With the 2013-14 regular season approaching, it is becoming more and more difficult to argue that Stephen Curry is not an elite player.
Curry used the second half of the 2012-13 campaign as his coming out party and announced to the world that he was one of the league’s best players. The Golden State Warrior practically set Madison Square Garden on fire after the All-Star break and he also gave the Los Angeles Lakers a huge scare.
Furthermore, Steph’s first postseason trip provided more validity to his case and practically turned him into a creature with mythical shooting powers as the legend goes. Put it all together and the 2013 offseason has been incredibly kind to the sharpshooter. A boatload of praise and adulation has been sent his way and also, expectations are rising very quickly.
While yours truly openly wondered whether Curry will win the 2013-14 MVP award, I was not alone. Chris Broussard of ESPN.com asked that very same question, (Insider) understanding that it would mean that Golden State’s star player has to snatch the award from LeBron James. You know, just a player that is already an all-time great.
No matter how we slice it, Curry has arrived on the scene. He must now remain where he is or potentially reach for more. Indeed, in a league rich with terrific point guards, he has already been rated as top-five at his position.
His playmaking skills coupled with his incredible shooting prowess give him an opportunity to be become the premier floor general in the league when Chris Paul eventually sees his game decline.
His potential appears practically limitless given the tools he has at his disposal. His superb ball-handling, deft passing and shooting all by themselves create an expectation of greatness. Curry is not just great, but could also one day become legendary.
That feeling combined with a few other factors resulted in the Warrior being voted as the sixth best player in the league per ESPN.com’s #NBArank project. The voting required the members of the panel (full disclosure, I was part of the panel) to project how the league’s players would fare in 2013-14 and then rate them.
Curry received an incredibly generous spot due in large part to the fact that many of the voters were prisoners of the moment. That is not a criticism but rather a statement of fact.
Curry was certainly sensational in the second half of his breakout season, but the first few months of the year were uneven. He was certainly good prior to the midseason classic, but not good enough to warrant an All-Star berth.
In the final months of the regular season though, he increased his shooting proficiency, scoring and assists. The fact that he happened to shoot the lights out in two of the most popular venues in the league (Staples Center and Madison Square Garden) certainly forced the national stage to take notice.
That output carried on into the playoffs and when the offseason hit, those performances remained firmly entrenched in the minds of the masses. Hence, his #NBArank was somewhat inflated because it did not take into account the first part of the 2012-13 campaign when attempting to project the ensuing season.
Nonetheless, there is still reason to believe he will once again make the top-15. The Point Forward predicted the players that will be honored with an All-NBA selection at the conclusion of 2013-14 and Curry made their list.
Rob Mahoney and Ben Golliver of The Point Forward expect the long-range sniper to make the All-NBA third team:
If he’s able to build on his postseason momentum, Curry will soon be mounting an all-out assault on the NBA’s elite class of guards. He is definitively the league’s best shooter, as his 45.3-percent shooting from beyond the arc last season is unfathomably high for a player who takes so many of his attempts off the dribble.
Curry’s exploits might very well warrant his inclusion on one of the All-NBA teams, but the lead guard needs some assistance as well. Indeed, the injuries to both Kobe Bryant (Achilles) and Russell Westbrook (knee) give Steph the opening he needs to potentially receive accolades.
Westbrook and Bryant will probably end up missing roughly around four weeks of the season if not more, and that may very well be enough for Curry to supplant them.
Still it’s a tricky proposition though in this respect: Can we consider the 3-point bomber elite if he needs injuries to other players to be named among the league’s top-15?
In some cases, being on the fence is not sufficient enough to be included in an upper-echelon grouping. For instance, Chris Webber is a borderline Hall of Fame player, which probably means he will not get in.
In the case of Curry however, there is some wiggle room. In this particular setting, the players he would be leaping are not athletes on the cusp of the elite, but rather established superstars/stars with stud résumés.
Beating those guys out even by way of injury is no small task. Bryant and Westbrook are easily top-five players at their respective positions. And yet, the Point Forward rankings as well as #NBArank clearly indicate that Curry enjoys the same status as his would-be challengers.
Hence, a 2013-14 season that mirrors 2012-13 will suffice to net the Warriors’ leading scorer a spot on the third team. However, if Curry can tap into the swagger of the second half of his breakout season and reproduce that kind of the play throughout the entirety of the ensuing campaign, he might very well end up on the second or even first team possibly.
In the event that happens, watch out for the Warriors…
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