I had no clue when I was going to write in this blog again, but after watching Steph Curry play the first three games of the 2015-16 NBA season, it feels like the right time. I’ll try to keep it up.
Curry has been so incredible through the first three games, I started thinking of him in terms of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. It’s hard to even comprehend that Curry has elevated himself into such a group — but that’s how great he’s been through three games, not to mention the entirety of last season.
I still don’t believe Curry is as great of a player as any of those three were. However, in the past year-plus, Curry has impacted games every bit as much as Jordan, Bird and Magic did, and yes, even in their primes.
And a lot of it is because of the 3-point shot. It’s almost as if Curry has found a flaw in the basketball system, a void in the game that nobody knew existed but him. Curry’s ability to shoot with precision from 25 … 28 … 30-plus feet out on the court has turned the NBA upside down.
But it’s more than that now with Curry. Even if he’s not making shots — or even attempting shots, he’s become an invaluable asset. This is a standard that Jordan, Bird and Magic never even reached. Curry’s mere presence on the floor is, in and of itself, a positive. With his unlimited range, Curry must be paid attention to, literally, a few steps over half court.
So because you have to guard Curry so far from the bucket, he automatically gives the Warriors’ spacing, and perhaps even the ability to play 4-on-4. And Curry’s teammates are basketball players and good decision-makers and so more often than not they can take advantage of that built-in advantage.
If Jordan, Bird or Magic stood 30 feet from the basket, you’re darn right you were five, six, eight feet or whatever, off of them. Not Curry. You better linger awfully close to him, and that’s an asset difficult to measure.
In fact, Curry’s ability to drag a defender with him regardless of how far he is from the basket actually makes him — at times — more valuable the further he is from the basket. I mean, have you ever heard of such a player?
Even if any of those three all-time greats had the ball in their hands that far from the bucket, chances are, you were “giving” them that shot. But you can’t “give” that shot to Curry. You have to get up on him. And that’s a problem, too. Curry is now too good with the ball to stay in front of that far out on the court, which means he’s penetrating and that’s a whole other set of problems.
It almost feels like Curry is gaming the system with his 3-point shooting. When the 3-point line was put into the NBA in 1979, nobody, nobody, nobody ever envisioned a player like Curry coming along. It was incomprehensible at the time because “getting the ball inside” was basketball’s ethos.
Stephen Curry is averaging 39.3 points per game on 58.8 percent shooting (40-for-68) from the field. More than half his field goal attempts have come from beyond the arc, where he’s 17-for-35 (48.6 percent). He’s gotten to the line 22 times in three games, too, making 21 of those free throws.
Will Curry be able to keep this up? Of course not — or at least you wouldn’t figure. But still, you tell me how in the hell any big man that exists on planet earth can be any more efficient than that? They can’t. It’s not even close.
I’m starting to think that decades from now we’ll be talking about Curry in the same way we talked about Bob Gibson and the lowering of the mound in baseball in the late 1960s or Wilt Chamberlain and the widening of the lane, etc.
Make no mistake, there will be a response to the mockery Curry is making of the game right now. It might not happen till after he’s done playing, but basketball can’t keep going in this direction forever. And when the NBA eventually addresses the 3-pointer, it will likely be known as the Steph Curry rule.
Last thing on Curry, for now. I think he became an elite player the moment he stopped “trying to be a point guard” and started to become what he is: a scorer. I’ve always thought Curry is, first and foremost, a scorer. How else do you get 118 points in 99 minutes?
Is Curry a point guard? Sure, he is. But if Curry is a point guard he’s the only one in the league — and dare I say in league history — who helps his team more when he uses a “Me First” approach rather than a “Get Everyone Involved” approach.
Curry impacts a game far more significantly when he’s trying to score and/or penetrate than when he’s going out of his way to get Klay Thompson a shot, or find Draymond Green or shovel a pass inside to Festus Ezeli.
Curry’s ability to demand guarding 30 or 35 feet from the floor has become the foundation of his game. It’s simple, really. If don’t guard him out there, he’ll drop 3s on you; if you do guard him out there, he’s proven he’s adept enough to penetrate and deliver the ball to the right player, who can either score or give Golden State the ability to play with a man advantage.
That’s not just valuable. It’s as valuable as anything Jordan, Bird or Magic ever did.
*** You can listen to Matt Steinmetz talking more about Steph Curry on latest Sal and Steiny Podcast, found here:
***You can download all the Sal and Steiny Podcasts on ITUNES, found here: