by Jacob Pickle
It wasn’t supposed to be like this at all. Stephen Curry already had his time. He set countless offensive records, claimed his spots on a multitude of All-American teams, led the country in scoring and carried the Davidson Wildcats on a magical run to their first Elite Eight appearance in nearly 40 years.
And that was supposed to be that. Curry was expected to play his role just like nearly every other college basketball scoring machine of the past decade.
He was going to follow in the footsteps of such legendary producers as Keydren Clark, Adam Morrison, J.J. Reddick, Reggie Williams and Jimmer Fredette.
He was destined to work his way through the D-League or various international rosters and maybe, if things just happened to break his way, he would find himself as a secondary role player on some lowly NBA team.
Instead, Stephen Curry has turned into a bonafide NBA superstar, the leader of a perennial playoff contender in the Golden State Warriors and arguably the greatest shooter in the league’s history.
Although that last statement might not settle well with NBA purists, who clamor that the sharpshooting likes of Steve Kerr, Tim Legler and Reggie Miller are in a different class above the young Curry, the numbers make a strong argument for the gunner nicknamed “The Human Torch.”
The easiest statistic to cite is Curry’s career 3-point percentage of 44.6, which trails only Kerr on the all-time list.
In addition, he also managed to shatter the all-time record for 3-pointers in a single season last year.
While the body of work is certainly modest, with Curry only in his fourth year in the league, it’s a strong indicator that the Davidson product deserves his place in the discussion of the greatest shooters in NBA history.
The most impressive aspect of Curry’s place among the all-time greats is the type of shots he’s consistently taken to get there. Unlike many legendary distance shooters in the NBA’s history, Stephen Curry is the farthest thing from the prototypical spot-up player.
While shooters such as Kerr and Legler made a living playing limited minutes, situating themselves at some designated point around the arch and waiting for a star offensive player to pass the ball out from a collapsed defense, Curry has put up similar numbers doing just the opposite.
Stephen Curry is the primary ball handler for the Warriors and, as such, often has to create his own looks. Instead of camping out around the paint like most three-point specialists, Curry takes a large number of his attempts off the dribble, either coming through screens or creating space using step-back moves.
If that wasn’t enough of a disadvantage, there are plenty of other factors constantly working against Curry. For one, he’s the team’s primary and, sometimes, only legitimate scoring threat.
This results in constant double teams from opposing defenses that structure their game plans entirely around making another player step up and beat them.
They give Curry their best defender, their undivided attention and he’s still able to do just about anything he wants on the court.
There are also a variety of physical drawbacks that should logically hurt Curry’s performances as a scorer.
He has played heavy minutes throughout his four years in the league, averaging 35.3 minutes per game throughout his career. Unlike 3-point gunners who step in for only a few minutes at a time, Curry is often hoisting up his shots on tired legs.
On top of everything else, he is a relatively small NBA player at 6-3 with a relatively average vertical leap.
While having to often create scoring opportunities for himself, Curry is also constantly forced to release his shots from unusual angles and spots on the court.
He’s drawn warranted comparisons to Allen Iverson, one of the best scoring guards to ever play the game.
Just like the similarly undersized Iverson, Curry is able to take a beating from larger players in the post and still consistently put up points with acrobatic and unorthodox shots.
If all of this wasn’t enough, Stephen Curry isn’t just a scorer. While players like Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant are in the game for the sole reason of putting numbers on the board, Curry has the ability to contribute so much more to his team as a complete point guard.
Although his individual defense leaves a lot to be desired, he has still begun to develop into a floor general and an offensive maestro.
With defenders giving Curry plenty of respect for his range, something you essentially have to do when guarding a player that can splash 27-foot jumpers like they’re free-throws, he has grown noticeably more adept at driving to the basket.
His ability to finish around the rim seems to improve night in and night out with a profusion of floaters, pull-up jumpers, high arching banks and finger rolls over the outstretched arms of his would-be defenders.
As his artistry in the lane continues to improve, so too has ability to get his teammates involved. After his exceptionally dominant performance in last year’s playoffs, Curry also began to consistently gather comparisons to Steve Nash.
Again, the comparison makes sense considering the two are both exceptional shooters with sky-high basketball IQs and dazzling passing abilities.
Curry has already made a habit of creating highlight-reel assists, constantly whipping the ball across court to open shooters or innovatively feeding the ball through traffic to his big men in the post.
While he still has a lot of growing to do to reach a Steve Nashian level, Curry is showing that he has the unselfish nature necessary to anchor historically great offenses.
Stephen Curry could very well be a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle, a unique mixture of superstar skillsets that the league might never see again.
He’s a pure shooter on par with any of the greats, including modern examples such as Reggie Miller and Ray Allen.
Unlike these players, however, Curry is able to consistently create his own open looks from deep off the dribble. While he’s dropping records of such legends as Steve Kerr left and right, he’s also doing so without the help of a superstar like Michael Jordan, a luxury so many great shooters have enjoyed.
He’s an average build player that has the ability to score in bundles like Iverson, yet still distribute the ball meticulously throughout an offense like Nash.
Nothing about Stephen Curry seems to go the way it’s supposed to and, so far at least, that seems to be just fine by him.