Can Stephen Curry Evolve into a Top-5 Point Guard?
I had the privilege of watching Curry grow up as a young player in Charlotte, NC and evolve into a NCAA tourney darling a few miles up the road in Davidson.
One constant throughout Curry's journey has been the flawless mechanics and feathery release on his jump shot, which has few rivals in the game today.
Curry acquired his skill honestly since his father Dell was one of the NBA's deadliest sharp-shooters during his playing days with the Charlotte Hornets and later on the Toronto Raptors. But where the elder Curry's game was limited to spot-up shooting from distance, the younger Curry is proving there is more substance beyond his shooting stroke.
Even when Curry was leading tiny Davidson to the Great 8 of the NCAA tournament during his sophomore year, there were detractors who said Curry's game would never translate to the NBA because he would never be able to get his shot off consistently against top-flight competition.
Curry's college coach Bob McKillop switched Curry to the point guard position during his junior season at Davidson, and while Curry responded by upping his scoring average to 28.5 points per game and his assists average to nearly six per game, NBA scouts were still not overly impressed.
One season at point guard was not enough to convince teams in the top five of the 2009 NBA draft that Curry was good enough to take so high, and the Warriors' decision to grab Curry at seventh was roundly criticized by everyone except the New York Knicks, who picked Jordan Hill after Curry.
The Knicks may or may not have selected Curry if he were available, but it's easy to speculate that Knicks management had seen enough of Curry's abilities during his memorable performances in Madison Square Garden as a collegian to take a chance on him at number eight.
Tyreke Evans, Johnny Flynn and Ricky Rubio were all selected ahead of Curry, and Curry has arguably had a better pro career than any of the other lead guards picked before him thus far.
This season Curry is averaging 20.2 points per game, 6.4 assists and 4.1 rebounds, but more importantly his Warriors are 18-9 and firmly in the chase for a playoff spot after a quarter of the 2012-13 season has been played.
And Golden State has been successful with Curry leading the way at the helm, shining at a position that many doubted he could play.
It doesn't hurt that Curry has had an opportunity to learn the nuances of the point guard position from Mark Jackson who was one of the better lead guards in NBA history, and even with all of Curry's current success there is still room to grow.
Curry is shooting an amazing 44 percent from three-point range, which just happens to be better than his 42 percent shooting from the field, and while his playmaking abilities have improved Curry must still cut down on his three turnovers per game.
Recurring injuries to Curry's ankles have further stalled his march to the ranks of elite NBA point guards, but through it all his ability to change games with his shooting stroke has remained constant.
Curry connected on 15 three-pointers in his past two games against Sacramento and Charlotte, and as his ankles grow stronger, Curry appears to be growing more comfortable in his role as the Warriors' leader on the floor.
I'm not sure where Curry would fall in the rankings of the NBA's top point guards today, but it sure wouldn't be in the top five.
Hell, it would be hard to rank Curry in the top three of point guards in his own conference with players like Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker roaming the courts, but like those players Curry possesses an innate ability that makes him special.
For Paul, it's his dribbling ability and court vision; with Parker, it's his quickness off the dribble; and for Westbrook it's the ability to consistently get to the rim and finish with power when he gets there.
Curry doesn't have Paul's vision, Parker's quickness or Westbrook's strength, but none of them can match Curry's shooting ability from distance either, and I'm not sure if anyone in the league has a prettier release.
It's hard to tell if Curry can make the leap to a full-fledged elite guard in the NBA, but it will be hard to deny him that position if his overall game keeps improving and the Warriors keep winning.
Curry has proven that he has the talent to be a legitimate NBA point guard if not a star, and while he is showing his critics that his game is more diverse than his jump shot, it doesn't hurt to have it in the arsenal either.
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