Stephen Curry now comes off the greatest contract of the salary cap era, which also served as ballast for the Golden State Warriors as we now know them, and immediately signs a deal made possible by the new collective bargaining agreement and the richest in league history. In an NBA with maximum salaries, the best bargains, outside those once in a lifetime contracts like Curry’s previous one, are true top-10 players on max contracts. Curry triples his salary to an artificially low max salary, despite being unfathomably high at 35 percent of the cap, but he’s still underpaid by at least 50 percent of what he’s worth.
After Curry’s third NBA season, in which he played only 23 games, there were sober concerns whether he would ever be able to consistently stay on the floor. With the hindsight of time, that season now looks entirely like an outlier stuck perfectly timed for the Warriors’ cap sheet after games played totals of 80 and 74, and before 78, 78, 80, 79 and 79 games ever since. The ankle injuries coincided with Curry’s extension window and conveniently made this two-time MVP, two-time champion possible.
Curry followed up back-to-back MVP seasons by insisting he would accommodate Kevin Durant and he unequivocally acted upon that promise. Durant became Curry’s anodyne and the Warriors won their second title in three seasons, and are firmly now on another level compared to the rest of the league.
Curry’s health is certainly not something to be taken for granted, but he should have a long second half of his career based on his shooting if nothing else. Durant said Curry played like a “big dog” in The Finals and that was certainly true with his rebounding and foul drawn rate. Defenses are permitted to rough Curry up when he’s running around screens off the ball and that may alter how he’s used long-term.
Curry is positively peerless when it comes to creating space and while you can see that in the eye test, the Warriors outscored their opponents by 16.1 points per 100 possessions with him on and Durant off compared to 3.1 with Durant on and Curry off. Curry and Klay Thompson effectively turns the Warriors’ halfcourt offense into a layup line. Even people paid to cover the game still don’t really get what Curry does and why he’s still a top-4 player in the NBA. Curry even was +13.0 without any of Durant, Draymond Green and Thompson.
The acquisition of Durant made the Warriors profusely better every night, but also decreased the game to game exertion on Curry. The Warriors hope to prolong the careers of their core in the way the Spurs managed to do so with theirs and that extra depth makes it lavishly possible.
The only thing standing between the Warriors and an absolute dynasty are injuries and the repeater tax. We’ve seen the first signals that the Warriors will have limits to what they’re willing to spend to keep this team together indefinitely and Curry’s contract will clearly play a big role in that. But Curry was the first guy to become a truly elite player for them and he helped shape the versions of Green and Thompson who unexpectedly became two-way superstars who do the role player work. As important as that, Curry was the one who has sacrificed the most financially and there was no room for Golden State to compromise.
Grade for Warriors: A
While playing under a four-year, $44 million contract unquestionably has felt like a financial waste for Curry on some existential level, the trade off winning two titles, two MVPs and all of that Under Armour money has certainly offset the sense of regret. Curry fortunately stayed healthy throughout the life of the deal and cashes in with the Warriors in historical fashion.
Curry's deal contains no player options, which limits his flexibility to a certain degree and means he won't be a free agent again until the age of 34.
Grade for Stephen Curry: A