The 2013 #SLAMTop50 found Stephen Curry barely cracking the top 10 thanks to Russell Westbrook undergoing off-season knee surgery. What a difference a year makes. Thanks to another stellar season of wet jumpers, sick handles, 50-plus wins, a FIBA chip and most importantly a healthy right ankle, Curry is a consensus top-five NBA player—at least according to folks around the SLAM Dome.
The durability argument is out the window. After playing back-to-back seasons where he started 78 games, the health concerns for Curry should be put to rest. Slated to make slightly more than $10 million this season, the best shooter in the NBA is also the League’s best bargain. And when Klay Thompson gets his extension, Steph will be the lowest paid player in the starting lineup.
When the Dubs drafted Curry seventh overall, no one could have expected him to rise this high, this fast. But as the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. Looking ahead to the 2014-15 season, Curry is expected to lead Golden State back to the Playoffs, even after a summer of turmoil.
His guy, coach Mark Jackson is gone, his backcourt mate Klay Thompson was almost shipped out, and his pick and roll partner David Lee almost (and most likely will at some point) meet the same fate. Steph was vocal in his support for Jackson and Thompson, but the GSW brass only listened once. Thankfully for Warrior fans, if there is anything we’ve learned about Curry in his five NBA seasons it is that distractions don’t affect him on the court.
Curry is without a doubt a top-five scorer in the League. His 24 ppg average last season beguiles the fact that he could easily average four to five more points per night if he played more selfishly. When Curry said he was a better offensive player than Bron, he meant it. In addition to being highly competitive (don’t let the quiet guy stuff fool you), Curry is as effective off the ball as he is off the dribble, which was apparent in the years that he played off-guard to Jarrett Jack (at least when Jack wasn’t playing hero ball).
Last season, Andre Iguodala was not the answer to GSW’s second ball handler issue and the platoon of Jordan Crawford, Kent Bazemore and later Steve Blake just outright sucked. With the addition of a true point in Shaun Livingston, the apparent emergence of Nemanja Nedovic and a different offensive scheme, Curry will be a lot more dangerous off the ball.
No slight to Jackson, who is a good man and a phenomenal motivator, but the Warriors never ran a true offense under their former coach. In the past, when the pick and roll broke down, the Dubs often went straight isolation and that produced a lot of ineffective basketball. There is no guarantee that Steve Kerr and assistant coach Alvin Gentry’s hybrid Triangle/Motion approach will improve the Warriors’ offense, but bringing Curry off of screens and putting him in a position to spot up will play even more into his strengths as an offensive player (especially if Kerr can convince Klay to work with Curry in the two-man game). That much has been clear in the three pre-season games we’ve seen from the team thus far.
Curry can shoot with the best of them. At this point, that is stating the obvious but his skills go beyond that. Curry’s court vision is bar none, he was able to find his teammates quickly and with flair to the tune of 8.5 apg. His 2.27 assist-to-turnover ratio leaves a lot to be desired but once again, playing in a real offense should produce more efficient numbers due to teammates being in positions to make better shots.
A slept on aspect of Curry’s game is on the boards, he pulled down 4.3 rpg last year, which ranked him 11th among point guards. That’s only 1.4 boards below Russell Westbrook, who judging by the comments section, many of you seem to believe is Rodman-esque on the glass for some strange reason.
Curry’s weakness has always been on the defensive end. If you watch the Warriors play with any regularity, you will notice that Klay handles the tough defensive assignments almost all of the time. It is not that Curry doesn’t put forth an effort; it’s just that he doesn’t do it consistently enough. There have been nice sequences and other times he’s looked like a light skinned version of James Harden on the defensive end. Working with former Celtics assistant and noted defensive coach Ron Adams this season should help that aspect of his game at least a little bit. Furthermore, Curry has stated that he wants to improve his defense and Adams believes he has the tools to do so.
This top-five spot for Curry will be as controversial as any other ranking in the #SLAMTop50, but if he continues to light up the League with his J, make defenders look stupid with his handle and limit the turnovers, by season’s end, there will be no debate.
|#SLAMTop50 Players 2014|
Rankings are based on expected contribution in ’14-15—to players’ team, the NBA and the game.