There are a few prestigious statistical “clubs” in basketball I think players strive to reach and join. The most famous is probably the 50/40/90 shooting club which has been achieved a few times. The 30 PER Club is one that is less famous, but I think more impactful I have talked about it a few times. Baseball has its Triple Crown, .400, and the 60 home run club etc players are always trying to reach. The one that always fascinated me was the 40/40 club for players that had the power to hit 40 home runs, but also steal 40 bases. I was a kid when Jose Canseco was the first player to accomplish the feat of ever making the 30/30 club obsolete. 30+ years later there are still only 4 members of the 40/40.
The dichotomy of hitting 40 home runs and stealing 40 bases always fascinated me. Most players that hit that many home runs never come close to stealing bases like that, and vice versa. The 30 home runs and 50 stolen bases have proven even rare over the century-old game with only 2 members. Ricky Henderson hitting 28 home runs and stealing 87 bases might be the craziest of all nearly founding a 30/90 club all to himself.
That got me thinking what are the two biggest opposing skills in the NBA. I think it’s players who block 3 shots and make 3 threes a game seem like the closes analog to a 40/40 baseball club. I’d coin the term the Unicorn Club in basketball fittingly after Kristaps Porzingis whose outside shooting and rim protection originally earned him that nickname. The closest he’s ever actually come is 2.5 three/ 2.0 blocks per game.
Brook Lopez is currently sitting at 2.4 three/3.0 blocks per game got me thinking about is a 3.0/3.0 is achievable. In today’s NBA I certainly think someone eventually will break through, but as 3’s go up, we must also remember block opportunities regress as well over time as more three’s are taken. The block rate isn’t what it was in the 80s, and throughout history, the players that shot 3’s didn’t block a lot of shots and vice versa as well. This is still going to be one of those clubs that are hard to join. We can make it even harder if you include a steals element.
So who has come close, and who has the potential to in the future? I think the most obvious up-and-comer is probably Victor Wembanyama. I’m still a little skeptical of his 3, but he’s making solid progress this season. Still, 3.0 threes is a tough ask even with where the game is migrating towards. I see the 3.0 blocks as less of an issue.
I’ve listed some of the most impressive Threes/Blocks seasons below. The list is sorted by Blocks since that easily seems like the more difficult part. Three’s seem more attainable overall.
|Jaren Jackson Jr||21-22||1.6||2.3|
|Jaren Jackson Jr||19-20||2.5||1.6|
As you can see this is a very recent phenomenon. Most of these three-point / shot-blockers have emerged after 2016. There are basically 3 other seasons before 2015. One of those was when the three-point line was moved up to near the college line for Robert Horry’s season. Sorting through the stats, you had a hard time even finding big guys that took 3-point shots at all that blocked more than basically, a shot a game up until 2015.
There are only even 2 members of the 2.0/2.0 club: Kristaps Porziņģis and Brooks Lopez, but probalby the most impressive upside comes from Jaren Jackson Jr who has posted a 2.5 threes a game season and a 2.3 blocks season only they were in separate seasons. If you also include stills it’s really only Demarcus Cousins with his 2.2 threes/ 1.6 blocks/ 1.6 steals seasons that has ever reached anything close to that combination. Chris Boucher didn’t play as many minutes as the others and his per 36’s his season were 2.2 threes /2.8 blocks. These are the stand out players
There is still a long season, but this is where things stand so far this season.
This should give you an idea of how elite breaking this ceiling would really be. Perhaps the future is Wembanyama or Homgren, but I believe the 3 point volume is going to be the bigger question with them. (Wembanyama is a 1.6 threes/ 3.1 blocks currently in Europe). Aleksej Pokusevski is at 2.0 threes/ 2.4 blocks per 36 minutes so perhaps he’s the sleeper. These are the only names plus Jarren Jackson that seem likely from the up-and-comers that we know of at this point. . For the time being I’m going to be watching where Lopez ends up. So far I believe he’s at 3.0 in the harder part of the club to get to.