Best Rim Finishers (since 1997)

A few days ago I wrote who the best rim finishers were in the currrent NBA, which then inspired me to check the best rim finishers of all-time, except, by all-time I just have the last 24 years to work with. I think in the future I'll also take a glance at the best mid-range shooters since 1997, and since 3-pointers are easier to track, the best 3 point shooters of all-time. To determine how good someone was, I used the method of taking that specific season's effective field goal percentage (EFG%), and subtracted it from each player's rim field goal percentage, and multiplied it by the attempts they take per 100 possessions. This way it's easier to measure across eras. From 1999 to 2004 it was basically just one player who qualified every season, even with the lower EFG% standard, which tells me the league was more geared to stopping rim attempts than current day, which makes the fact that that one person is still the most dominant statistically even more impressive. That person is of course... #1 Shaquille O'Neal

It's probably not too much of a surprise to see ol' Shaq Daddy at #1, but going through the numbers it really is impressive how dominant he was. By volume he has the 5 best regular seasons, and by possession he has 10 of the top 13 seasons. By possession was a bit too volatile in the playoffs so I didn't track it, but he also has the 2 best playoff runs, and 6 of the top 10 overall. 2001 was his best regular season, and his 2000, 2003, 2005, and 2002 are the next best in history. The leap year in his run, 2004, features the 2nd greatest playoff run ever, followed by his 2000 playoff run. His best statistical season by possession was actually in 2006 with the Miami Heat, surprisingly. In that season he was averaging 13 attempts at the rim, on 77.9% efficiency. His 1998 playoff run is a bit marred by the Utah Jazz sweep, but it was per possession his strongest stretch, where he was able to increase his attempts up to 16.6 on 73.9% shooting. #2 Giannis Antetokounmpo

It may be a bit premature to put Giannis at #2 already, or undeserved. His best playoff performance has him at the 17th best player, and by volume his best season is only the 3rd best player ever, but last season was cut-short by the lockout and while he's struggled in the playoffs it's not necessarily because he can't finish at the rim. Taking his current 2021 season, and the last two years, his 3 most recent seasons have been by far the 2nd best of anyone per possession. Once he gets a strong playoff run under his belt and another 82-game season, I think his volume numbers will clearly set him atop everyone else not named Shaq. Right now he's averaging 82% on 12.4 attempts and last year he was taking even more attempts, 14.22 on 77.9%, which is straight up better than Shaq, but when you consider league efficiency overall between the eras, Shaq has the better adjusted numbers (Giannis was +25.0% in 2020, Shaq was +28.9% in 2006). #3 LeBron James

LeBron James is the other player in contention for the #2 spot, with by volume 3 of the 4 best non-Shaq seasons, and 7 of the 8 best non-Shaq playoff runs, he's the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of rim-finishing, not the highest peak but the man has played a ton and done it at an elite level for a super long time. But by possession, he's just as efficient as a lot of lob-threat bigs and doesn't really separate himself, but he just happens to do it while leading the league in minutes played and at a smaller stature than everyone else on this list. Perhaps surprisingly, most of his best seasons have been as he has been an older player, ranging from the 2012-2018 seasons, with 2018 being his 2nd best regular season and best post-season. His best stretch during the playoffs per possession was 2017 where he took 10.7 attempts on 78.9% which also being the total minutes leader, and during the 2014 regular season with 9.8 attempts on 79.6%. #4 Dwight Howard

It starts to get a lot tougher to rank them from here-on. Dwight's per-possession efficiency is not even in the top-15 of remaining guys, but like LeBron he has a ton of volume by being able to be on the court and provide a lot more than other guys on this list. He has the #1 and #3 seasons remaining by volume during the regular season, and also the best playoffs by volume, so I guess there's no reason to overthink things. His '08 and 2011 seasons, and 2009 playoff run are what I have as his best seasons, his most efficient stretch is actually his 2015 playoff run with Houston where he had 9.2 attempts on 76.8% shooting while playing 34 MPG. #5 Blake Griffin

I'll go through the top 10, but Blake Griffin will be the last one I write about, as it sort of becomes a splitting-hairs exercise and there's not much I can say about a player when we look at such a small aspect of their games. The #5 spot is between two people, the other who will be #6, and Griffin who has the 3rd and 4th best seasons remaining, but his 4th best season, 2012, he was on pace for his best and had played every game, but the lock out meant that that was only 66 games. On 10 attempts and 76.5% finishing at the rim, Griffin is right there with Howard, but unfortunately he's neither had a ton of luck with health or playoff runs. Anyways, like I said, I'll just quickly list the remaining with some images to round out the top 10. #6 Amar'e Stoudemire

#7 Tim Duncan

#8 Clint Capela

#9 DeAndre Jordan

#10 Dwyane Wade

Some HMs: Karl Malone, Shawn Marion, Tony Parker, Montrezl Harrell, Dirk Nowitzki, and Zion Williamson. Marion might be a bit of a surprise, but him (2006) and Karl Malone (1997) are the only guys to lead a specific season in volume and not be ranked. They both only have the one "great" season, I'm sure Malone definitely deserves a spot but a lot of his damage was done before shot data was tracked. I listed Tony Parker as, after Wade, he seems to be the best guard finisher with multiple great playoff runs, Trez has the best per possession numbers, Dirk has the best post-season volume numbers from 2003 when he had a little more transition game, and Zion, while not-currently having achieved anything yet, is putting up pretty good numbers and has a bright future ahead of him. All the stats were compiled via basketball-reference.com, I put all my data on some Google Sheets for anyone curious to see where any of their favourite players might be, or just curious to go deeper. I wouldn't say it's written in the most legible way, but the overall order should be pretty accurate. Season Stats Playoff Stats Top Seasons Ranked

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