by Bryan Crawford / @_BryanCrawford

Stephen Curry isn’t one of those NBA players who you have a love/hate relationship with. People either love or hate LeBron James. They either love or hate Russell Westbrook, or Carmelo Anthony. But with Steph, it’s just different.

Nobody hates him. Most people like him. But very few love him.

Since entering the League as the seventh overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, Curry has been quietly putting up good numbers on what has been a historically bad Golden State Warriors team. As one of the best pure shooters in the NBA, he has career averages of 17.5 points and 5.8 assists while shooting 47 percent from the field, 44 percent from the three-point line and 90 percent from the free-throw line—numbers that most players, especially guards, only dream of putting up.

So how does a guy with stats like that not get more “mainstream” love?

Well, for starters, he has often overshadowed by his former teammate, Monta Ellis, who famously said the two couldn’t play together, and then went out and proved it. The Ellis/Curry backcourt won just 26 games in Steph’s rookie season, and 36 games in his sophomore campaign.

Halfway into Curry’s lockout-shortened third season, the team was 17-20 before Monta was shipped off to Milwaukee, making the Ellis/Brandon Jennings pairing the “new” worst backcourt in the NBA.

And if advanced stats are your thing, all of this futility in Oakland occurred with Ellis compiling usage rates of 29.4, 28.1 and an astonishing 30.7, respectively. Those numbers make Curry’s usage rates of 21.8, 24.4 and 24.0 seem modest.

Then there was the recurring right ankle injury that caused Steph to miss 40 games last season. He began having issues the season prior and had surgery to fix it in May of 2011. But the ankle continued to be a problem and 26 games into the season, he was done. Shut down. Whispers of him being “injury prone” started floating about and folks began writing him off as a result.

Curry underwent a second surgery in April that was more exploratory than anything else. After a summer of rehab and working out, Stephen Curry is back, he has a clean bill of health, and with Monta Ellis gone, the Golden State Warriors are his team now.

How far he’ll be able to lead them is anyone’s guess, especially in a competitive Western Conference. But Steph’s deadly long-range shooting, his ever-improving point guard skills, and young teammates in Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes, should make the Warriors a League Pass “must see” on many nights this season.


Where should Stephen Curry rank in the SLAMonline Top 50?

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SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2012
RankPlayerTeamPositionPos. Rank
50Greg MonroePistonsC8
49Tyreke EvansKingsPG14
48Brandon JenningsBucksPG13
47Stephen CurryWarriorsPG12

Notes
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’12-13 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Maurice Bobb, Rodger Bohn, Brendan Bowers, Franklyn Calle, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Adam Figman, Eldon Khorshidi, Eddie Maisonet III, Ryne Nelson, Ben Osborne, Allen Powell II, Sam Rubenstein, Jonathan Santiago, Abe Schwadron, Leo Sepkowitz, Dave Spahn, Ben Taylor, Tzvi Twersky, Peter Walsh, Tracy Weissenberg, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Dave Zirin.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.