On Friday we said this: “Buddy Boeheim has emerged as a brilliant shooter, perhaps the most dangerous three point shooter since JJ Redick at Duke. “
A couple of you quickly pointed out that would also include Davidson’s Steph Curry and BYU’s Jimmer Fredette, both of whom had brilliant NCAA careers between Redick’s and Boeheim’s time.
Which is an excellent point really because both were superb. And that got us thinking, well, of those threes who was the best? And by the best we mean only in college. Redick has had an outstanding career but only a handful of NBA players are in Curry’s class.
There are two basic ways to look at this. The first is statistically. We looked at the stats for these three players in their final seasons when they were likely to be at their best. Fredette was the highest scorer with 28.8 per game while Curry had 28.6 and Redick 26.7.
They all played roughly the same amount of games (from here we’ll list them in this order unless otherwise specified: Redick, Curry, Fredette): 36, 34 and 37.
Fredette played more than the rest so it’s no surprise that he shot more: .302, .312, .346.
But Redick’s overall field goal percentage was much better at .487, compared to .454 and .452. His three point shooting was also higher at .421, .387, 396. His free throw shooting was behind the others at .863, .876, .894.
However, in his first three seasons, Redick hit for .919, .953 and .938. That .953 in 2004 was fifth best in history.
Those are the basic statistical facts. What can’t really be quantified as easily are a) the level of conference competition their teams faced and b) how critical they were to their teams.
All three were obviously deeply critical to their teams and we’re not even sure how you’d rank that. As you can see, their stats were broadly similar. Redick almost certainly had the best supporting cast but in his senior season, Fredette’s Cougars finished 32-5 so it can’t have been too bad.
There is an important distinction with Curry, who had more point guard responsibilities than Redick or Fredette ever did. He nearly doubled Redick’s assists for instance and was far ahead of Fredette (95, 189, 49). He was also the best rebounder of the three (71, 151, 127), again, not that it matters since we’re talking about shooting.
All three guys had tremendous careers and all three were the defensive focus from the moment they stepped on the court until the end of the game.
However, there is one factor that argues clearly for Redick and that’s the level of competition.
People began to realize just how good Curry was when Davidson beat #7 Gonzaga, # 2 Georgetown, #3 Wisconsin before finally bowing to #1 Kansas 59-57.
Memphis took Kansas to overtime in the title game before losing 75-68. So other than that, no one gave Kansas a tougher game.
In the regular season though, Curry and Davidson were in the Southern Conference. He certainly proved his greatness but if he had played in a major conference there’s no question he would have had a harder time. He would have still be great, but he would have been tested more.
Same for Fredette. The Mountain West wasn’t bad - at the time it had Air Force, Colorado State, UNLV, New Mexico, San Diego State, Utah and Wyoming.
Duke by contrast was dealing with #14 Georgia Tech, #15 NC State, #17 Wake Forest, #18 UNC and #19 Maryland, in addition to Florida State, Virginia and Clemson. Only Clemson finished with a losing record.
Despite a much higher level of competition, Redick had an incredible year. It wasn’t at all uncommon to see him score 20 points in a half, or to see his jersey pulled out of shape by defenders desperate to slow him down.
Obviously all three had tremendous careers and Curry has gone on to a stunning NBA career in which he largely redefined NBA offense and, in a pretty nice secondary achievement, is probably no worse than the second best ball handler of all time behind only former Blue Devil Kyrie Irving.
So based on the measurable criteria, and remembering that we’re only dealing with college careers, and also on the more subjective, harder to quantify factors, we’d say that, in their final collegiate seasons, Redick was clearly the most dangerous scorer.
And just for the record, Boeheim has been stunning, but he hasn’t gotten into the penthouse with any of these three yet.