When Stephen Curry entered the NBA in 2009, it was debatable as to how his college brilliance at Davidson would translate to the pro ranks. At times, playing on what was far from a marquee NCAA team, Curry had troubles getting his shot off against defensive pressure primed to isolate him as his team’s only shot-creator. And though Curry’s lineage as the son of one of the NBA’s great all-time shooters in Dell Curry was in place, this was still a league that was wary of high end NCAA scorers like Adam Morrison, who by that time was on his second team and considered a washout. This is part of the reason Curry slipped to seventh in that year’s draft, the fifth guard taken.
Four years later, Curry is a should-be All-Star, one that was curiously passed over by coaches this season for the midseason exhibition, and leading his Golden State Warriors to just their third playoff trip in their last 20 seasons. Along the way, Curry is pulling off an astonishing feat – not only leading the NBA in three-pointers made and attempted, but shooting a percentage from behind the arc (45 percent) that would lead the NBA in most seasons (he’s second this year to Detroit’s Jose Calderon, a player that has taken 37 fewer threes than Stephen this season). Sports Illustrated’s Chris Ballard, in a fantastic feature, details the drive that has turned Curry into such a potent threat:
Last week, I watched Curry follow his usual gameday shootaround routine at the Warriors' practice facility. Lining up at seven spots around the arc, he alternated between shooting three-pointers and deep twos until he hit 10 out of 13 from all seven spots, restarting at a spot if he missed more than three. By my watch, he finished the drill in eight minutes. Afterward, Curry said his time was about average. Says [assistant coach Bob] Myers: "He shoots a lot but, to be honest, there aren't many shots he takes that I'd consider a bad shot."
Ballard went on to smartly note just why Curry appears so unique in the annals of shooterdom.
For one, Stephen is both a scorer in the versatile sense, and a shooter. As Ballard points out, his statistical comparisons in terms of three-point percentage career-wise are one-dimensional players like Steve Kerr, Kyle Korver, Steve Novak and Jason Kapono. Nothing against those four players, all very good basketball players at the college level and brilliant shooters at the NBA level, but their job as a pro was to hang out and wait for someone to make a mistake in leaving them on the perimeter.
Those specialists usually had to wait for passes from players like Stephen Curry, because Curry remains his team’s go-to guy while averaging over 38 minutes a contest. Players that are on the court for that long rarely put up percentages like this, and (again, as Ballard discusses) Curry’s smallish frame makes his consistent abilities from long range all the more impressive – he doesn’t have the luxury that a Kevin Durant has to rely on size when the lids start to get droopy late in games.
Then there’s this ridiculousness:
A Curry extra from the piece: He sometimes plays a game after practice - shoot 3s until you miss two in a row. His high this year is 76
— Chris Ballard (@SI_ChrisBallard) April 2, 2013
Again, this is a man who is asked to lead and score the most points for a playoff-level NBA offense, taking more three-pointers than anyone in the NBA during 2012-13, and yet he’s still hitting 45 percent of his bombs. And he’s scoring nearly 21 a game. And he’s dropping 6.8 assists per game. And you can’t even attribute his fantastic output to the typically-high and stat-padding Golden State pace. The Warriors are still getting up and down the floor, they average the sixth-most possessions per game this season, but this isn’t the sort of over the top, Don Nelson-esque stylings that make most per-game stats dubious.
There’s nothing dubious about Curry’s work. If he continues like this and stays healthy, his mix of accuracy and high usage could turn him into a shooter for the ages. Kevin Durant may average more points per game, and Steve Nash may retire with more 50 percent/40 percent/90 percent seasons from the floor, three-point arc, and free throw line, but Curry appears to be acting (scoring-wise) as a fantastic amalgamation of the two.
Best of all, for the first time in his professional career, a nationally televised audience is going to be handed the privilege of watching Curry line up that aim on a postseason stage later this month.