Recently we began a series of blog posts examining the likelihood and deservingness of the Warriors top candidates to participate in the 2013 NBA All-Star game in Houston in February. The case for Warriors power forward David Lee was made just days prior to his selection as Western Conference player of the week, an accolade that will do nothing but boost his chances of being selected. But the Warriors hopes don’t stop there. Their promising start to the season has breathed life into a franchise that has been without an All-Star representative in 16 years, and offered the possibility that at least one member of the team could participate in the annual All-Star showcase.
Which player(s) could that be? Time will tell, but fans can do their part and #DubTheVote. In the meantime, we give you the case for Stephen Curry:
Perhaps no player is more symbolic of the reasons for the Warriors early success this season than Stephen Curry. Entering the season, the majority of national pundits certainly had their doubts about the Warriors, and many of those doubts revolved around Curry’s ability to return from a series of ankle injuries that have hampered him throughout his early career. The talent was always there. It was just a question of whether or not he would have the opportunity to display it over the course of a full season. Well, so far, Curry has answered that question and silenced those critics. His prolonged health has provided the Warriors a respite from playing the “what-if” game, and instead allowed them to hone in on “what-is”, painting a more accurate picture of the state of the team and the potential and talents of its roster. More importantly, it’s allowed the Warriors to see what they have in Curry…and at this point, they have to be feeling good about it.
Quick, name your top-five shooters in the NBA. Chances are, Curry made the list. His offensive capabilities have been evident ever since his days at Davidson College where he led a surprise, over-achieving team to the brink of collegiate success, a feat he’s now trying to duplicate with the Warriors in the pro game. As his team has gotten off to a hot start this season, so has his scoring. Curry is tied for ninth in the NBA in scoring and ranks fifth among guards with 19.7 points per game. So far this season, he’s posted career-high streaks of eight-straight games (11/24-12/10) with 20-plus points and 12-straight games (11/18-12/10) with multiple three-pointers. His eight-game 20-point streak is tied for the fifth longest streak in the NBA this season. But it’s not just about how much he’s scoring, it’s when the points are coming in the game. To that end, Curry has proven to be a tremendous value to the Warriors in closing out games. As of Monday morning, Curry is currently tied with defending NBA scoring champ Kevin Durant for the league lead with 52 points scored in “clutch time,” which is defined as the last five minutes of any game that’s within five points. Anytime you’re alongside Durant in a scoring statistic, it’s a good thing, but when you consider the fact that the Warriors are one of only five teams in the NBA to possess three players averaging 15 points or more, the statistic becomes even more impressive. The balanced attack of the Warriors means that more players are getting touches throughout the game, highlighting just how good Curry has been at converting his own opportunities when the game is on the line.
But Curry’s impressive play hasn’t been limited to his ability to put the ball in the basket; he’s provided a consistent on-court leadership presence and taken control of the offense. For a team that relies on a group of contributors rather than a single, ball-dominant scorer, success is predicated on the existence of a player who can orchestrate the offensive sets in a manner that gets everyone their touches, but also feeds the hot hand when it’s going. Curry has managed to accomplish just that, as evidenced by his 6.5 assists per game, which ranks 13th in the NBA. And while naturally you’d expect his scoring to drop in games in which he acts as more of a distributor, this has not been the case. For instance, he posted four consecutive games of 20 points and 10 assists from 11/29 to 12/5, the first such streak by a Warrior since Tim Hardaway had a streak of four games in 1992, a season in which he made the All-Star team. Some more Curry highlights:
- Curry’s four 20-point/10-assist games are also tied for the league-lead with Tony Parker.
- Stephen Curry is one of only four players in the league averaging at least 19 points, six assists and three rebounds, along with LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker.
- Stephen Curry is one of five players with at least four games of 25 points, five assists and five rebounds. The others are LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and Russell Westbrook.
To put it simply, Curry has been a major threat with or without the ball in his hands, and opponents are struggling to find a way to contain him. You don’t end up in that company without producing at an All-Star caliber level. That, after all, is what makes them All-Stars.
There’s something to be said for being the iconic member and leader of a winning basketball team. Curry signed a contract extension in the days prior to the start of the season, and he has backed it up with excellent play and a willingness to do the little things to elevate the Warriors to the next tier of NBA teams. The Warriors (16-8) are off to their best start through 24 games in 21 years, and there’s no doubt that Curry’s growth (and health) have been major contributors to this historic turnaround. Provided that he stays on the court and the team maintains its winning ways, Curry’s name will be one that continues to be tossed around as a potential All-Star candidate. And while it will certainly be tough to crack the lineup considering the plethora of quality guards in the Western Conference, the Warriors’ early season success has to count in his favor. In years past in which the team has had viable All-Star candidates, but not the record to back it up, they were merely afterthoughts in the discussion. But that excuse doesn’t apply this year. The Warriors are winning, and are doing so in impressive fashion. That success, combined with Curry’s undeniable contributions to it, should be enough to put him over the top.
In many respects, the Warriors will go as far as their star point guard takes them. If he keeps this pace up, Curry might just be leading them to Houston come February, but this time, as an All-Star.
Next up: The case for Klay Thompson.