When Stephen Curry goes around handing out his business card to people who don't know him, it no longer has to say "Stephen Curry, shooting god" on it.
Now it can just say, "Stephen Curry, NBA superstar."
As B/R's Josh Martin recently wrote, "Curry should've been an All-Star in 2013 and almost certainly will be this time around." That's a completely accurate statement, and the surefire nature of his candidacy is a true testament to just how dominant he's become while running the show for the Golden State Warriors.
Curry was tracking toward stardom throughout 2013.
We saw him explode for gaudy point totals multiple times, set the all-time record for single-season triples made, carry his Dubs in the playoffs and establish himself as one of the league's best point guards. In fact, it's now tough to make a case for putting anyone other than Chris Paul ahead of him in rankings at his position.
At this point, the transformation is complete. Forget about tracking toward stardom, as Curry has officially arrived.
It's no secret that Curry can put up a lot of points in a hurry.
Heading into 2014, the young point guard is averaging 22.9 points per game (interestingly enough, the same average he produced during the 2012-13 season), and that leaves him as the No. 8 scorer in basketball.
But don't make the mistake of thinking that Curry is just a three-point shooter.
Yes, he's the most dangerous sniper in the league, as his combination of volume and efficiency is incredible, as is the ability to knock down deep shots off the bounce. However, only 9.6 of his points per game come from beyond the three-point arc.
The rest have to come from elsewhere, and Curry has become an increasingly potent scorer inside the arc. Between his floaters, runners, mid-range jumpers and creative finishes around the basket, it's nearly impossible to keep him corralled for an entire game.
This season, he boasts a true shooting percentage of 57.6, which leaves no doubt that he's one of the more efficient volume scorers in basketball. Especially impressive has been his work off the dribble. NBA.com's SportVU data defines a pull-up attempt as a jumper outside of 10 feet that comes after at least one dribble, and no player has been as potent as the Davidson product:
Want to take a wild guess which data point represents Curry?
It's not too hard. He's the one leading the league in pull-up points per game by a rather large margin (10.8), and he's right up there with the best of the best in terms of shooting percentage (42.3). That's a stellar combination, and it leaves him as the clear outlier in this category.
Curry is no longer a limited scorer. Not at all.
He's a completely dominant pull-up player and remains one of the league's best three-point marksman, but as you can see below, his points are coming in just about every variety during the 2013-14 season:
Calling this guy a shooter is selling him short.
First of all, he's a scorer, not a shooter. There's a big difference, as the young guard is capable of creating looks for himself on a regular basis and does far more than just spot up and wait for opportunities to present themselves. In fact, 111 players are taking more catch-and-shoot looks than Curry, according to the SportVU numbers.
Secondly, Curry does more than put the ball in the basket.
It's easy to overlook the brilliance Curry puts on display with his passing skills.
Watching him shoot three-pointers can be addictive, and it's even more fun to spectate as he crosses over opponents and drives into the teeth of the paint. But it distracts you from appreciating what he can do when setting up his teammates.
Take a look at the top five players in the NBA in assists per game:
That might catch you by surprise, but it shouldn't, especially if you've been watching Curry recently. During December, the baby-faced point guard averaged 10.3 dimes per game, leaving him within striking distance of the elusive 20/10 club after upping his numbers each month of the season.
In NBA history, only nine players have ever gained access to that exclusive group:
- Michael Adams
- Tim Hardaway
- Tiny Archibald
- Magic Johnson (three times)
- Kevin Johnson (three times)
- Chris Paul (twice)
- Deron Williams
- Isiah Thomas (four times)
- Oscar Robertson (five times)
Curry's bid now has to be taken seriously, especially after this past month.
Throughout his career, he's gotten increasingly adept at distributing the ball to his talented teammates, and it helps that he's now playing on a stacked Golden State Warriors squad that features potent scorers like Klay Thompson and David Lee.
Assist percentage tracks the percentage of teammate's made shots while a player is on the floor that are assisted by the player in question, and Curry's mark has trended upward throughout his career:
From last year to this season, now that's a big improvement.
Not only is Curry getting better at finding his teammates, but he's also spending a lot more time with the ball in his hands. NBA.com's SportVU data shows that 10 players record more touches per game than the Dubs superstar, but John Wall, Brandon Jennings and Chris Paul are the only guys who spend more time touching the ball during the average contest.
And that's the last true key in Curry's rise to superstardom.
You can watch him now and get the same feeling that rises up when viewing Kevin Durant going to work for the Oklahoma City Thunder. It's the same thing that happens when LeBron James is running the show in South Beach.
These superstars don't allow you to take your eyes of them, especially when they're controlling the ball. When they have the rock, the coaches don't have to worry about calling plays, because there's so much trust that the player in question will make the right decision.
Curry now has the freedom to go to work in isolation, employing plenty of crossovers and hesitation dribbles as he tries to get into the teeth of the defense. If it doesn't work, he's allowed to try again.
It takes a special player to completely control an offense, and Curry is certainly in that category at this stage in his promising career. Whether he's scoring or distributing, he's going to make a monstrous impact for the Dubs.
That's different than last season.
When Curry was being contained by a defensive system in 2012-13, he would keep shooting away, forcing his offense and eschewing the contributions he could make in other areas. The first game of the regular season, an Oct. 31 contest against the Phoenix Suns, showed it all, as he shot two of 14 from the field and only recorded three assists.
This season, that hasn't happened.
When Curry's shots aren't falling, he's turning to his passing. Against those same Suns—albeit a better version of them—on Dec. 27, the point guard recorded $1.60 worth of dimes, seven of which came in the second half when he couldn't get his attempts to drop through the net.
As Golden State head coach Mark Jackson told the Associated Press via ESPN after the game, "He was spectacular. I love the way he competed. It was impressive the way he ran the team and kept his foot on the gas pedal."
That, more so than anything else, has been the key.
Curry is more than a competitor now. He's an intelligent competitor, one who both understands the tools he has at his disposal and knows how to use them.
It's a scary thought for the rest of the NBA.
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