AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - The Pistons have never been one of the NBA’s most prolific 3-point shooting teams, but at the height of their six-year stretch of conference finals runs they made great use of the arc. Chauncey Billups became Mr. Big Shot mostly for his deadly delivery of critical 3-pointers. Rasheed Wallace always seemed to launch a few poison darts from the other side of the arc in key Pistons wins.
But Billups is gone and Wallace, by most appearances, will be out the door in July when he hits free agency. Even with him around for 66 games last season, the Pistons were one of the league’s least potent 3-point teams. Only Philadelphia and Oklahoma City averaged fewer triples per game than the Pistons’ 13.16 attempts – the league average was 18.12 – and their .349 percentage from the arc ranked 26th and below the league average of .367.
The 3-point shot has become a tremendous weapon. Teams that don’t have at least a few consistent threats have an arsenal deficiency every bit as glaring as rebounding or defensive weaknesses.
So you can bet that if Davidson’s Stephen Curry somehow falls past Golden State at No. 7, New York at No. 8 and everybody else who picks ahead of the Pistons at No. 15, he would get serious consideration from Joe Dumars on draft night.
While it’s almost universally true that rookies entering the NBA need a year or two, at least, to adjust to the greater 3-point distance and the speed of the game in order to become real assets from the arc, Curry is, by acclamation, fully expected to be an exception. Everybody expects the son of longtime NBA shooting guard Dell Curry to come in and immediately provide a scoring threat.
The questions on Curry are anything and everything else. Can his frail frame hold up against NBA defenses? Can he make enough plays for others to be considered a point guard? If he’s not really a point guard, can he defend shooting guards?
One thing’s for sure: Curry showed scouts plenty over his three seasons at Davidson in regard to fearlessness. Playing against Goliaths, he led the small-school Wildcats to within a whisker of the 2008 NCAA Final Four, losing in the Midwest regional finals at Ford Field to eventual champion Kansas in the final minute.
Curry’s numbers were gaudy, averaging 28.6 points as a junior. After playing off the ball his first two seasons, Davidson needed him to play the point last season and he proved adept as a ballhandler and setup man, averaging 5.6 assists and showing instincts – no-look passes, one-handed touch bounce passes through traffic – at times that called to mind Steve Nash.
He didn’t back down from stiff competition, either, as Davidson coach Bob McKillop scheduled up in an attempt to pad his team’s NCAA tournament resume. In a four-point loss at Oklahoma last season, Curry tossed in 44 points. He had 44 more against North Carolina State and 29, eight boards and six assists against Duke.
Curry shot more than 45 percent all three seasons at Davidson even though a staggering 47 percent of his career shot attempts came from beyond the 3-point line. Only in his final season, when he was a .387 3-point shooter, was he under 40 percent from the arc. And because Curry was the focal point of every defense, many of his 3-point shots were taken from well beyond the college line.
Of the 12 players Pistons.com chose in mid-May to profile for the June 25 draft, Curry seems the unlikeliest to be available at No. 15. From his ability to carry a lesser team to the way he handled the transition to point guard as a junior, he has fewer question marks than anyone in the draft outside of presumptive No. 1 pick Blake Griffin. Others might have greater potential, but Curry seems too safe a pick – and too alluring a prospect – to slide out of the lottery and into the Pistons’ hands. But if he’s there, a team starved for 3-point shooting might have a hard time looking past him.