeles Clippers guard Landry Shamet (20) at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Age: 22.9 Years old, 2nd Season

Stats: 40.2% 3FG, 3.9 3FG per 100 poss, 61.3 True Shooting, 115.0 Team O-Rtg On Court

L.A.’s sophomore sharpshooter has a modest, yet integral role. Shamet’s job is to pull defenders toward the three-point line like a Star Wars tractor beam and make them pay when they don’t.

His three-point gravity opens up the middle for slashers such as Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, along with pick-and-roll divers such as Ivica Zubac and Montrezl Harrell.

During his final year at Wichita State, I thought Shamet might have trouble as an NBA three-point shooter due to the flat arc on his shot. He quickly eased my concerns during an efficient rookie season, and he’s remained accurate from downtown this season. Shamet elevated his arc a little bit, but he’s mostly been successful due to sound body mechanics and a repeatable release.

His reputation gives the Clippers’ offense the space it needs to breathe. It’s not advisable for defenders to help one pass away when they’re guarding Shamet. And even when he’s on the weak side, leaving him is a risk. When they’re out of position and have to run at him? He’s become adept at countering close-outs.

Watch him jab and dribble into a side-step three against Denver Nuggets guard Monte Morris:

It’s no coincidence that the Clippers offense is at 115 points per 100 possessions when Shamet is on the court. He is the ideal type of role player who makes L.A. deeper and more schematically flexible.

Even if he only gets 15-20 minutes per game during the playoffs, his value as a floor-spacer should not be underestimated.

1. Duncan Robinson, Miami Heat G/F

Age: 25.9 Years old, 2nd Season

Stats: 44.6% 3FG, 6.0 3FG per 100 poss, 67.4 True Shooting, 116.5 Team O-Rtg On Court

Robinson is the best off-ball shooting weapon in the 25-and-under crowd. And across the entire league, you can probably count the superior catch-and-shoot threats on one hand. He’s already a gigantic problem for opposing defenses during his first full NBA campaign.

His latest long-range masterpiece was a nine-triple outburst against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night.

The Division III hooper-turned-Michigan-prospect runs a nightly clinic on how to operate away from the ball while tormenting defenders. He maximizes screens, uses opponents’ anticipation against them, and fluidly bury treys on the move. Robinson’s footwork and shooting mechanics are in the 99th percentile when it comes to the eye test.

Sometimes, he foils the defense for nearly the entire shot-clock, weaving around screens and coming off hand-offs until he wears them out for a clean look. Other times, he’s a quick-strike predator.

Watch how he fakes the back-screen for Adebayo here, then scoots up to take the hand-off from Kelly Olynyk, using him as a shield. Tim Hardaway Jr. was attentive, but it didn’t matter:

Robinson’s consistent influence as a perimeter weapon has made life easier for All-Stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. They can credit at least part of their success to the second-year standout who’s drawing opponents away from the paint.

Unless noted otherwise, all stats gathered from NBA.com and Basketballl-Reference.com. Updated as of March 6, 2020.

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