On May 1st, Stephen Curry finally returned to the Golden State Warriors lineup after a five-week absence and in doing so, caused a collective feeling of anger across the NBA’s remaining 8 playoff teams. See, Curry is not only a great basketball player but, when healthy, the most important to the Warriors juggernaut. So when Curry went off for 28 points in just 27 minutes, shooting 5 for 10 from three, the one hope his health would be a factor in the 2018 playoffs seemed to go out the window, along with the remaining team’s chances of hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy in June. But, what exactly makes Curry so valuable to this team? If you ask basketball fans they either love or hate Curry, with many calling him “overrated” and to those people who love to hate Steph, they couldn’t be more wrong. Here, are five reasons as to not only why the haters of Stephen Curry are wrong but also, why his value cannot be overstated in the Bay Area.
Okay, let’s get the obvious one out of the way. Stephen Curry is the greatest three-point shooter in NBA history. He combines a quick release with never before seen range and a handle that makes him much more than catch and shoot one trick pony. When someone is the greatest at something in NBA history, generally it is a massive asset not only to himself but also to his team and for Curry, his shooting is no different. When a deep Curry three splashes, not only does it inspire his teammates but it also crushes the opposing team. Imagine playing perfect transition defense only for a player to pull up from basically the logo, make the shot and completely eliminate the positive feelings of the work of that defense. Moments like that are what Steph will do multiple times each game and, it is what starts to build the Warriors culture that we see today.
One thing often overlooked by mainstream fans and media is the space Curry provides by just being on the floor and the term for this is gravity. See, as a defender, you can only allow Curry so much real estate to operate in and so, this “pull” he has directly made space for players like Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson who on any other team would have to deal with help from Curry’s defender. So, by just being on the floor he acts as a playmaker for his teammates without even touching the ball. That is why when you see Curry cutting and flying around screens the plays aren’t necessarily designed for him but rather, causing the defense to focus on him thus, creating space for his teammates to go to work.
One of Curry’s greatest attributes even dating back to his days at Davidson is his ability to push the pace. Whether it’s with a great outlet pass to a streaking Warrior to set up a fast break, a pull up three or even when he runs down on the weak side and gets open for a shot, this pushing of the pace allows the Warriors to play how they want to and not into the other teams favour. Back in the 90’s before the pace and space era, a defensive stop would more often than not result in a half-court set at the other end but, what Curry allows his teammates to do with his pushing of the pace is to play in odd-man situations in the open floor, something much harder to generate in the half-court. These odd man situations not only allow all time shooters and scorers like Thompson and Durant to get open looks but also, role players like Nick Young and Andre Iguodala who often need more open looks to cash in.
Although Curry for his career only averages 6.8 assists per game his playmaking ability for his teammates with the ball in his hands can’t be overstated. Curry has perfected the pocket pass to a roller on the pick and roll which not only often sets up layups but, if teams help, wide open threes in the corner and a hockey assist for Curry. He also is great at finding cutters, which is something Thompson and Iguodala have perfected in their time playing alongside their point guard. Lastly, he is a great swinger of the ball thanks to his unselfishness. Although most players would jack up semi-contested threes if they had Curry’s ability what he does that is very unique is he often gives up his good shot for an even greater shot for his teammates, causing many of the Warriors patented ball movement plays.
Every time Stephen Curry steps on the floor, the Warriors instantly have their culture back. A culture of unselfish, high basketball IQ, the efficiency that has terrorized the NBA for the last four years. When a player as great as Curry does something as simple as recruit a more talented player like Durant to his team, it establishes an idea that winning is the most important thing above everything else and that continues onto the floor. It allows teammates to look for a great shot as opposed to a good one because even Curry will or, to compete on the defensive end because despite lacking raw skill on that end, he will still find a way to be disruptive and continue to work. Even on offense, the fact he is willing to continuously cut and play without the ball always in his hands creates a culture that no one, not even him is bigger than the team.
Stephen Curry will never be the most talented or athletic Warrior player but what he will always be, is the catalyst for today’s best NBA team and that, is something more valuable than anything you’ll find in a basic box score. Not like it matters to him though because for Curry, what matters most is winning, something that will continue to happen with him on the floor in 2018 for the Golden State Warriors.