Friday, April 4, 2014

Why Steph Curry is the best point guard in the NBA


Whenever discussion of the best point guard in the NBA comes up, the answer usually defaults on either Chris Paul or Rajon Rondo. Although the love for Rondo this year has diminished as a result of his early-season injury, his championship pedigree has earned him the position among the NBA’s elite. Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker are also premiere point guards who are in the debate for that top tier but something is still missing with both, a thought we'll hold onto for later.

But when you look at a guy that you could unequivocally build a contender around, you have to give the edge to Warriors point guard, Steph Curry.

Despite his small stature, Curry improved in scoring output in each of his five seasons in the league while simultaneously improving his playmaking for teammates by dishing out dimes at a higher rate as well. Once he was given reigns of the organization after the Monta Ellis trade, the team has improved astronomically.

The front office from owner Joe Lacob to GM Bob Myers has certainly been pivotal in saving basketball in the Bay Area, bringing in pieces that fit well with each other and under Mark Jackson. But the foundation of the improvement is Steph Curry. Unlike any other point guard in the league, Curry possesses the unique capability of being an unselfish leader…who can also score from anywhere on the floor. You can watch a Warriors game and wonder why Curry isn’t shooting more than he already is.

He reminded us, too, that he can do things like this with the game on the line…in overtime and in a critical game in the playoff race. And finishing it off with grounds for a new hashtag trend never hurts either. #WeOut


That scoring capability is something that Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo simply don’t have. Neither are really go-to scorers in the final minutes of the game like Curry is. He possesses the LeBron James-esque nature to flash back and forth between facilitating and scoring. This brilliance is both effective from the team’s standpoint and also from a pure entertainment standpoint. Stephen A. Smith has pointed out multiple times on First Take that there isn’t a more fun team to watch.

Tony Parker is a tough case to look at because while he is individually talented, the Popovich system has endowed success on a whole generation of Spurs players surrounded by Pop and the greatest power forward of all time, Tim Duncan. I think of Pop’s Spurs a lot like Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots in the NFL: the coach and his superstar run the show, and everyone else fits in. Somehow you can always book on their teams being competitive. Always. Even if their star is a future Hall of Famer is 37 years old going on 38. Parker is in that limbo state where you can’t quite make up your mind on his individual talent because the team he runs is a classic example of “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

But with Kawhi Leonard’s recent surge to the center of the organization, Parker has to be in that top second tier of point guards in the NBA today that you want to both a) win now and b) have to help you win in the future.

Russell Westbrook is a monstrous competitor and a perennial All-Star but he is really more of an undersized shooting guard running the point who can have a tendency to get into his own head a bit at times. High energy has led him to some boneheaded turnovers in the past and a career-high TO per game this year at 4.0.

Curry’s prowess is second-to-none, but I would be remiss to neglect the areas where he still can—and will—improve. Crazy one-handed overhead passes off of pick-and-rolls have led Curry to a career-high 3.7 turnovers per game. That highlights some poor decision-making of his which has been a problem for the Warriors in their home losses to some of the league’s bottom-tier teams. This is something that will be remedied with time because the increased load on Curry’s shoulders is new to the 26-year-old.

The demand to support his team in all facets of the game offensively has strained his efficiency from behind the three-point line to the point where he’s shooting a “terrible” career-low of 42 percent on threes. All of this while hovering around the top of the league in usage rate at almost 30 percent.

Defensively, Curry takes a lot of heat, and I would argue unfairly so. The eye-test certainly leans you to believe that he isn’t quick enough to keep up with guys like John Wall and Chris Paul, but he still fairs rather well in all defensive metrics. Hauling in four rebounds a game and 1.5 steals per game is rather remarkable for a guy who is 185 pounds. If you buy Ben Morris’ study that found a steal is worth nine points and is by far the most irreplaceable box score stat, then Curry fairs quite well, trailing only CP3 in this category among star point guards. Even in defensive win shares, one of a host of advanced metrics measuring a player’s defensive value, Curry just barely falls outside of the top-20 players in the league.

Steals are clearly something that are rare (and apparently 96 percent irreplaceable per FiveThirtyEight.com.)

I don’t think even the most ardent Curry supporter would argue he is a wizard on the defensive side of the ball but he is far from terrible.

Numbers hardly give the full picture of what a player does but Curry clearly ranks among the league’s best in a host of critical categories, including scoring (sixth in the league), assists (fourth), threes made (first), minutes (15th), FT percentage (sixth), and even turnovers (second. Oh wait, that’s not a good thing). Sometimes he can be a little spacey on the floor looking like he's thinking about who knows what (maybe Klay has rubbed off on him in that realm?) but he clearly has mutual respect going with his coach and the respect of all his teammates.

So mark me down as the first player who lays claim to the belief that Curry's vast skillset makes him the most valuable, and thus best, point guard. You could build a roster will many types of players and work around him as the featured scorer or featured facilitator and succeed more than any other point guard. The only other floor general close in this debate would be Chris Paul.

And, of course, you could do what the Warriors are doing right now which is use him as both...and make him what Bill Simmons called a future MVP candidate.

1 comment:

  1. I would still say that chris paul ist the best pg in the league.
    When you compare his abilty to pass the ball and how much assists hes collecting...
    Of course his defense is also much better than currys and i think when he want to hes also able to score even more.

    ReplyDelete

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