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Why a Healthy Stephen Curry Is the Key to Golden State Warriors' Season

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Why a Healthy Stephen Curry Is the Key to Golden State Warriors' Season
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Stephen Curry’s breakout season last year made him one of the league’s top point guards, and the league’s best shooter.  For the Golden State Warriors, Steph is more than just an insanely accurate shooter and elusive playmaker: He is the man.  All of their offseason acquisitions don’t mean a thing without the most integral part of their team: their 6’3”, 185-pound point guard.  The weight of the Golden State Warriors 2013-2014 season rests on Stephen Curry’s shoulders.

Well, more like his ankles.

 

Shooting Ability

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Stephen Curry can shoot it.  Plain and simple.  Gregg Popovich, known for his brutal honesty, likened watching Stephen Curry shoot to watching Michael Jordan play, a huge compliment from a future Hall of Famer.

Curry’s pure shooting form is not only beautiful, it’s effective.  He entered last season as the only player in NBA history with career percentages of at least 47 percent from the field, 44 percent from three and 90 percent from the free-throw line.  He also entered the season tied for second with Hubert Davis on the NBA’s all-time, three-point percentage list with 44.1 percent from behind the arc, just behind Steve Kerr’s 45.4 percent.

During last season, Curry had the best individual scoring game of the year with 54 points in Madison Square Garden (click to watch, and please watch), and he broke Ray Allen’s record for three-pointers made in a season with 272.  He did so with tremendous accuracy, shooting 45.3 percent from three-point range.  Just check out his shooting heat map.

And that’s just for the regular season.  Curry’s record doesn’t include his 42 made three pointers in 12 playoff games last season.

The 2012-13 playoffs were Stephen Curry’s coming out party.  We watched as a boy became a man with dazzling plays, big time shots and momentous emotion.  It was his first postseason appearance of his four-year NBA career, and man, was it a big one—including a 29-point, 11-assist Game 3 versus the Denver Nuggets, a 31-point performance in 33 minutes of play in Game 4 and 22 points and 8 assists in Game 6.

That was just the first series.

In the Western Conference Semifinals versus the San Antonio Spurs, Curry set the bar high with a 44-point, 11-assist performance in Game 1.  You can see four minutes and 45 seconds of head-shakingly good highlights in the video below.  

He followed that outstanding performance with three more 22-point performances, and ended his first postseason appearance averaging 23.4 points per game, 8.1 assists per game, 1.7 steals and 3.8 rebounds per game. 

Not bad for a non-All-Star.

 

More than a Shooter

We know Curry can shoot, but his court vision, passing skills and leadership are too often overlooked.  During his 2011-12 season, Steph became one of only seven players to score at least 36 points and earn 6 assists in multiple games.  The six other players: LeBron James, Russel Westbrook, Kobe Bryant, Tony Parker, Chris Paul and Deron Williams.

Pretty good company. 

Curry averaged 6.9 assists per game during the regular season last year, and his numbers only improved during the playoffs.  His ability to see the floor and his passing skills make for some awesome highlights.  Just check out this 2012-2013 passing highlight video.  

The man is a defender magnet.  Defenders have to respect his shooting ability, drawing them away from the basket.  His ball handling skills (and sometimes a screen) get him by defenders and into the paint, drawing more defenders.  By the time he gets near the paint, he has the attention of at least three defenders, opening up his teammates.

His ability to look off defenders and make no-look passes only adds to his ability to get the ball to his open teammates.

Curry’s unselfishness, his great attitude and his passionate intensity while playing are key characteristics for any point guard.  A great point guard motivates and inspires his teammates to get better, to play for each other.   

When Curry’s appearance in Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals was questionable after tweaking his ankle, teammate Klay Thompson told the Oakland Tribune, “He’ll play.  No question about it.  He will play through anything.  He’s got heart.”

Exactly what you want to hear from a teammate describing his point guard.

Former teammate Ronny Turiaf says Curry’s got the "it" factor.  And boy, does he.

As Gwen Knapp of Sports on Earth describes Steph Curry in her article "The Gracefulness of Stephen Curry," "Nobody in the NBA plays more elegantly..."

Curry has a way of “just playing,” as so many coaches beg their players to do.  He lets the game come to him.  He never tries to get his points; he takes what the defense gives him, and does so gracefully and effortlessly. 

 

Looking Ahead

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The Golden State Warriors return all five starters from last year and have added Andre Iguodala, Jermaine O’Neal and Nemanja Nedovic to their already young and talented roster.  Adding these defensive pieces make the Warriors even more dangerous.   

Even Curry has promised to improve his defense this season

This defensive intensity shouldn’t take away from Golden State’s exciting offense.  In fact, Iguodala’s shooting ability will open up the floor for Curry to penetrate and dish, setting up other shooters like Klay Thompson and big men like Andrew Bogut.

Golden State’s offseason acquisitions make the team very dangerous, and even possibly title contenders. But the most important factor in this equation: Stephen Curry’s health.

Snubbed of an All-Star selection, Steph is ready to work—ready to build off his breakout season, live up to the hype and continue to prove himself.  He’s coming off of his first healthy offseason since his rookie summer in 2009, and he has taken advantage of it.

"I've kind of been in an underdog situation since high school," Curry told DeAntae Prince of Sporting News NBA (linked above). "That's the one thing I can control, how hard you work in the gym in the summer because it prepares you to get through an 82-game schedule. It gets harder and harder every year. That's a big part of my progression as a player."

Before Dub-Nation can order their Western Conference Final Championship hats, we have to discuss Golden State’s Achilles' heel: Steph’s ankles.

He has had ankle surgery twice.  He’s missed 54 games in his four-year NBA career due to ankle injuries, and he’s turned and tweaked his ankle numerous times.  Check out his ankle injury timeline.

For Warrior fans, losing Steph to an injury is worrisome enough, but look at his backups and you may worry a little more.

The backups for Curry’s position: Toney Douglas, Nemanja Nedovic and possibly Seth Curry if he makes the team.  None of whom have had much, if any, experience in the big leagues.  Bumping Toney Douglas up to starter will put the rookies Nedovic and Seth Curry in a bigger rotational position.

The Warriors’ depth at point guard is so shallow basketball-reference’s depth chart lists zero backups for Steph.

Don’t fear, Dub-Nation, I have faith your “underdog” hero Stephen Curry will throw on his cape this season.  His talent, work ethic and determination will lead the Warriors to the Western Conference Finals.

If you still have doubts, check out Steph’s windmill dunk from last week (his first complete windmill ever).

No Achilles' ankles there.

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