Will Stephen Curry's Ankle Woes Stop Him Short of Superstardom?

Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistApril 25, 2013

The sprained left ankle Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry suffered in a Game 2 win over the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday caused him to miss the Dubs' latest practice, but his ankle troubles won't be enough to derail his ongoing journey toward superstardom.

Rusty Simmons of The San Francisco Chronicle reported on Thursday that Curry's ankle is in worse shape than initially thought:

Clearly, that's not an optimal scenario in the short term. Golden State is already playing without David Lee, who was the team's lone All-Star this past season. The potential absence of Curry, the guy who's actually the team's best player, would be devastating.

But based on what we know about Curry, there's little reason to be concerned for his status in this series, or in his career going forward.

Taking the more immediate concern first, there are a few points about this latest ankle sprain that should engender some optimism.

First of all, the injury is to Curry's left ankle, which is not the one he had surgically repaired over the summer. Now, there's an argument to be made that two bad ankles are worse than one, but at the very least, we know that the ankle Curry rolled isn't the one that caused him to miss the bulk of the 2011-12 season.

And remember, Curry played in the fourth quarter of Game 2 after injuring his ankle with 2:29 remaining in the third. He hit a three and dished out four assists down the stretch. He wasn't quite himself, but he had enough left to continue to play well.

Plus, if there's anything Curry's an expert on (jump-shooting form aside), it's ankle rehabilitation.

The Warriors point guard sprained his right ankle multiple times this season, but thanks to a rigid protocol and plenty of experience with treating that specific injury, Curry missed only four games.

All season long, the only thing quicker than the release on Curry's jumper has been his recovery from ankle sprains.

Besides, this is the postseason. Curry saying he couldn't play if Game 3 were today could contain an element of wanting to deceive the Nuggets. He has no reason to be completely honest in between the games of what has been the most competitive playoff series so far. Every edge counts.

But what about the long-term effects of Curry's shaky ankles? Will the constant sprains and tweaks ultimately prevent him from becoming a superstar?

In an uncomplicated word: no.

But that brief answer requires a lengthier explanation.

Curry may not ever become a true superstar because he has a couple of limitations on the court that have nothing to do with his ankles.

Defensively, the fourth-year player has improved. He has cut down on his penchant for reaching in and has displayed a much better understanding of how to direct his man toward the sideline in pick-and-roll situations.

With that said, Curry still rates as a very poor defender.

On the season, the Warriors gave up an average of 108 points per 100 possessions when Curry was on the floor. When he sat, their defensive rating improved to 102.4 points allowed per 100 possessions. That's a massive difference and one that stands up against anyone who'd argue anecdotally that "the numbers don't tell the whole story."

Those numbers are glaring. They tell enough of the story for us to make a confident assertion that Curry's slim build and lack of lateral quickness on D are the real obstacles obstructing his path to superstardom.

At the same time, there's never been a shooter like Curry. So it's possible that his offensive game will make him so dangerous—so borderline unstoppable—that he'll overcome his defensive limitations.

Curry ranks second on the all-time three-point-percentage list in NBA history with a career accuracy rate of 44.6 percent. In addition, he comes off a season in which he made more three-point shots than any player in history.

There's no reason to expect his percentage to decline as he ages, and as NBA offenses continue to do the math that shows they should take even more threes, it's possible that Curry's already historically good numbers from long range could increase in the coming years.

He has fundamentally perfect form and (justifiably) unwavering confidence in his stroke. Plus, the fact that Curry can hit shots on the catch, off handoffs, on curls and especially off the dribble makes him the most uniquely dangerous perimeter shooter the league has ever seen.

Just look at all the green that the player with the NBA's brightest green light produced in his 2012-13 shot chart:

If he could just find a way to finish more effectively at the rim (floater, anyone?), Curry would be a player capable of doing damage from every spot on the floor. As it is, he's darn close.

Curry has proved to be remarkably resilient all year long. There's little reason to worry about the long-term health of his ankles after watching him play heavy minutes in 78 games during the regular season. He's way past all of the "Curry's too fragile" talk at this point.

If anything ultimately prevents him from becoming a true superstar, it'll be his limitations on defense.

And that's it.

With a good head for the game, leadership skills and a desire to improve, even that bothersome shortcoming may not be around for long.

Curry's already a great player, and his ankles won't stop him from becoming even better.