The Golden State Warriors made an investment in their historically fragile point guard, Stephen Curry, at the beginning of the season in hopes that he would become an All-Star player, and not another Grant Hill. So far this season, he seems to be on the right track.
Golden State's last All-Star was more than a decade ago, with Latrell Sprewell making the 1997 All-Star Game despite being outside the top 10 in fan voting.
Nonetheless, it's a bit surprising to see a franchise go so long without an All-Star in a league when talent can come and go on a whim or the flick of a pen.
Curry has come out this season very well after signing a four-year, $44 million deal just after the start of the season.
There have been a few scares here and there when he's rolled his ankle and staggered a bit afterward, but for the most part, he's looked excellent and well-recovered from his injury a season ago.
Can we take a second to note how awesome it is that Stephen Curry (KNOCK ON ALL THE WOOD EVER) is looking so good? So good.
— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) December 9, 2012
So with his play this season, averaging 20 points, four rebounds, 6.5 assists and nearly two steals, should Curry be a Western Conference All-Star at this point?
Let's take a look at all the factors necessary first of all.
As far as shooting goes, Stephen Curry has taken a step back in terms of efficiency, although perhaps not as much as it seems.
Curry is shooting just 43 percent compared to 49 percent a season ago (in a similar number of games), but when you factor in the fact that he's getting to the line twice as often (four free-throw attempts per game compared to 1.8 last year) and a continuing high three-point percentage at just over 43 percent, then he's still doing a good job putting the ball in the hole.
When you put it all together, he's got a true shooting percentage of 56.7 percent, compared to just over 60 percent last season.
As far as leading the team goes, Curry's progression is night and day compared to the past three years.
He's no longer got to compete with Monta Ellis as the leader of the team, and with that has come an increase in the number of assists he lands per game while not dominating the ball. He's doing more while having the ball in roughly the same amount of usage compared to last season (24 percent last year, 24.8 percent this year), trusting his teammates to make the right decision while controlling the game when it needs controlling.
Plus, he's been a model of consistency this season.
With another 20/10 effort last night, @stephencurry30 is 1st Warrior to post 20points/10assists in 4 straight gms since Tim Hardaway in 1992— Golden St. Warriors (@warriors) December 6, 2012
One of the most intriguing part of Curry's game this season has been his ability to knock down a three-pointer, despite the fact that he's also the guy initiating the offense. That means he's usually the one taking contested shots late in the shot clock, and a lot more attempts above the break, than in the corner.
Generally speaking, most shooters feel more comfortable with the corner three than the straight-away or elbow three, but Curry is shooting an extremely impressive 43 percent from above the break, and an even better 47 percent from the corner.
He's putting together a Steve Nashian type of game where he can control the game and be the primary distributor but continue to score well in the process, focusing on hitting from the three-point line.
Western Conference Competition
The biggest problem that Curry has to contend with is that they've whittled the All-Star voting down to groupings of frontcourt and backcourt players, meaning he's competing with shooting guards for a starting spot, as well as point guards.
As far as those two spots go, Kobe Bryant is going to have one of them. That should already be a given.
You know what, we can probably go ahead and give the other starting guard spot to either Russell Westbrook or Chris Paul, with Paul the likely choice of the two. Either way, the two of them will be in the All-Star Game unless something unforeseen derails their mojo.
With more front than backcourt spots to fill, that likely means just two more spots for Curry to have a shot at.
Of course, there's a monkey wrench thrown in if somehow the hype and international populous stuff the ballot box for Jeremy Lin like they did with Yao Ming in his final year, but I'm not so sure that's going to be the case.
The rest of the competition, aside from Curry, would include the likes of Tony Parker, James Harden and O.J. Mayo (who is extremely hot to start the season).
All-Star, Yea or Nay?
Curry's chances of making the All-Star Game will hinge on the coaches' choice, as he's looking at being a reserve unless he finds himself a crazy number of votes along the way.
One of either Westbrook or Paul will be a guarantee for the first guard off the bench (whichever isn't voted the starter).
It seems likely that Parker makes the team, as he's playing at a very high level yet again, and he's got a marvelous reputation around the league, which will weigh heavily on the coaches' decision.
You can probably take Mayo off that list, as he's still a young guy, and his success has predicated on him being on an insatiable hot streak compared to the rest of his career.
Unfortunately for Curry, if the team only goes five guards deep, he's going to be the sixth guard on the list.
Harden's ascension to the top of the league is very hard to ignore, and the fact that he's been in the public eye so much is going to influence the decision of quite a few people.
It's a shame, because Curry has been playing at such a high level, but with the guys ahead of him playing so well, it's going to be hard for him to crack that top five.