Stephen Curry Arrives Late To NBA Elite, But Could Have Long Peak Like Nash
Steph Curry has been masterfully brilliant over the past calendar year, fulfilling the promise of his unique talent by staying healthy and leading the Golden State Warriors to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Curry has undoubtedly ascended into the NBA’s true elite, climbing from No. 40 in ESPN’s #NBARank in 2012 to No. 6 entering the current season. With Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo and Deron Williams all dealing with injury issues, Curry is now widely considered the second best point guard on the planet behind Chris Paul.
Curry’s 54-point Madison Masterpiece was the preamble before his playoff run in which his career trajectory was reconsidered. Observers on a national level have taken notice with 1,047,281 fan votes to send Curry to his first All-Star Game, and as a starter no less.
But the numbers also say, beyond the potential for hyperbole over the past twelve months, Curry has poised himself for one of the most unique careers in NBA history.
Curry has established himself as one of the best shooters in NBA history and has an opportunity to be considered the absolute who has ever played the game. He shoots 43.7 percent on threes for his career, ranking him third all-time, but neither of the players ahead of him on the list (Steve Kerr, Hubert Davis) handled Curry’s shot volume or ball distribution duties. In all five of his NBA seasons, Curry has shot at least 40 percent on his three-point attempts, converting 43 percent in his first four.
This season, with his "career-worst" 40 percent mark, Curry is poised to break his own single-season record for made threes, and is doing so on 8.3 attempts per game-- only Ray Allen, in 2006, has achieved the feat.
Curry, at 25, bears a favorable resemblance to Nash at 30, when he won his first of consecutive MVP awards and started establishing himself as a future Hall of Famer. Most elite players become All-Stars at a younger age, but both Curry and Nash were later bloomers in this regard. Nash didn’t become an All-Star until 2002 when he was already 27, and only Karl Malone and Hakeem Olajuwon were as old as a first time MVP winner.
Whether Curry ever wins an MVP, or leads the Warriors to the appearance in the Finals that always alluded Nash is of course yet to be seen, but he's certainly capable of surpassing Nash's peak production. This season, Curry is second in the NBA in assists, averaging 9.1. per game, while also scoring 24.6 points. If he maintains this pace, he'll become the first player to finish top-five in both points and assists since Allen Iverson, and he will do so while shooting at a significantly more efficient percentage.
Nash remained a player with a PER over 20.0 until the age of 37, while John Stockton put up similar numbers until the age of 40. Assuming Curry becomes even more of a savvy playmaker and his ankles hold up, his prime will be sustained for another decade.
The beauty in Curry’s game comes from the pureness of his style, exuberance and of course his shot. Watching his game connects you to historically pure shooters like Reggie Miller, Ray Allen, his father Dell Curry, and of course to point guards like Nash and Bob Cousy. The All-Star Game is an annual showcase of basketball’s best, and it will allow Curry another opportunity to prove he belongs in that conversation.