By J.M. Poulard
Golden State Warriors fans want to root for a winner. Desperately. The Dubs faithful have filled up the message boards, chat rooms and ESPN’s Daily Dime Live Chat to ask around how the team could potentially get better. Whether by trade, free agency, buy outs or the NBA draft, it’s just obvious that the fans want more. And with that train of thought in mind, the question has come up more than once: should the Warriors trade Monta Ellis or Stephen Curry?
Ellis is the known commodity at this point given the fact that he is in the midst of his sixth NBA season and we already know what we have in him: an undersized scorer that gets his points in bunches but that struggles on the defensive end. Granted, given the fact that he is only 25, there is still time for him to elevate his game. Indeed, Monta Ellis can still improve on his shot selection, on doing a better job of trusting his teammates and obviously grow by leaps and bounds in his defensive contributions.
Curry on the other hand is a bit trickier to figure out. He is currently in his second NBA season and he already is able to dazzle us with his best skill: shooting. But unlike say someone like Eddie House, Curry can do more than just hit perimeter jumpers off the catch and then do the onions dance in homage to the immortal Sam Cassell. The former Davidson star is already a very good ball handler that can get to whatever spot on the floor that he wishes to get to; and also at 6’3, he is able to create shots off the dribble and make them with regularity. Any of this sounding familiar? Let me give you a hint, Curry’s game and physical stature are somewhat reminiscent of a former two time league MVP. At the risk of shocking the world, the player in question would be Steve Nash.
Granted, comparing a second year player to a future Hall of Fame type athlete might seem completely ludicrous, but let’s compare their first two seasons just for arguments sake. Have a look at Curry’s statistical output in his first two years so far in the NBA:
Impressive numbers by Curry, especially the field goal shooting. Let’s compare them to Nash’s numbers in his first two NBA campaigns:
It’s somewhat difficult to compare their first two seasons head to head given the fact that Curry was thrust into the starting line up and got a heavy dose of minutes early in his career while Steve Nash on the other hand was backing up Jason Kidd and Kevin Johnson when he first arrived in Phoenix. Consequently, we are currently comparing apples and oranges; however, if we were to look at their production per 36 minutes, it would give us a better indication of how both players faired head to head. Have a look at both of their rookie seasons projected over 36 minutes:
Stephen Curry scored at a higher clip and was a more efficient shooter across the board. Steve Nash on the other hand distributed the ball more. Let’s see if these trends hold up for both players in their respective sophomore seasons (numbers once again projected over 36 minutes):
The Warriors guard’s production still surpasses that of the former two time league MVP. Although both players increased their scoring given the added responsibilities, Nash’s assist numbers took a slight dip in the following season whereas Curry improved on his. If there is one thing that truly stands out though, it’s by far the shooting numbers. To put this in perspective, I already wrote something a few weeks back proclaiming Nash to be the best shooter of all time and yet we have Stephen Curry who is already a better shooter at this stage of his career than Nash was at the very same age.
Mind you, professional basketball is not played in a vacuum, thus one must err on the side of caution given the fact that a large part of a player’s success in the NBA can be attributed to his circumstances. In the case of Nash, he was fortunate enough to learn the ropes from greats such as Jason Kidd and Kevin Johnson. He was able to practice with them and understand the work that was required to become one of the best point guards in the history of the game. It helped him understand the NBA life as well as see first hand how effective those players were as leaders and how they went about it.
Stephen Curry has yet to have this type of tutelage and thus it might be a bit harder for him to follow in the Suns point guard’s footsteps. One could argue that Curry’s inclusion into the Team USA program last summer has helped him become a better player considering that he practiced and scrimmaged with and against the likes of Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo and Chauncey Billups; and I wholeheartedly agree with that. But Nash had the chance to study Kidd for two full seasons, and that might prove to be the difference.
With that said, the Dubs starting point guard still has a lot of work to do before we can unequivocally crown him to be the next Nash. Stephen Curry still has to figure out how to take the team by the horns and lead it much like every great point guard has done before him. Indeed, when looking at the Warriors play, one does not get the impression that he is the maestro of the offense. It’s one thing to have a ball dominant scorer on the team, but a great point guard should be able to dictate when and where his main scoring threat gets the ball as opposed to just giving it up and then camping at times in the corners hoping to receive a pass for an open look.
Think of how Nash played with Nowitzki and then later on with Stoudemire; and even to some extent how Russell Westbrook runs the offense this year with Kevin Durant on the floor. To borrow a phrase from Bill Simmons, these players have ownership of the point guard position and Golden State’s star point guard still has to develop that trait before we can truly put him in the conversation with someone like Nash.
With that said, Curry is a phenomenal player with terrific shooting ability. With the proper coaching and work ethic, we might be watching possibly the reincarnation of Steve Nash. Granted, these expectations are quite lofty and ultimately I could be setting him up for failure; but truth be told, if Curry can come even remotely close to matching Kid Canada, he may also one day be one of the greats. Now tell me, does that sound like someone worth getting rid of? Didn’t’ think so…