Unfortunately, this can’t be answered with a yes or no. It has to be answered with another question: What’s your definition of a superstar?
If you’re of the mind that the number of NBA superstars can be counted on only one man’s hand, then Curry certainly doesn’t make the cut. But if you’re an NBA fan who believes that the league is littered with superstars—from LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul all the way down to players such as Kevin Love and Carmelo Anthony—well then, it’s official: Curry is a superstar.
So, it’s really up to you.
No matter how you classify or categorize Curry, though, it still doesn’t change the kind of player he is, which is one of a kind. And many of the numbers tell that story. Curry, a Western Conference starter at guard at last weekend’s All-Star Game, is averaging 24.6 points per game, good for fifth-best in the league.
He leads the league in assists (9.0), despite many basketball people and observers maintaining he’s not a “true” point guard. Now throw in 1.7 steals per game (tied for 10th) and you start figuring you might have yourself an MVP candidate.
But below the rainbow jumpers and clever floaters, there are other, less flattering things about Curry’s game. For one, even though his reputation as one of the game’s great shooters continues to soar, his shooting percentage from distance this year is well off from where it has been.
Over the past two seasons, Curry has shot better than 45 percent from three-point range. This year Curry is shooting only 41.5 percent, and until a recent hot stretch, his percentage from beyond the arc had fallen below 40 percent.
There seems to be a consensus for why Curry’s perimeter shooting has slipped, and it’s because he is bearing a heavy load at point guard this season for the Warriors. Last year, with Jarrett Jack around, Curry was afforded long stretches at shooting guard, alleviating some physical wear and tear.
This year, he's had to shoulder virtually all of the ball-handling burden, and it has taken a toll on more than Curry’s shooting. His turnovers are way up this season, averaging an alarming 4.1 per game, which leads the league. Eleven times this season Curry has committed seven or more turnovers. Those turnovers are greatly mitigating the extra assists Curry is getting.
When it comes to assist-turnover ratio, Curry is way down the list—No. 36 as a matter of fact, at just 2.21-to-1 per game. Making matters worse, many of Curry’s turnovers come at the top of the floor, off high screen-and-roll plays, and they often lead to fast-break layups or dunks.
If there’s one area where Curry has failed to progress significantly over his five-year career, it’s getting those turnovers under control. The reality remains that Curry is still more playmaker than point guard.
Are we nit-picking Curry? Of course we are. But that’s what superstars must endure.
At the defensive end, Curry's deficiencies are more pronounced.
It’s not Curry’s preference, but Warriors coach Mark Jackson usually doesn’t have him defend his opposite number. Jackson prefers shooting guard Klay Thompson, with more height and length, to defend many big-time point guards. A general rule of thumb in the NBA is a superstar can usually guard his own man, and usually another position or two. Curry will have to prove himself to Jackson before earning key defensive assignments.
It might not be fair to Curry, but he’s going to have to nudge the Warriors toward more wins to further ascend the elite-player pecking order. After all, the Warriors were considered championship contenders by many before the season, but they find themselves hanging on to one of the final playoff spots in the West…with Memphis coming hard.
And how can you be a superstar if your team ends up missing the playoffs?
Follow Matt Steinmetz on Twitter: @MMS_Steinmetz