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Saturday, October 1st, 2011 at 1:26 pm  |  34 responses

Top 50: Stephen Curry, no. 31

The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players.

by Yaron Weitzman / @YaronWeitzman

Since joining the Phoenix Suns in 2004, Steve Nash has demonstrated how tough it can be to guard point guards who can both shoot and pass at an elite level. Players like Nash make pick-and-rolls nearly impossible to defend, force constant defensive switches and get opposing players in foul trouble. To put it simply: point guards who can shoot create havoc for a defense.

Which brings us to Stephen Curry.

At just 23 years old, Curry’s game is far from complete. But after just two NBA seasons, the baby-faced Davidson graduate is already among the best shooters in the NBA. Is he at Nash’s level? No, not yet. But he’s closer than you probably think, and is already a better shooter than nearly every point guard (the list of great shooting point guards is shorter than most realize), and player, in the NBA.

In fact, had Curry shot just two percent higher from the field last season, he would have become the youngest player to ever shoot at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from behind the three-point line, and 90 percent from the charity stripe in the same season. And he would have joined a club whose only members are Larry Bird, Mark Price, Nash Reggie Miller and Dirk Nowitzki. Not bad company. Especially for a 23-year-old.

Curry, however, is not just a shooter. Yes, it’s his bread-and-butter, and the skill that got him on to the Top 50, but in his short career, the Warriors guard has also shown that he’s got other talents to go with his textbook jumper. For starters, Curry is a good passer. Not necessarily a great one, but he’s better than he gets credit for. At 6-3, he has the ability to see lanes and angles that many point guards can’t, and while assists can be a flawed statistic, Curry still managed to average 5.8 per game last year while sharing point guard duties, and the ball, with Monta Ellis.

You also have to give Curry at least some of the credit for the Warriors’ offensive efficiency. He might not play a Nash or Chris Paul role, but for the most part, Curry is still the floor general of one of the better offensive teams in the League. That has to count for something.

Of course, any discussion about Curry and his skills also has to touch on his deficiencies, which, in this case, would be defense. We can all agree that Curry is not exactly a defensive savant. The only point guards in the League who I’m confident Curry can guard are those like Mike Bibby and Jason Kidd, who, at this point in their careers, seem to be allergic to the paint. And yes, a poor defensive point guard can kill a team and lead to issues on both sides of the court.

But offensive proficiency can often make up for a majority of these problems, as it has with Nash, and while Curry may be a poor defender now, there’s no reason to assume that he will be for the duration of his career. After all, he’s still just a 23-year-old who played one of his two NBA seasons under defense atheist Don Nelson, and comes from a college where he was told to save all his energy for the offensive end.

With former point guard Mark Jackson (a guy who has labeled himself as a coach who will stress defense) now at the helm in Golden State, it’s safe to assume that the defensive end of the court will no longer be a rest area for Curry. If nothing else, I can guarantee that after practicing for a year (fingers crossed) under Jackson, Curry will never again leave his “hand down” on defense.

What it all boils down to with Curry is how much, and how quickly, he can improve. He’s already got one elite skill, which is enough to thrive in the NBA. The question is whether Curry ever rounds off his game to the point where he is able to become one of the League’s top-five point guards.

He’s got the physical tools and basketball IQ, and has already shown the ability to improve—last year his field goal percentage, field-goal percentage at the rim (meaning his ability to finish), free-throw percentage, free-throw attempts and points per game all went up.

If Curry can continue to take these steps, and truly dedicate himself on the defensive end, next year’s rankings will have Curry in the top 25, and, more importantly, leading a Playoff-caliber team.

SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2011
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Luol Deng Bulls SF 8
49 Andrew Bogut Bucks C 7
48 Ray Allen Celtics SG 9
47 Marc Gasol Grizzlies C 6
46 David West Hornets PF 15
45 Kevin Martin Rockets SG 8
44 Andrew Bynum Lakers C 5
43 Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 11
42 Lamar Odom Lakers PF 14
41 Gerald Wallace Blazers SF 7
40 Brook Lopez Nets C 4
39 Joakim Noah Bulls C 3
38 Carlos Boozer Bulls PF 13
37 Kevin Garnett Celtics PF 12
36 Eric Gordon Clippers SG 7
35 Tony Parker Spurs PG 10
34 Andre Iguodala 76ers SG 6
33 Al Jefferson Jazz PF 11
32 Al Horford Hawks C 2
31 Stephen Curry Warriors PG 9

Notes
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’11-12 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Maurice Bobb, Shannon Booher, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Sandy Dover, Adam Figman, Jon Jaques, Eldon Khorshidi, Ryne Nelson, Doobie Okon, Ben Osborne, Quinn Peterson, Dave Schnur, Abe Schwadron, Dan Shapiro, Irv Soonachan, Todd Spehr, Tzvi Twersky, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Ben York.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.

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  • http://www.slamonline.com spit hot fiyah

    if he can stay healthy this might be a good spot
    if they trade monta this is probably about right

  • Hum

    first!!

  • http://slamonline Aaron

    What!? Brandon Jennings is a better player. If Jennings were on golden state, they would have been in the playoffs the last two years. The Warriors have a good team with a off guard runnig point. David Lee, Ellis, and wright make buckets from all over the floor. Steph hasn’t gotten them the ball on time. His defense is suspect, he gets broken down all the time. Brandon Jennings put up 55, and I think they were all on curry… and The bucks won. On top of all that, he hasn’t been to the playoffs… with two all-stars in Lee and Ellis.

  • http://fivemag.de Speedy

    Not better than Parker or Jennings.

  • Shem

    Great spot for him. Don’t think Jennings is better either. If the Warriors manage to get rid of Monta and get a guard that can be effective off the ball and plays good d, I think they have a playoff team. Andre Iguodala would be a great fit here. Curry Wright Iggy Lee and Biedrins with Reggie Williams, Ekpe Udoh and Klay Thompson is a pretty nice team… on 2k at least.

  • Jens Christian Auken

    Not better than Jennings? come on now, Curry is one of the most efficient players in the whole league man, while Jennings well.. isn’t the kind of guy you want to finish + curry creates better for his teammates, now Jennigs might defend better but still.

  • http://Slamonline.com nbk

    If you think Brandon Jennings is better then Steph Curry then you dont watch basketball. Plain and simple.

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    Since when does shooting 39% from the field make you a better player than someone who shot 48%?

  • Angel of Stern

    yeah, I think this is a pretty good spot. And there is no way Curry is not better than

  • Angel of Stern

    jennings

  • Blakos

    Aaron are you taking the piss?

  • Blakos

    Jennings is overated.

  • jarrett

    curry is one of the worst defenders in the league

  • roybot

    get off Brandon Jennings’ jock and see him for the player he is now, not his potential. Stephen Curry is the better shooter, and until Jennings can move up from less than 5 apg, Curry is the better point guard. If Curry decided to score 20 a game he could have, but he’s efficient to the tune of 47% FG and 44% 3PT%, plus I dont see him being below 90% FT% for the rest of his career.

  • Pavlek

    you can argue about jennings and curry all you want. but tony parker? he is in a different league than those two.

  • Irfan

    No way Stephen Curry can be ranked ahead of Parker, Odom, Garnett, Wallace, or even Ray Allen (who is old but has basically same strengths as Curry & knows how to play D). Do you rank players only based on their points per game & one or two other offensive considerations?
    Stephen Curry barely makes the Top 50, which isn’t a shame at all because the NBA is now very dense. I still think he should be ranked ahead of Jennings but Jennings is more in the 50s-60s..

  • respect

    forget about brandon jennings not having eric gordon higher then him is disrespectful

  • Young C

    Lets compare two players

    Player A: 14.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 5.8 apg, 2 spg, .41 FG%, .80 FT%, .52 3P%, 6-4 180 lbs, PG, 21 yrs old

    Player B: 16.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 4.8 apg, 1.5 spg, .3 9FG%, .80 FT%, .32 3P% 6-1 169 lbs, PG, 22 yrs old

    Which player is better right now? Which player would you rather have for the future? Once bias/favoritism is taken out of the equation, people can make top 50 lists much more accurately.

  • EJFANRS

    This is a joke! How is Stephen Curry ranked higher than Eric Gordon!? There isn’t a team in the NBA that would take Stephen Curry over Eric Gordon. I understand the kid was good at Davidson, and can shoot free throws better than any man on earth, but Curry’s defense is let’s just say lacking.

  • http://slamonline Aaron

    Steph was getting lit up so bad that they went zone… a 1-3-1 zone, and he just pulled up in monta’s face. Over and over and over… then they went back to man. Why!? so steph can get his ankles broke and have 20 more points scored on him? Yes, I do agree that Eric Gordon has way more game than curry. It’s just sucks that they had injuries… I guess this list is based on who played more games. Anyone can go to golden state to inflate their numbers.
    http://youtu.be/ConYsdSLIIA

  • http://www.slamonline.com Slick Ric

    @Respect, I concur.

  • http://slamonline.com datkid

    parker is better than curry… and it kills me to say this but right now curry is better than jennings at a bunch of things. hopefully jennings makes a big jump this year tho. Eric gordon IMO is probably better than both and deserves a higher rank. Does anyone else really find themselves hoping that steph curry evolves into a ray-allen/steve nash hybrid? that’d be awesome to watch

  • Drig

    WTH is Gordon behind Curry? And WTH is he doing infront of TP, Bynum and Gasol? :\

  • http://www.thehoopscene.com lawlow

    ahh wayy to high

  • http://www.jcolemusic.com Showtime

    I kill with curry on 2k… but yea all in all go spot. You rank players by stats not potential. Curry is % machine, jennings eeh.. But does jennings posses more talent hell yeah.

  • ctkennedy

    @YaronWeitzman Do u still that StephenCurry offense is better than KyleLowery …to the point to overcome KyleLowery defense over StephenCurry ….to be ranked as a higher player

  • ctkennedy

    feel^^^^

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    Jennings is so overrated it’s not even funny…1 55 point game is all people reference about him. Beyond that, he’s pretty pedestrian.

  • marc

    Wayno so you can guard jennings then? I think your over exaggerating by saying he’s pretty pedestrian. He’s a decent player. If he works hard he can be a top pg. Stop the hate. And as of right now Curry is better then Jennings.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    It’s pretty obvious that I’m using the term relative to other NBA players…He has some potential to be good, but what has he really done that makes him stand out other than a 55 point game? 16 points on an unspeakably terrible shooting percentage (37% yr 1 and 39% yr 2), 4.8 apg, and 2.3 to’s. That’s pretty terrible….He’s never going to be a top 5 pg…maybe not even top 10.

  • Rainman

    i dont really like the Nash comparisons. I mean i understand them, he’s got such good talents shooting, and a good(not great) passer…but Nash is jsut so so great as a point guard, and he’s the top guy in that 50-40-90 club. I dont know if ppl remember, but Nash had 50-40-90 3 straight seasons. No1 else on that list thats had it ever,none have done it 3 times TOTAL, ltet alone 3 straight seasons. Nash has a total of 5, woulda had another this year, as he was there most the year, but he got that mystery injury that no1 can quite label at the end of the year, and he just couldnt shoot it the same way.

    And dont even get me started on the great passing… have u seen his team? and he STILL lead the league is assits? smh.

  • GUS

    STEPHEN CURRY MVP 2014-2015!!

  • brad

    most over rated player in the league, his lack of defense makes him a dream match up on that side of the ball. Cant take over a game by getting to the lane, if his shot is off he wnt make a difference in the game. His lack of defense at this point is makes him a constant target. He plays in GS system so his numbers are higher than they should be. Maybe a four time all-star best case senario

  • J.P.

    I like Curry as a Shooting Guard who plays next to another point guard. This is similar to the Allen Iverson, Eric Snow deal which worked pretty well for the Sixers. However, I think the warriors are ignoring the problem that Curry at the point limits his productivity. I see him as a 4 3 pointer 18 to 22 point 5 reb 5 assist guy from the 2 guard who plays with a larger point guard and guards the other teams worst guard. Putting him at the point limits his shooting because the point guard has to initiate the offense for others. If you look at his highlights and games he is a darling set shooter but rarely ever beats other guard consistently to the bucket such as a Jennings, Paul, or Parker. This is a real dilemma for the Warriors and number 30 is at this time overrated because the Warriors hoist up alot of 3 pointers, but if he plays off the ball in the future and golden state signs a 6foot 4 or 6 foot 5 point guard than he could definitely play similar to Reggie Miller, and the team has lots of young talent. At this time the numbers are inflated because of the 3 point hoisting. If he has to go 33 minutes against good point guards he becomes a 14 and 6 assist 4 reb at best. I wish him the best.

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