Short Answer: No. At least not yet.
“Honestly man, I ain’t gotta play like nobody. I’m me. I’m the greatest big man shooter of all time. That’s a fact. You can see the stats. I ain’t got to play like no one else. Everyone trying to find themselves to be the second version of me when I’m the first version. I don’t got to be the second version of someone else. I’m already an original. I don’t have to be a duplicate of someone else.”Karl-Anthony Towns to The Athletic (source)
I have to admit: Karl-Anthony Towns is one of my favorite players in the NBA right now. He has a unique set of skills and characteristics. As one of the best shooters in the league, he can score from anywhere. He can scan the court and pass the ball. He’s a really really good player. Towns is also a person who strives to make a difference by giving back to the community.
Another thing he also might also be is a stat-chaser. I mean, he did say that he’s the greatest big man shooter because of his stats…
To validate his claim, I tried crunching the numbers. What I did first is have a look at the shooting data since 1996, when the NBA started tracking shot locations. I filtered for players that are at least 6’11” and have attempted at least 100 shots in a zone. In terms of efficiency, i.e. field goal percentage, Towns leads two zones: the straight-up 3 and left elbow. 2021 MVP Nikola Jokic also leads two zones, as does Meyers Leonard. KAT does have a pretty good case – he is incredibly efficient.
What triggered my curiosity is that Dirk Nowitzki was not on the efficiency chart. It turns out, he missed the top spot in a few zones by a very small percentage. But, in terms of volume, it’s all Dirk! 9 out of 11 zones for the German future hall of famer!
Seeing that both Towns and Nowitzki were 40% successful from the straight-up 3 spot, with Towns slightly above and Dirk slightly below, I found it useful to look at the top three shooters in each one of the 3-point zones in terms of volume. Dirk shows up everywhere, unsurprisingly, and Channning Frye is on four lists! Brook Lopez and Kelly Olynyk are on two lists each, leaving Towns and Jokic with one spot each.
Among these six players, guess who has the best effective field goal percentage.
Among these six players, guess who has the best true shooting percentage.
Among these six players, guess who has the best 3-point percentage.
On New Year’s Eve, 2021, right as I was getting my first COVID symptoms, I asked a question on Instagram. 85% (one vote contacted me saying that they voted “yes” by accident) believe that Karl-Anthony Towns IS NOT the best all time big man shooter.
Note to self for 2036, when Towns will or will not have played the same number of seasons as Nowitzki: ask this question again. I’m pretty sure, if he keeps these performances up, there will be no doubt about the answer.
Until then, it’s Dirk.