Anderson: Bet Stephen Curry’s 3-Point Prop While There is Value
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images. Pictured: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors.
Stephen Curry is really good at making 3-pointers.
Pretty astute analysis, huh? The sort of stuff your five-year-old notices.
Curry is the greatest shooter in human history. He holds the all-time record for 3-pointers in a season with 402. He’s also third on the list. And fourth. And fifth and eighth and 13th.
Only one other player has ever made more than 292 3s in a season. Curry has done it four times. He hit that mark in 63 games during last season’s shortened campaign.
That’s why you need to bet on Curry to lead the league in 3-pointers per game in 2021-22 before the books wise up and stop allowing action.
As of writing, Curry is -167 to lead the league in 3s per game at BetRivers. He’s -185 at PointsBet and -175 at BetMGM. The implied odds on all of those are between 62% and 65%.
It’s not responsible to refer to any bet as free money, but this is about as close as I’ve seen to free money. If Curry stays healthy, he is going to lead the NBA in 3s per game. We’re basically just betting on him playing enough games.
Among actual humanoids who are not aliens sent to earth to destroy the planet with their scorching shooting, Damian Lillard is pretty freaking good. He averaged 4.1 3s per game each of the last two seasons. Turns out that’s not just pretty good — it’s historically great. Per StatHead, only Curry and James Harden have ever averaged more.
As for Curry? He’s hit at least 4.1 per game five straight seasons (not counting that lost five-game season in 2019-20). In fact, Curry has bested that number by a full three 3s per game three times. He made 5.1 per game in 2016, his unanimous MVP season. He hit 5.1 again in 2019. Last season, he set a new all-time record with 5.3 makes per game.
I fear I’m still underselling this. You might look at 4.1 vs 5.3 and think to yourself, “well that’s just one shot per game, couldn’t Damian Lillard do it?”
No. Lillard cannot do it.
That 5.3 is not just a tiny bit more than 4.1. It is a full 29% increase, and that’s 29% higher than one of the all-time great shooting seasons. Over a full 82 games, that’s almost 100 extra 3s. You don’t just magically make an extra hundred 3s because you feel like it.
2013 … 2014 … 2015 … 2016 … 2017… 2018 … 2019… 2021.
No, that is not a Mayan calendar. Those are the NBA seasons in which Curry led the NBA in made 3s per game. Yes, outside of the 2020 season when he was injured, Curry has been the top 3-point shooter in the NBA every season.
It’s not just that Curry is the most deadly sniper in NBA history — he’s also taking more volume than everyone else. He averaged a career-high 12.7 attempts last year. The next closest was Lillard at 10.5.
If you give the greatest shooter in history 2.2 more attempts than everyone else every game, the odds of him not finishing with the most makes per game are basically zero.
Oh, and you should know the Warriors look like they’ll shoot more 3s than ever. Golden State attempted 69 3-pointers in their preseason opener. They took 46 3s in their second game, 56 in the third. That’s 57 attempts per game, a massive increase from the 38.7 attempts the Warriors averaged last year.
Remember the James Harden-led Rockets teams that pretty much only took 3s and dunked? They averaged 45.3 attempts per game, an NBA record. The Warriors are averaging 1.19 3-point attempts per minute this preseason.
And sure, we shouldn’t read much into preseason numbers, and certainly not a three-game sample. But coaches set the tone stylistically in the preseason, and Steve Kerr is telling us the Warriors are going to bomb 3s. Curry has attempted 28 treys in 61 minutes. That paces to 15.6 attempts per game with his usual minute load, way up from his 12.7 career-high.
Curry is a lifetime 43.3% shooter. If he takes 15.6 3s per game, he’d break his own all-time record for 3s in a season before the All-Star break. And before you laugh at that absurdity, you should know he did that in 2016.
Lillard’s line is 4.1 3s per game. Buddy Hield and Duncan Robinson are at 3.9 and 3.6, respectively. Then there are 11 more players between 3.1 and 3.5, all bunched together in that range of very-good-shooters-who-are-also-mere-mortals.
Curry’s line is 5.1. And it should be. And you should probably bet that too.
His two best shooting seasons ever were last season and 2016. It’s no coincidence that those two years — the all-time record for 3s in a season in 2016 and the all-time record for 3s per game in 2021 — are also his last two healthy seasons without Kevin Durant. The Warriors need Steph to shoot this much. Because, in case you missed it, KD ain’t walking through that door.
There are no other names to discuss here. Sorry to Lillard, Hield, Klay Thomson and all the rest. It’s Curry and then everyone else.
One more illustration, in case you’re not sold.
Curry averaged 5.3 makes last year in 63 games. If Curry wanted — just for giggles — he could’ve suited up for 18 more games, sat at half-court for 48 minutes playing mahjong, never taken another shot and still led the NBA in 3s per game.
Yes, Curry could’ve done absolutely nothing for 18 games and STILL LED THE LEAGUE! Heck, he would’ve finished top-five in NBA history.
Bless their hearts — the good people at these sportsbooks watched Steph lead the league in 3s per game his past eight healthy seasons and concluded there’s less than a two-in-three chance of him doing so again this season?
They like us. They really, really like us.
The one way we can lose this bet is health. Curry needs to qualify for the 3-point per game leaderboard. Assuming we get all 82 games, NBA rules state that a player must play 70% of the games to qualify, which means 58 games.
Curry has played at least 58 in seven of the last nine seasons, and one of those misses was by seven games in a Durant year when the Warriors were coasting. He’s averaging 72 games a season outside of the one lost season. He’s not exactly Cal Ripken Jr., but we don’t need Iron-man — just 58 games.
Assuming Steph plays 65 games and takes 800 3s, the odds of a career 43.3% shooter making only 260 (4.0 per game) 3s are, statistically speaking, almost zero. They are less than one ten-thousandth of a percent. That would be a lottery-ticket-level oops-I’m-Russell-Westbrook-now outlier 32.5% season from Steph, and at 4.0 makes per game, and he still might lead the league.
If I ran a sportsbook, I’m not sure where I’d set this Curry line, but it sure as heck wouldn’t be anywhere near -175. My imaginary book doesn’t want any action on this bet. I’m probably setting it at -1000 or shorter.
Honestly, I’d probably just rename the bet Most Made 3s Per Game By Mere Mortals Not Named Stephen Curry and go on with life.
Good thing I’m not the books. Bombs away.