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Monday, December 22nd, 2008 at 4:25 pm  |  44 responses

Time To Re-Evaluate

Stephen Curry may not become the star he’s supposed to.

by Joey Whelan

As a senior in high school, Sebastian Telfair got used to the steady flow of celebrities at his games. Among the regulars was friend and NBA rookie LeBron James. The former high school phenom had no qualms about sharing his high expectations for Telfair at the next level; of course, we all know how that played out. The former Lincoln standout hasn’t exactly lived up to the rave reviews he got on the prep scene and has ultimately disappointed as a pro.

It appears King James now has another favorite rising pro prospect in Stephen Curry. LBJ has been a courtside spectator for a couple of Davidson’s games this season, including as a guest of the college for the Wildcats’ match up with Wisconsin earlier in the year. Does LeBron’s support of Curry spell letdown in the junior’s future? No, but that doesn’t mean the pint sized assassin is destined for NBA greatness either.

Curry is a modern day Pete Maravich plain and simple. Not since the “Pistol” lit it up down in the Bayou has a player captured the imagination of college basketball fans the way in which Curry has in the last year. His propensity to hit the impossible shot continues to impress everyone lucky enough to witness him in action. Maravich went on to a successful pro career, but let’s be honest, it was a different NBA back then. Maravich was an innovator—no one had ever seen an array of shots and passes like the he was able to bring to the table.

For Curry, the challenges will be much greater. Today’s NBA is more athletic, with bigger and longer players. The problem facing a player like Curry is the high volume of shots he takes in order to achieve his point production on a nightly basis. Including Saturday’s loss to Purdue, Curry is averaging 21.6 shot attempts per game with 10.5 of those attempts coming from beyond the arc, an astronomically high number ever for a gunner. Worst of all, is that he is only connecting on 36.2 percent of his three-point attempts.

Certainly Curry isn’t the first of his kind to flourish at the collegiate level and attract the kind of national attention he is receiving. Just a couple of seasons ago, a two-man race for National POY honors Time to lead.between J.J. Redick and Adam Morrison captivated the country. Both players were pure scorers who never met a shot they didn’t like (Redick attempted 17.9 field goals per game and Morrison 18.2). Delving even a few more years back we see other elite players like Jameer Nelson, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony all attempting more than 15 shots per game, which is how it works when you’re an elite scorer at the collegiate level. The biggest difference between Curry and the rest of that list, though, is that none of the other players were one-man wrecking crews; they all had sidekicks they could rely on to a certain extent.

Now in terms of profile and skill set, Curry most closely resembles Redick, with the biggest difference being Curry’s ability to play the point guard position somewhat. Curry plays in a system designed to get him the basketball in situations where he can put his quick release to use much like Redick did, and both players love to fire from absurdly far beyond the three-point line. The ultimate downfall for the former Blue Devil in the NBA has been his inability to create scoring opportunities for himself off the dribble, something that Curry has proven to be somewhat more skilled at. Even still though, we have to look at the facts: Curry as an NBA prospect is likely a one-dimensional player.

At 6-3 and a generously listed 185 pounds, Curry will need space to get off his shot and that won’t come easy in the League where he’ll be dealing with stingy perimeter defenders. Its one thing for Curry to torch North Carolina State for 44 points, but what happens when he is trying to score against Chauncey Billups or Kobe Bryant? Making things more difficult will be the fact that with his slight frame Curry will have trouble getting into the lane and creating scoring opportunities. He simply isn’t strong enough.

Saturday’s match up with Purdue was a prime example of what Curry will have to deal with once he cracks an NBA roster. Boilermaker defensive specialist Chris Kramer hounded Curry into a 5-26 shooting performance, perhaps the worst showing of his entire career. Kramer may be one of the better on ball defenders in the Big Ten, but at 6-3 and lacking a great wingspan, he is hardly considered a ball hawk by pro standards.

What has helped Curry this season is his switch to the point position and thus far his numbers have looked pretty strong with the junior averaging over six assists per game. With the type of attention Curry receives from opposing defenses, it is almost impossible for him to not see success in the assist column. The triangle and two scheme imposed by Loyola may have been an extreme case, but seeing double coverage is a regular occurrence this year for Curry, leaving his fellow teammates with a plethora of open looks. He still needs to get the ball into the right hands, and credit should be given. But Curry didn’t suddenly develop into a pro caliber playmaker overnight.

Lastly, and this is key, Curry will be a defensive liability as a pro player. He is a pesky defender who will get his steals here and there, but the average NBA guard will look forward to the nights that the Davidson scoring machine is matching up with him. Most players will be able to elevate and shoot over Curry and when opponents opt to put the ball on the floor and go to the hole, he doesn’t have the He's a future All-Star? Really?upper body strength to body up against these dribble drives.

What this leaves Curry with is the ability to shoot the three, a valuable asset that will make him a quality role player but not a star. Running him off of screens on the perimeter and allowing him to spot up will result in some point production. He is also quick enough that he should be able to beat some defenders off the dribble and set himself up from mid-range. In all, we could be looking at a player much along the lines of a Derek Fisher if he can put on some additional muscle.

Will we ever see Curry suiting up for an All-Star game? Doubtful. It’s a safe bet, though, that whatever team ultimately lands him either this June or the following, they will be picking up a player who can contribute right away to their organization as a sharp shooting threat.

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  • WhaHuh

    didn’t OJ Mayo already disprove all this?

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Bron and Bassy played summer ball together, which might explain why a 19-year-old NBA rookie LeBron had his back.
    Bassy’s 5-10, which might explain him not quite taking over the world.
    And while I’m not betting money on young Curry one way or the other, I’m pretty sure that whichever NBA drafts him will have a slightly more talented roster than f*cking Davidson.

  • http://www.alllooksame.com Tarzan Cooper

    curry is nothing at all like pete. please stop that immediately. if hes so great, how come he lost to ku?

  • Ken

    Mayo is a lot stronger than Curry, and had/has more of a penetrating game. I think this article is roughly on point. Curry is going to have similar difficulties to Redick probably, though at least he has some more promise as a 1 guard.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Izzo

    A few things
    1)There are many differences in the skill set of Steph Curry and JJ Redick.Redick was,by and large a spot up shooter who would occasionally take the ball to utilize the pick and roll to get a shot off.He was never comfortable on the ball.He had no slashing game.Curry on the other hand gets in the paint,has a nice crossover and can beat men–he can drive and not just that,he has proven himself to be one of the better slashers in America this season.His overall offense prowess has been the hallmark of his play this season,not just his shooting.The mere fact that he can have an off night shooting and still drop 44 is a testament to that.He definitely is not one dimensional.
    2)I would argue how high people’s expectations were of Curry in the first place.Sure,he’s projected in the lottery,this is probably mainly due to the weak draft class.I know I was never expecting Curry to be an All-Star.I’m not even expecting a 20+ppg season from him(though I won’t rule it out).What I expected from him was exactly what you said-a player who can contribute high scoring spurts and play a key role on any team.
    I think by this stage Curry has proven that he is just a good basketball player and can run with anybody.Sure you can take his lack of size,athleticism and defense(though I think he’s underrated in that department) into account and say he shouldn’t be a good player at the next level.I’m sure college scouts were saying the same of him in HS,’sure he can play here,but it won’t translate’.But production doesn’t lie,and I think he’ll produce at the next level also because he can flat out play.Then people over and under-rating him won’t matter.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Izzo

    Also:Curry won’t be getting the defensive attention like he does now at the college level.Triple teams are unlikely methinks.

  • Matt

    Ryan, I’m pretty sure all the teams he plays against will have slightly more talented rosters than anyone he has faced so far in his collegiate career.

  • http://twentythreenine.blogspot.com Russ Bengtson

    Can’t we just enjoy him in college and worry about his NBA future when it arrives? Let the GMs worry whether he’s worth a lottery pick or not, right now I just want to see him shoot 37 times a game. (That’s right, he needs to shoot more. A lot more.)

  • http://twentythreenine.blogspot.com Russ Bengtson

    And sure he isn’t strong enough now, but just wait until he hits puberty.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Izzo

    Determining whether or not a player will have a successful career is never a good idea during their junior year in college.

  • http://www.where-basketball-b-longs.blogspot.com/ B. Long

    Russ wins.

  • http://www.where-basketball-b-longs.blogspot.com/ B. Long

    @Izzo:Tell Charlie Rosen that! HA! Beat you to it, Ryan Jones! 8)

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Matt: So much so that they’ll be able to triple-team him all night? He’s a lone star on an otherwise very mediocre college team. That will NEVER be the case for him in the League.

  • http://www.alllooksame.com Tarzan Cooper

    MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM,, CHIPOTLE!!!

  • http://www.slamonline.com Joey Whelan

    He will certainly have more talent around him in the league, but his role will also change. That is going to be the key for Curry, can he be successful as a guy whose job is to hit shots from the outside when given those looks.
    Also, I agree with Russ as well, if nothing else Curry is a fun guy to watch at this level. That’s really where I feel the Maravich comparison comes in. Curry is a one man scoring machine playing for a small school who has single handedly launched his team into the national spotlight.

  • http://twentythreenine.blogspot.com Russ Bengtson

    I’m just not sure whether anyone’s really been projecting him as a star at the next level. I mean, for once we have a kid who’s killing it in college who everyone likes AS a collegian. That’s the best part about the Stephen Curry phenomenon, as I see it. I mean, he could become another Reggie Miller I guess, or he become another J.J. Redick, but with him it’s all about right NOW. Which is awesome.

  • Bdubbz

    I disagree w/ the part about him not being strong enough, just look at Jamal Crawford, he could be the weakest player in the NBA yet he gets to the hoop alot and he can get his shot off anytime. They’re kinda similar players, but Jamal has better handles.

  • chronically_ill

    If Juan Dixon has a place in the league, Stephen Curry sure as hell has a chance to make it at the next level.

  • Harlem_World

    Curry is better than Reddick. He doesn’t need to be an all-star to fulfill his potential. His potential doesn’t promise an all-pro level player, it promises a GOOD role player, just like, hmmmm…let me see…a good shooter from back in the day called Dell Curry?

  • http://slamonline.com Tzvi T

    I saw him at MSG a couple weeks ago; He had trouble against West Virginia’s gritty D all night, that is except for the last 5 minutes. The only 5 minutes that mattered in that game. I am not a seer, so I wont talk about the future, but for now: Watch, enjoy, and when needed, hit rewind, watch again, and enjoy again.

  • http://www.manutd.com Z

    I see him as a Juan Dixon 2.0. I think Juan could have been that type of scorer on a smaller school (dude was averaging 20 on a LOADED terps squad). Steph is not a pure point and I don’t know if he’ll ever be. He has a shot at a very long pro career as a starting 1 if he can man the point. If not, he’ll be a microwave guy off the bench. I don’t really like chuckers so I don’t really care about his ncaa career.

  • Corey L

    I agree with some of the other guys. Let’s just enjoy him while he’s in college and lighting teams up every night.

    The Maravich comparison is a little over-the-top. They are both talented scorers, but the comparison pretty much stops there. Curry doesn’t have the flash and showy game that Pistol Pete did.

    Next, Curry will most certainly have a better career than JJ. His release is just as quick, and he only loses an inch or two in height. Add to that the fact that he can drive and hit the floater or find a teammate in the lane and you have a solid NBA starter. Not an all star, but a solid starter nonetheless.

  • Boing Dynasty

    Joey, in between Pistol and Steph, there was this guy, Kevin Durant, who got some attention in college. Just a thought.

  • http://fjsdklf.com Jukai

    Yes, enough with talking about how he’s going to do in the NBA. Matter of fact, let’s stop talking about how ANY college player is going to do in the NBA! Let’s take down Draft 365 right away. Let’s also demand that nbadraft.net and draftexpress.net come down too, because, seriously, why bother talking about something that is interesting and there is a lot of discussion on?
    Does Russ really write about basketball?

  • http://fjsdklf.com Jukai

    Also, I think the JJ prediction is spot-on. Yes, their games are a lot different (although JJ did have some slasher in him in college his senior year which people seem to forget), but it’s the same story: two guys too weak for the NBA who will ultimately have trouble in the NBA because they wont be gunning for 25 shots a game anymore. I think Curry will have moderate success in the NBA (hell, I think Reddick will too, once he learns the sacred art of ‘defense’) but watching the way he’s playing, it’s natural to really sit down and wonder if he’s going to be a star.
    It’s entirely possible. But not probable.

  • K-Dub

    I agree with Russ totally. Steph carried a mid major team all the way to the Elite Eight. Granted, they didn’t Final Four like George Mason. In response to him losing to KU, that was the FRICKIN NATIONAL CHAMPS! Not only that, but Richards was unprepared that moment to shoot. He had 3 KU guys on him. I just love to watch him play, and I don’t care about his pro career. Just enjoy the show while you can.

  • http://www.manutd.com Z

    Very good point, Jukai. JJ used to dribble-drive in his senior year and handle the ball some. The lesson here: it’s not because you do it in college that you’re going to be able to do it in the pros.

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com BETCATS

    this is bull sh!t. You gotta take shots to make shots. Stephen takes shots. Look at Kobe, their are games where he gets his 25 points of taking 25 shots. And if you think he is JJ you are crazy. JJ needed screens, picks, and kick outs from Sheldon Williams in order to get all his 3′s, he was a shooter who couldnt create his own shot. Stephen Curry can create his own shot. The only thing that might keep Stephen Curry from being a good pro is his size, but even that probably wont stop him. Your article was well written, but some conclusions being drawn are just strait up blashopmey/bull-sh!tery. Curry will be a solid pro, maybe even a star. Just wait and see.

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com BETCATS

    and to all of those who dont think he is strong enough, 2 points:

    1. Reggie Miller, Brandon Wright, Alexis Ajinca, Kevin Durant among others all look like human bean poles, all were first round picks and 75% of them have already/did prove themselves worthy of being selected their.

    2. IT IS CALLED WEIGHT ROOMS + PERSONAL TRAINER + PROTIEN SHAKES. Yall act as though Scottie Pippen and LeBron were born with giant a$$ muscles and vains bulgin out. All it takes is commitments and he will get bigger.

  • http://ittakesanationofmillionstoholdthissac.blogspot.com ciolkstar

    I don’t see Curry as an all star. Sure he might be able to put up some numbers on a terrible team, but I don’t see him as a “Franchise savior” type of guy. Nice role player, but honestly, not much else.

  • http://ittakesanationofmillionstoholdthissac.blogspot.com ciolkstar

    And Steph is not 6-3/185. Thats hilarious.

  • http://ittakesanationofmillionstoholdthissac.blogspot.com ciolkstar

    Juan Dixon is a pretty fair comparison too.

  • wilz

    wow, “WahHuh” please dont make any comparisons to OJ mayo…it makes you look like you have no idea what ur talking about..

  • T Money

    I believe context is important. Did anyone believe Tony Parker would be a great pro? Finals MVP? No offense to TP, who has proven his worth, but what if he was drafted by Minnesota?

  • T Money

    I think Curry has a few things in his favour: He can shoot off the dribble, sort of like Rip Hamilton, he is incredibly confident, he can play 1 or 2, and he has a real life example of an NBA career that he can learn from.

  • T Money

    Mentally he already has an advantage over the rest of his draft class, having seen first hand the NBA life from his dad.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    Yeah, that has worked so well for Luke Walton.

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  • http://www.manutd.com Z

    T Money, he would have been a 22-23 ppg scorer on a very bad team. Context doesn’t create talent, it creates success.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Kid Presto

    We all kind of figured that the kid wouldn’t be a “pete” of the league but that’s nothing new. Curry will be a dependable three point shooter in the L and he will get his from night to night. This is year will really tell how he will turn out in the L as he is the main point guard for davidson. all those turnovers he had against purdue saturday didn’t look good but we are just now into the season and curry is getting better every game. and please…this cat is not even close to reddick. reddick barely ever dribbled the ball when he was at duke. it was just mainly two-three dribble pull-ups and shooting off screens. curry can handle the ball, has a nice mid-range game, and he can actually take it to the rack against bigger defenders. fly society in the house.

  • http://allday-fadeaway.blogspot.com Nbk

    What Stephen Curry does in college means nothing as to what he will do in the NBA. It is his slight frame and limited athletic ability that will keep him from being a star in the L. His basketball IQ and ability to run the Point will enable him to be a very solid role player for a long time. Look out for a kid names Seth Curry a freshman at Liberty College, he is Steph’s little brother, he is puttin up 19 a game while shooting 40% from the now extented college three point line.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Kid Presto

    yeah, whatever you say dude…

  • acon

    BRILLIANT! love this piece. joey whelan is a great writer. i hope curry makes it big. ps jj reddick sucks

  • BigMoney

    The way you guys talk about him it’s like he has no room for improvement and he has to stay at this level. Obviously he’s going to get bigger, especially with NBA trainers getting on his back. And need I remind you even Michael Jordan was drafted #5? Comparing Curry to Derek Fisher is an insult. He’s more than a role player and you should know this. Sure you guys can point out the one night he shot badly, but look at it in general and please tell me this kid isn’t top 3 right now.

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