Stephen Curry has developed rapidly this season, even garnering All-Star talk with a legitimate shot to be the first Warrior to make the team since Latrell Sprewell in 1997. He has assumed the team’s leadership role and is very adept at getting everyone involved in the action.
This season is a lot different from last year. His play this season has almost erased any thoughts of his past ankle problems, where it seemed that if you even looked at his ankle, he would come up lame.
Contract issues have been put away as Curry was rewarded with a four-year, $44 million deal that now seems like it was a huge discount. Curry is averaging a line of 20.5 PPG, 6.6 APG and 4.2 RPG versus 14.7 PPG, 5.3 APG and 3.4 RPG that he put up last year.
The biggest change from last season is his mobility. Curry is fully functional as the ankle problems have disappeared after his last surgery in April 2012. Curry is a lot more agile, as he can break and cut with ease. Since he had the small ankle tweak in preseason versus the Trail Blazers, he has had a clean bill of health.
As you can see from this play, Curry drives to the rack, fakes the behind-the-back fakeout and finishes while showing off his ball-handling skills.
The benefit of his mobility is that he can space defenders when he has the ball. He is no longer locked into spot-up shooting or just making a pass. Curry has earned the extra few inches, which only gives him more ammunition to make moves like he showed above.
Curry is also benefitting from the absence of Monta Ellis. Ellis was a legitimate playmaker, but he stunted the growth of Curry. Eliis wanted the ball in his hands more than Curry, and the two literally couldn’t exist in the same backcourt.
Yes, the two did combine on some beautiful playmaking like what is shown in the clip below. Curry is in the ball-handling position where he is most comfortable and finds the streaking Ellis for the gorgeous alley-oop.
You can analyze all sorts of statistics to breakdown their tandem and spin it either way. The bottom line is that Curry couldn’t develop the way he has without Ellis and the Warriors never had a winning season with the two paired together.
This season is a completely different story. The pieces to this squad have meshed well with the key free-agent additions by GM Bob Myers and the three rookies they drafted.
One of his easiest targets is David Lee, who is having an All-Star caliber season like Curry.
In this play, David Lee sets the pick for Curry, who starts to drive to the basket. David Lee rolls off the pick and is wide open running toward the basket. Curry gets Lee the ball and Lee drives to the basket for an easy layup.
Curry and Lee were a great tandem during the 2010-11 season, but never established the rhythm last season. They have picked up right where they left off from two years ago and are the top two scorers on this up-and-coming Dubs team.
Lee’s movement around the paint, his ball-handling skills and court awareness have definitely improved the flow on the court and has given Curry a guaranteed option. Yes, he can always pass it to Klay Thompson for the catch-and-shoot or Harrison Barnes for an athletic move to the hoop.
That brings us back to confidence, as this is Curry’s team now and he doesn’t have to stand in the shadow of Monta Ellis anymore.
Curry has the talent and depth around him so that he doesn’t have to shoulder the burden alone. Their big acquisition of last season, Andrew Bogut, has yet to return, but the starters and bench players are more than making up for his loss.
There is no ego on this team, either. Everyone works extremely well together, and all five guys on the floor have to work together, since there is no superstar. That style helps the guys who average fewer minutes feel like they are really contributing.
They are buying in to the fact that this franchise can win games and make the playoffs. The disastrous years and culture since Run-TMC was disbanded are beginning to become distant memories.
Curry took a little bit longer to get into the grove at the start of the season because he didn’t fully participate in training camp or the preseason. However, his shooting has gotten a lot stronger as you can see from this clip below:
Curry made eight three-pointers in the game and has raised his season average to 46.1 percent, which is better than his career average of 44.6 percent.
Because everybody is contributing, Curry isn’t being double-teamed constantly and he is getting better looks. With the ball being moved around so often, everyone is a threat, especially with such deadly shooters on the floor.
That is one of the reasons why Curry is having such success from behind the line this season.
The other major difference in Curry’s play is his defense this season. Ever since Mark Jackson took over the team, Curry has been practicing the art of defense. He has become more of a pest and is playing a tighter brand of defense.
As you can see from the clip below, Curry steals the ball from the Charlotte Bobcats' Kemba Walker and races to the hoop for the score.
Curry is very self-aware on the play as you can see when he goes up for the basket. Instead of forcing the ball up and having it blocked, Curry uses his body and goes for the reverse layup.
Curry has a lot better understanding of defensive positioning and where he needs to be. He is not the quickest guard on the floor, but knowing where he needs to be in the lanes forces opponents to make the extra pass. The extra pass can disrupt the scheme and even force a turnover.
Curry will continue to improve on the defensive side of the floor with the help of his teammates and lessons from Coach Jackson.
The bottom line is that Curry is healthy and is showing what he can really produce as the leader of the Golden State Warriors. He is the face of the franchise and will likely be so for a very long time. He should continue his ascent and make the Warriors a perennial playoff team.
Stats used in this article were accurate as of January 15, 2013.
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