Stephen Curry will face an enormous amount of pressure to perform well after signing a four-year, $44 million contract extension.
The Golden State Warriors inked star point guard Stephen Curry to a four-year contract extension on Wednesday, locking up their franchise cornerstone for the foreseeable future. The question is–was it a smart deal?
No one can deny Curry's talent. He can score 30 points on any given night and is one of the best shooters in the NBA. But a recurring ankle issue sidelined him for 40 games last season and his production dipped severely. The ankle required surgery and Curry tweaked it again in a recent preseason game.
There are many other reasons why the Warriors' decision to extend Curry is risky. Ultimately, it comes down to whether or not Curry can get on the floor. The Warriors had better hope so, or their risky investment will be for naught.
The principle concern for the Warriors is Curry's surgically repaired ankle.
As was stated before, Curry has a significant injury problem.
Ankle injuries don't just go away—they are very hard to overcome and can come back to bite you no matter how or when you play. In Curry's case, it becomes especially important because of how he plays. He makes a lot of cuts and, as a guard, runs up and down the floor for 30 to 35 minutes per game.
If he had broken a bone or even torn something, the Warriors would probably feel better. Believe it or not, a chronic ankle problem is probably more intimidating to an organization than a single torn muscle. Torn muscles can be repaired and made stronger; ankles are fickle things that can adversely affect any player and can never be fully healed.
The biggest issue is this: Curry simply hasn't shown any signs of overcoming his injury. It wasn't like he hurt it and was out for 40 straight games last year—he kept coming back and re-injuring it, which means he simply wasn't able to prevent himself from tweaking it.
This injury is the single most important thing the Warriors have to worry about. Curry is the franchise player, the guy the organization wants to build around. If he can't even get on the court, the contract extension will be a waste and the team will have to start over. Curry's health is absolutely critical to Golden State's success.
We all know Curry can score with the best of them, but his injury issues have caused problems with his on-ball defense.
Stephen Curry isn't terrible at defense, but he's certainly nothing special. He can steal the ball, but his on-ball defense is questionable and he was downright awful while battling his injury.
Curry puts in a lot of work on the offensive side of the ball, and it causes his defense to suffer. Do the Warriors really want to pay $44 million to a guy who can't defend well at all?
Curry's lone defensive asset is his ability to strip the ball and start a fast break. Other than that, he's pretty miserable.
He can't fight through screens and often gets caught over-committing for a steal. It's not entirely his fault—he's only 185 pounds after all—but the Warriors are a terrible defensive team as it is and they can't afford to have opposing point guards run all over them on a nightly basis.
Golden State is probably willing to overlook Curry's defensive weaknesses, but it could come back to bite them.
Curry was especially bad when he was making a return from the ankle injury. He's a mediocre defender at best and his bum ankle makes him a definite liability. The Warriors need to work with him to make him defensively competent because it won't matter how many points he scores if he can't help the team stop anyone.
With Monta Ellis now a member of the Bucks, the Warriors are Curry's team. He's never had to be a No. 1 star, so the Warriors need to hope their investment can produce star numbers.
Curry was a superstar when he played college ball at Davidson, but the NBA is a different animal and he is facing a new reality this year. For the first time in his professional career, he will be looked at as the No. 1 scoring option for his basketball team.
Monta Ellis was the Warriors' most dependable scoring option for the last several seasons, but he was shipped off to Milwaukee last season and the offensive reins are now firmly in Curry's grasp. He'll have help: David Lee and Andrew Bogut are forces in the middle and there is definite talent on the roster.
But was it smart to give him a new deal when Golden State really isn't positive that he can be a legitimate star?
Obviously, the Warriors are banking on Curry developing into a consistent 25-point per game player. But the risk is ever-present because Curry simply has never had to deal with that pressure. Add in the injury, and you have a recipe for potential disaster.
Of course, everything could and probably will work out fine. But as it is, the Warriors took a major risk in signing Stephen Curry long-term. Golden State fans are hoping they can get excellent returns on the team's investment.