When Karl-Anthony Towns declared he was the greatest big man shooter ever, it drew some criticism. With that said, what Towns has done in his young career is pretty impressive as well. There is a reason why not too many players are ranked in the top of three-point field goals when they are labeled as power forwards or centers. With their height and size, they are seen as post players and not pure shooters.
However, we have seen basketball modernize into positionless basketball. More players with larger frames are being asked to develop an outside shot. Even before this revolution, there were some players already doing this. Was it at a high volume such as today? No, but they were still performing efficiently for their era.
Towns has been one of the best shooting centers we have ever seen, but is he the best? He’s in the mix with some other generational talents. These are the top-10 greatest big man shooters, who owned a height of at least 6-foot-11.
601-1,678 3-PT FG, 35.8% 3PT FG
Horford had to modernize his game to stay in the league. There are members of his 2006 Florida National Championship team not in the NBA anymore like Corey Brewer and Joakim Noah. Horford remains a productive NBA player because he was able to transition from being a standard center to a productive shooter.
In the first seven years of his career, Horford made 10 three-pointers. After his eighth season, where he made 11 threes that year, he began to shoot more from outside. That included the 2017-2018 season where he shot 42.9% from the three-point range. Horford recently broke into the top 300 all-time (299) for all-time three-pointers.
10. Lauri Markkanen
610-1,683 3PT FG, 36.2% 3PT FG
At the age of 25 years old, Markkanen is one of the best big-man shooters we have ever seen. He already owns over 600 career three-pointers and is finishing up his fifth season in the league. By next year, he could see his stock rise on this list. By the age of 30, he will have over 1,000 three-pointers assuming he is healthy, which would overtake many players on this list.
While many point out his development, we understand that. He opened his rookie year with 145 threes and hasn’t topped that since. Give him some time to develop with a new coach in Cleveland. He shot over 40% from deep in his last season with the Bulls, so the potential is there. He already ranks 294th all-time in career three-point field goals.
9. Andrea Bargnani
627-1,771 3PT FG, 35.4% 3PT FG
When Bargnani first entered the league, he was greeted with a similar courtship as Kristaps Porzingis. He was a 7-footer that could pound the rock inside and shoot from outside. Three of the first four seasons saw him shoot over 100 three-pointers in a season. That included 121 during the 2009-2010 season.
After that year, Bargnani hit 77 threes in a season and then never got back to that production. He left the league at 30 years old after the 2015-2016 season. He could have been a really good player, something we will never truly know. However, he was a pretty decent shooter in his heyday for a big man.
8. Brook Lopez
642-1,886 3PT FG, 34.0% 3PT FG
Like Horford, Lopez had to change the way he played to remain a contributor in the league. Lopez was very successful in the paint. It was how he became the all-time leading scorer for the Brooklyn Nets after all. With that said, the three-point arc became more prevalent and it caused Lopez to change the way he played.
The first eight seasons of his career saw Lopez make a combined three, 3-point shots. In his final season in Brooklyn, we began to see the change where he made 134 three-pointers. Then, he joined the Lakers for a season, where he continued to shoot. His best season came during his first season with the Bucks when he made 187 three-pointers. His ability to stretch the floor has helped the Bucks stretch the floor and has opened up an entire world for his teammates, specifically Giannis Antetokounmpo. Lopez ranks 274th all-time in three-point field goals.
7. Charlie Villanueva
716-2,101 3PT FG, 34.1% 3PT FG
For 10 years, Villanueva never had an issue with shooting the ball despite standing at 6-foot-11. He shot the long ball his entire career. His best season came in 2010-2011, where he made 125 threes. It was his only season where he made over 100 in a season.
Villanueva left the league after the 2015-2016 season at the age of 31. Had he stayed in the league for a longer time, it’s not crazy to think he could have finished with over 1,000 for his career. Villanueva ranks 235th all-time in three-point field goals.
6. Kelly Olynyk
731-2,003 3PT FG, 36.5% 3PT%
It feels like Olynyk has been in the league forever but he is just 30 years old. He owns a similar career path at Villanueva but looks to be in the league a little bit longer. He also holds a few better seasons, specifically the 2018-2019 season with the Heat when he shot over 40% from three-point range.
Olynyk has made over 100 three-point field goals in a season three times in his career. His last occurrence came last year when he split time with the Heat and Rockets. Olynyk ranks 225th all-time in three-point field goals.
5. Rasheed Wallace
1,086-3,228 3PT FG, 33.6 3PT FG
Wallace hung around the league from 1995 to 2013, so after a while, you can accumulate some shots. With that said, Wallace developed into an outside shooter towards the second half of his career. For the seasons that he shot at a higher rate, he was consistently around 35%.
Wallace shot over 100 threes in a season seven times in his career. Starting with his age 31 season, he shot over 100 threes four straight seasons from 2006 to 2009, which included 155 during an All-Star season in 2006. Even at the age of 35, he was able to knock down 82 in a season, which helped him stick around in the league. Wallace ranks 110th all-time in three-point field goals.
4. Mehmet Okur
596-1,590 3PT FG, 37.5% 3PT FG
Okur gets some higher recognition for what he did in a shorter period. Okur nearly made 600 three-point field goals in 10 seasons. He left the league at the age of 32. Had he stayed long, we would have seen him finish with a greater volume. What Okur was very good at doing was making his shots, capitalizing at a very high percentage for a 7-footer.
Okur made over 100 threes in a season two times in his career, one of which came during the 2006-2007 season. He made 129 threes during his lone All-Star appearance. Okur also had a four-year stretch where he shot at least 38% from outside four straight seasons from 2007 to 2010.
3. Channing Frye
1,049-2,706 3PT FG, 38.8% 3PT FG
Frye was never an All-Star, but looking back, he was a very underappreciated player. From 2005 to 2018, Frye was a 7-footer knocking down trees at a highly efficient clip. Frye finished his career making 1.2 three-point field goals for 3.0 attempts. For a stretch power forward that would normally be considered a center at seven feet tall, that is not too shabby.
Frye finished with over 100 threes in a season five times, including a career-high 172 in 2009-2010 with the Suns. Of those five years, he didn’t shoot less than 37%. Frye ranks 121st all-time in three-point field goals. For his efficiency and quantity, he gets the nod above Wallace and Okur in these rankings.
2. Karl-Anthony Towns
768-1,935 3PT FG, 39.7% 3PT FG
You have to see what Towns are doing on a nightly basis and understand that this is pure greatness. We haven’t seen a center shot like this, ever. Towns made just 30 threes his rookie season. Then, he transformed into a true modern-day basketball player. He has shot over 100 threes in five straight seasons. That also includes nearly shooting 40% from behind the arc.
Centers are not supposed to take as many deep shots as Steph Curry. In 2019-2020, he averaged making 3.3 deep balls per game in 35 games played. That number has still topped at least 2.0 the last three seasons. He may not be the greatest shooting big man of all time, but he is doing his best to try and make that a reality.
1. Dirk Nowitzki
1,982-5,210 3PT FG, 38.0% 3PT FG
For now, Nowitzki is the greatest big-man shooter of all time. Nowitzki accomplished so much with such a tall height that we can potentially credit him for revolutionizing the modern-day game. He finished his career nearly making 2,000 career threes. At 6-foot-11, it’s unfounded that he ranks 13th all-time in made three-point field goals. He finished his career with more threes than Joe Johnson and JJ Reddick, while Jason Kidd owns just six more majors than him.
Nowitzki made over 100 threes in a season nine times. He also shot over 40% from three-point range five times. With his height and size, he could have been a traditional big. He wasn’t and what makes this more important is that he was doing this in an era that was still clinging to dominant centers and not shooting the outside shot. Nowitzki was the Steph Curry of big men back in the day and still deserves the title of the best in the year 2022.