I'm sick and tired of hearing about how Stephen Curry isn't going to be a great NBA player, or even a good one. Maybe doubters aren't as loud as they were 12, six, or even three months ago, but they are still in large supply.
He's too small.
He's too slow.
He can't play defense.
I've heard it all when it comes to criticizing Curry's game. Well I'm going to defend Curry's NBA potential, and I'll start by pointing out what he can do.
We all know about Curry's shooting ability. If he's not the best shooter in college basketball, then Tyler Hansbrough's contacts won't fall out again this season. He is a threat to pull the trigger as soon as he crosses half court, can shoot from a variety of angles, and is equally effective coming off screens or popping off the dribble.
His dribble penetration is also above-average. It's not that he's super-quick or has ridiculous ball-handling skills; rather, his jumper commands so much respect that a defender must guard him air-tight. Anything less and you're giving up two points or maybe three. I've heard some critics use this argument against Curry's driving abilities, saying he only succeeds at driving because of his superb jumper.
What? How does that make sense? I mean, who cares why he gets to the basket? What's the difference between a shot-fake that allows him to slip past a defender or a quick crossover. As long as he gets the job done.
And Curry certainly gets the job done. Which is why he can not simply be considered a "shooter." The Davidson guard is most definitely a scorer with a capital "S." Once he starts driving, he has the ability to finish with either hand, so it's hard to force him one way. He can get into the lane and pull up for an eight-footer, or cut towards the baseline and float one off the glass.
I could go one for pages and pages about Curry's scoring abilities. Instead, I'll move on to his other skills, such as passing. Curry's supporting cast is gradually improving, but let's face it, none of his current teammates are NBA talent. Nobody is even close. The fact that Curry has been getting his teammates involved so much this year really demonstrates both his unselfishness and his passing abilities.
Curry averaged under three assists per game in his first two seasons at Davidson, playing with point guard Jason Richards, a master distributor. This year, as the primary ball-handler, Curry is averaging just under seven dimes a game. He knows he hasn't yet reached his potential as a point guard just yet.
"I'm coming along," Curry said after Tuesday night's win against West Virginia at Madison Square Garden. "I'm still making bad decisions trying to hit the home-run play; that's where I get most of my turnovers. But I'm getting more comfortable, and getting my teammates involved, and every game I get a little bit better at it."
Expect Curry to stay true to his word, and improve as the season progresses. Another area that any player can always improve in is defense. Curry is already a solid defender. He's not a lock-down, in-your-face defender, but I certainly believe he can defend opposing point guards at the next level.
I can't help but think some of the pessimism surrounding Curry has to do with JJ Redick, the sharpshooter from Duke who was selected eleventh by the Orlando Magic in the 2006 NBA Draft. Redick averaged 27 points per game in his senior season, winning several National Player of the Year awards. His career averages in the NBA? 13 minutes and 5 points per game.
To me, this is a foolish comparison. Firstly, it was absolutely absurd that Redick was a lottery pick. Nearly 30 points a game in the ACC is not a feat that should be overlooked, but Redick was a pure shooter. He worked to become a more complete player by his senior season, but Curry's all-around game has already surpassed Redick's, and it's not even close.
Curry is a great athlete with the necessary basketball genes. At 6'3, he's definitely tall enough to play the point in the NBA. At 185 pounds, it's fair to say he could benefit from some time in the weight room, but he's still only 20 years old. Besides, he's gone against major-conference teams that feature big, strong players, and never seems to be physically overmatched.
Curry is carrying a Davidson team that doesn't have much talent outside of its superstar. Redick, by the way, played with another lottery pick, forward Shelden Williams. Opposing coaches' game plan is focused on stopping Curry, and he still can't be slowed.
I can't imagine any NBA player that wouldn't want Curry on his team.
I know one player who would certainly love to have Curry, and his deft shooting touch, on the floor with him.