On twitter this week, I saw something that inspired me to write a piece about what makes Stephen Curry great.
The tweet came from NBA YouTuber Legend of Winning and said:
Here’s the problem with this tweet. LOW is on the right track, Steph is an underrated playmaker, but what I hate about this tweet is it implies to be known as a great passer you have to average ten plus assists.
Number are helpful but, they take away from the full story.
Steph shouldn’t have to average ten assists for us to know he’s a great playmaker when the genius to Curry’s game is that he gets assists without even touching the basketball.
Curry has a unique game that goes all the way back to Davidson where as a member of the Wildcats, he was actually more of a two guard. This was because Curry wasn’t then and still isn’t now, a traditional point guard like a Chris Paul.
He has a skillset unlike anyone we’ve ever seen who although is a very good passer, what makes him great is the threat he possesses on every possession down the floor.
Below is one of Curry’s most iconic plays and, it’s a great example of the stress he puts on defences. Look how high up Andrew Bogut screens for him, causing an All-NBA defender like prime Chris Paul serious problems.
For the rest of the possession Paul is flustered and out of position in pursuit and well, you probably know what happens next.
What the Warriors had to do to unlock this player though was surround him with the right pieces. Asking Steph to bring the ball up every possession could work and that’s what LOW believes in when he says he could average ten assists in the right system.
However, for Curry to be the all-world player he has become, the system he’s in is what caters to his greatness. He needs the support of elite teammates around him like Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to make up for his weaknesses.
Since he isn’t your Dad’s 1990’s point guard, Curry needs some help playmaking and that’s where Green comes in. Green’s elite passing ability for his size allows Curry and others to flourish off ball.
Take this play for example where Curry eventually cuts and being the threat he is, the defence immediately collapses. Curry then finds Green where most normal players put up an okay shot here but what makes the Warriors great is what Green does next.
Although Steph wasn’t the one to hit Klay for the three, the defence collapsed because of his ability. This is where Curry’s true playmaking greatness lies.
Thanks to Curry’s elite scoring ability, defences have to respect him from literally half court and that causes ridiculous spacing and issues for anyone trying to stop him. So, he may not be the one directly setting up shooters but, the spacing from him on the floor is.
Watch this play here where Curry never touches the ball.
As Andre Iguodala runs a give and go with Green, watch how he stares at Steph on the wing. This freezes the Hawks defenders allowing Thompson to do the rest.
That play will never show up in Curry’s stat column and yet he was the key to it happening. This is the inherent flaw with counting numbers like assists per game, they just simply don’t tell the entire story.
Curry’s reality is he’s at his best when he isn’t asked to be a traditional point guard.
On this play here, Curry cuts and makes an outstanding read to find a pretty decent shooter in Kevin Durant on the wing.
He can make the traditional plays don’t get me wrong, case in point this pick and roll below where he makes an obscene pass to Thompson.
Could he average ten assists? Probably. For Stephen Curry to be at his greatest though, he needs to be Stephen Curry. It sounds simple but you’d be surprised how few people are willing to accept the uniqueness of his game.
If you need a reference, just ask the Minnesota Timberwolves. After all, traditional point guards like Ricky Rubio who can average ten plus assists are the ones who win titles right?