Friday January 9th, 2015

The Atlanta Hawks sit atop the Eastern Conference with a 27-8 record. Guys like point guard Jeff Teague and head coach Mike Budenholzer earn the bulk of praise for the team’s success, but veteran shooting guard Kyle Korver is putting together one of the best shooting seasons the NBA has ever seen.

Budenholzer -- who served as an assistant under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio -- has brought the Spurs’ style and culture to Atlanta. The Hawks spread the floor, share the ball, and create a dynamic in which a different guy can beat you on any given night. That strategy doesn’t work without the proper personnel, and having a lights-out shooter like Korver on the wings has certainly helped Coach Bud look like Pop’s heir apparent.

It’s been all about efficiency for the Creighton product, as he’s shooting 49.6 percent from the field, 51 percent from three-point range and 94 percent from the free throw line. For a frame of reference, here’s the full list of NBA players who are shooting at least 90 percent from the charity stripe, 50 percent from downtown and 49 percent overall from the field:

  1. Kyle Korver
  2. ​...

That’s it. Atlanta's starting two-guard is the only player in the league who boasts that elite level of efficiency across the board. He’s one of just six qualified pros shooting at least 90 percent on free throws. The only other player knocking down more than half of his three-point attempts is Pelicans forward Luke Babbitt, who has attempted 70 of them compared to Korver’s 202.

In terms of shooting percentage and the sheer volume of three-pointers attempted, Korver is an outlier. There are guys like Babbitt, Courtney Lee and Rasual Butler who are comparable in terms of percentage, but they haven’t attempted anywhere near the same amount of triples.

In the high-volume realm (200-plus threes attempted), nobody comes close to Korver. Klay Thompson (44 percent), Stephen Curry (39.2 percent) and Wesley Matthews (39.6 percent) have all been great, but they’re simply not even in the same stratosphere as the Hawks' sharpshooter.

Korver is no doubt a three-point specialist. A whopping 71 percent of his field goal attempts have been launched from behind the arc, and there’s genuinely no reason for Korver to avoid firing away from distance. After all, he’s shooting a higher percentage on threes (51 percent) than he is on two-point baskets (46.3 percent).

Three-point shooting continues to be Korver’s calling card during his 13th year as a pro. With that said, he’s also making an impact in other categories, which is yet another credit to Budenholzer’s team-oriented style of play.

For instance, Korver is hauling in 4.3 rebounds per contest -- his best average since the 2004-05 season as a member of the 76ers -- and dishing out a career-high 2.9 assists per game (tied with his output from last season). As a result, his player efficiency rating (PER) is sitting at a career-best.

The 33-year-old’s PER is only slightly above the league average of 15, but it’s also well above his career figure of 13.2. He’s buying into the coaching staff’s schemes and making a wide-ranging impact, but those shooting numbers remain the most impressive aspect of his repertoire.

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The elusive 50-40-90 season (shooting 50 percent from the field, 40 percent on threes and 90 percent from the free throw line) is a feat accomplished only by some of the NBA’s best: Larry Bird, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Durant, to name a few.

Korver is actually flirting with an incredibly rare 50-50-90 campaign. The only player to notch those percentages while also playing at least half of the season’s games is current Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who did so for the 1995-96 Bulls in 82 games off the bench.

If the Hawks' talented scorer continues knocking down his free throws, he could become the first player ever to record a 50-50-95 season.

Korver is in the midst of an absolutely astonishing stretch in NBA shooting. He may not be the biggest reason for Atlanta’s early triumphs, but the three-point specialist may accomplish something truly special at season’s end.

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