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Top 50 NBA Players: #6 Stephen Curry

October 7, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry (30) shoots the basketball during the second quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Kings 94-81. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Curry
Resume: 22.9 points (7th in league), 4.0 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 1.6 steals, 38.2 minutes (7th in league), 272 threes made (1st in league, NBA record), 45% FG, 45% 3PT (3rd in league), and 90% FT (2nd in league)… Team record in games played: 45-33 (2-2 without)… Playoffs: 23.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 8.1 assists, 1.7 steals, 41.4 minutes, 43% FG, 40% 3PT, 92% FT, 6-6 record… 11th in MVP Voting

Where do I even begin? It’s going to be a difficult task not to sound like a fanboy when I’m writing about one of my favorite athletes ever who just made the leap into superstardom, but let’s give it a try. I’m concerned that I may have inflated Curry’s ranking based on my own personal biases and his ascension into the discussion of the NBA’s elite during the postseason, but my research justified my position on his position in the league. When I’m thinking about Stephen Curry—and trust me when I tell you, I spend far too much time thinking about Stephen Curry— I evaluate him in two ways: What I know about Stephen Curry and what Stephen Curry’s future looks like.

What I know about Stephen Curry:
-He’s the current holder of the Undisputed Best Shooter Alive Championship, and his reign might last as long as Bruno Sammartino’s eight year WWF Championship run did. His release is quicker than a hiccup and his form is as beautiful as Julia Roberts in the early 90’s. There really isn’t a nit you can pick with it. It’s impeccable. Even when he forces a shot up over a hedging big man and takes one from 30 feet away it usually goes in (From 27 feet out to the half court line, Curry shot 47% this year).

-By the numbers, Curry just treated us to one of the all-time great shooting seasons ever. He set the record for three pointers made in a season with 272 (if you want to see 272 consecutive three pointers made, click here for a ten minute montage of every Curry three this season; it doesn’t get old). He did so on 45% shooting which was the 3rd best in the league and 59th best of all-time. Seriously, that’s not right.

-Lost in the hullabaloo with his jumper, people tend to forget that Curry is way more than just a shooter. Watch highlights of Curry on YouTube and try to divert your attention away from the ease which he knocks down three’s. Sure, he takes and makes a lot of contested jumpers, but he also gets himself a lot of good looks. Pay attention to how he always has the ball on a string and uses misdirection moves to get himself space. Pay attention to the way he sets up his defender when he’s the ball handler in a pick and roll, and how he runs defenders off screens when he’s playing off the ball. By my account he’s the most underrated passer in the league. He carves up opposing defenses with his passing once he gets inside the three point arc, and his ability to pass with his offhand supersedes most players passing skills with their strong hand. He’s just a genius offensively. There isn’t any other way to put it. He makes up for a lack of size and athleticism with guile beyond his years, an extremely high basketball IQ, and once in a lifetime shooting skills.

-His post All-Star break/playoffs explosion was as big of a deal as people made it out to be at the time in part because he didn’t make the Western Conference All-Stars. Sometimes when a player looks to be making a leap it turns out it was just a flash in the pan. That’s not the case here. His post All-Star break numbers were off the charts impressive—26 points, 7.4 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 48% FG, 46% 3 PT, 89% FT—and there were just too many big games and memorable moments for this to be a one hit wonder of sorts. The 54 point outburst at Madison Square Garden (third best ever at MSG and the highest scoring total of the 2012-13 NBA season)… 47 points at Staples Center… the first 44 point, 11 assist game in the postseason since Michael Jordan did so in 1990… and a few third quarter explosions during the postseason that are the stuff of legends. True story: I can tell you where I was and who I was with when Curry went bananas in Game 4 against Denver. Sure, it’s only been six months, but I know that I will always remember sitting at the Keys Bar with my roommate Weston, a little intoxicated, eating loaded fries during the 5 minute stretch in the third quarter when Stephen Curry scored 22 points and 18,000 basketball fans at Oracle Arena turned into giddy teenage girls at a One Direction concert. It was just incredible to watch.

-He’s already more of a complete player than Ray Allen and Reggie Miller were, and someday (if his ankles will allow it) Curry will surpass both of them as the all-time three point shooting king. Oh, you don’t believe me? Let’s get to that right now.

What Stephen Curry’s future looks like:
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Curry will break the NBA record for career three pointers. The two players that Curry is battling are Ray Allen and Reggie Miller, and right now he’s on pace to shatter that ever-growing record Ray Allen has. Check this out:

Reggie Miller after year four: 421 three pointers made, 38% 3PT, 320 games played
Ray Allen after year four: 497 three pointers made, 39% 3PT, 296 games played
Stephen Curry after year four: 644 three pointers made, 45% 3PT, 258 games played

Through four seasons, Curry is making nearly a whole three pointer more per game than Allen or Miller were and he’s shooting a far better percentage than both Allen and Miller did. Longevity may be the key. Allen is going into year eighteen and Reggie Miller played eighteen seasons as well. This all comes down to Curry’s ankles (I hate having to type this).

-Curry’s ceiling looks something similar to Steve Nash 2.0, whatever that is. Curry’s skill set is very similar to Nash’s, only Curry’s wired to score. However, he is a willing passer and with better teammates surrounding him he could easily start putting up larger assist numbers. Would a 25 point and 9 assist season be completely out of the question with Curry? I don’t think so. I actually think it’s in play somewhere down the line. The Curry-led Warriors could be the closest thing to the seven seconds or less Phoenix Suns teams we’ve seen.

-And that brings me to my final point. If Stephen Curry stays healthy (And I’d gladly donate both of my ankles to him if mine were healthier than his to ensure this) he will go down as one of the all-time best to play the game.  I put that in bold because that’s what you call a bold prediction. He’s a brilliant player, a great ambassador for the NBA and his home crowd adores him. He’s a terrific teammate and the most fun player to watch in the league. He can do all things.

sonnygiuliano