The center position has transitioned so much that the modern big is almost required to efficiently hit 3’s and handle the ball like a point guard. Contrary to the belief of some of us young fans, bigs shooting 3’s is a relatively new development in the NBA. In fact, bigs were hardly shooting 3’s 20 years go. Today I’m going to take a look at ten of the top shooting big men from the 2000s that were ahead of their time and may have been forgotten about. That means obvious choices such as Dirk and Chris Bosh are omitted from this list. The list is in no particular order and the final comparisons will come from each player’s best individual shooting season against the current NBA league leaders.
10. Mehmet Okur
For whatever reason, Okur was the first name I thought of when I decided to do this list. I’m not sure why, but it’s probably because of my preference towards European players and the Utah Jazz being one of the dominant teams in the Western Conference during his stint in Utah.
For his career, he averaged 13.5 points, 7 rebounds, and 0.9 made 3’s per game with a 3-point percentage of 37.5%. To compare how the position has evolved, Okur averaged 1.6 3-pointers made per game in the 2006-07 season, slotting him as the leading center. In today’s NBA, 1.6 3’s per game would actually place him 2nd among qualified centers, but only totaling half of the leader. It is impressive that he would still be second, but it’s equally impressive that his total is only half of the leaders total.
9. Al Harrington
Al Harrington was another solid shooter from the 2000s who could also provide a solid scoring punch in his prime. For his career, he averaged 13.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.0 made 3 on 35.2% shooting. Looking at his best 3-point shooting season, which saw him make 2.3 per game in the 2008-09 season, Harrington ranked 2nd among qualified power forwards. In comparison to today’s NBA, he would actually fit right in as the leader made 3 per game. However, Harrington’s 2.3 would bump him down from 2nd to 7th, as more players shoot higher volumes of 3’s.
8. Pat Garrity
Garrity checks in with the 2nd highest career 3-point percentage on this list, at 39.8%. His efficient shooting led him to career averages of 7.3 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.1 made 3’s per game. In the 2001-02 season, Garrity knocked down 2.1 3’s per game, placing him 2nd among power forwards. If Garrity put up the same numbers in today’s NBA, he would rank 10th for his position. This is a huge disparity, as one of the best shooting bigs in the early 2000s would essentially be a barely above average shooting big by volume in today’s NBA.
7. Antoine Walker
Walker is an explosive scorer and probably as close as anybody on this list comes to looking like a modern big by the numbers. Overall, he averaged 17.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 1.6 made 3’s per game while shooting them at a 32.5% clip. In the 2001-02 season, the same season that we saw Garrity as the 2nd best power forward in terms of made 3’s, Walker averaged 2.7 per game, taking the number one slot. In comparison to today’s NBA, 2.7 made 3’s per game would place Walker 3rd among active power forwards, only trailing the leader by 0.3.
6. Tim Thomas
With career averages of 11.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.2 made 3’s per game, Thomas finishes 2nd on this list in most made per game while shooting an efficient 36.9%. His career-high season came in the 2006-07 season when he made 1.8 3-pointers per game. At the time, he placed 3rd among qualified power forwards. Applying his 1.8 3’s per game to this season, however, sees Thomas sitting at 11th place. This is the worst modern-day ranking thus far, but in my opinion, it means that his shooting was more consistent on a yearly basis and he didn’t have many high or low outliers during his career.
5. Clifford Robinson
Cliff Robinson averaged 14.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 0.9 made 3’s per game on 35.6% shooting throughout his 17-year career. Crazy enough, his best performance came during the 1995-96 season when he averaged 2.3 made 3’s per game, ranking 1st among power forwards. This is the same average as Al Harrington, thus Robinson would rank 7th in today’s NBA with that same performance. Seeing that he ranked 1st 25 seasons ago, I would’ve actually expected him to rank worse than 7th in today’s league.
4. Keith Van Horn
Keith Van Horn had a solid, but short NBA career with averages of 16.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.0 made 3 per game while making 36.1% of them. Peak Van Horn averaged 1.3 makes per game during the 2003-04 season, ranking 5th at the time. In today’s NBA, 1.3 makes would place him all the way at 20th, basically a below-average starter. However, as stated with Tim Thomas, his yearly makes per game were pretty consistent without a big spread or outliers present.
3. Matt Bonner
I’m sure that many of you remember Bonner, as he played with the Spurs as recently as the 2015-16 season. However, he did participate in 6 seasons that qualify him for this list, so here he is. In his best season, he made 1.6 3-pointers per game. That mark ranked first among centers in the 2010-11 season. By comparison to today’s NBA, he would rand 2nd, but trailing the leader by half, just like Okur did to start this list.
2. Raef LaFrentz
In the fairly short career of LaFrentz, he was able to rack up averages of 10.1 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 0.8 made 3’s per game, which ranks him last on the list for makes per game while shooting them at a 36.3% rate. He managed to make 1.5 3-pointers per game in the 2001-02 season when he was the only center who qualified by making greater than 0.1 per game according to espn.com. In today’s NBA, 1.5 per game would slot him in as the 5th center which isn’t horrible overall considering he was the only center to make enough 3’s to quality for league leaders in the year being compared.
- Andrea Bargnani
Bargnani is another one of the first players I thought of for this list, and similarly to Okur is a player of European descent. For his career, he averaged 14.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.1 made 3’s per game on 35.4% shooting. In his best season, the 2008-09 season, his 1.5 per game had him tied for 1st among centers. In today’s league, he would tie for 2nd, as many other centers on this list before him had.
Overall, these players were all pioneers who led to the rapid development of bigs shooting 3-pointers with increased volume. Many of these players rank higher compared to today than they would most seasons since we took their career-high season for made 3’s. In comparison, if we used their career averages, everybody on the list would look below average. In reality, since the amounts of 3-pointers made varies per season, all of these players would likely move around where they rank and would probably each fall slightly above average in any given year.