Stephen Curry, Tony Parker

Stephen Curry has been one of the premier guards in the league this season and thus, it’s fair to wonder whether he is deserving of a spot on the All-NBA 1st team.

Curry is the best player on a Golden State Warriors team that is now being viewed as a shadow contender. Interestingly enough, Sports Illustrated released their top-100 NBA players list this past summer and listed him among the top 15.

Ben Golliver offered this appraisal of Curry:

The beautiful paradox with Curry is that he is simultaneously one of the best shooters the league has ever seen while being way more than “just a shooter.” He’s a force in the pick-and-roll because he can step back and shoot, he can create off the dribble and he can make defenses pay for overcommitting with his passing. When used off the ball, his presence running through screens can create a distracting paranoia for defenses. His work ethic, love for the game, leadership skills and other intangibles are all off the charts. He has all the necessary ingredients to enjoy “franchise player” status for the better part of the next decade.

Golliver was spot on and even went as far as stating that Curry would get eventual All-Star and All-NBA consideration. Forget eventual, that time is now. He has been selected to start in his first ever All-Star Game and looks the part of a superstar.

His consistent shooting proficiency has earned him the reputation of an assassin amongst his peers and puts fear in the heart of defenders. What’s more, Curry is hardly a one-trick pony.

Point God

Stephen Curry is a terrific playmaker as evidenced by the fact he is among the league’s top-five leaders in assists per game. He can be sloppy with the ball at times, but he has good grasp of what defenses are attempting to take away from him.

Curry adjusts by forcing defenders to follow him out way beyond the arc where his teammates have an abundance of space to catch the ball and do something with it. He is quite adept at playing the cat and mouse game that most great point guards must participate in with opposing defenses during the 82-game grind of the regular season.

In assessing Curry’s rank in S.I.’s top 100, I opined that he had a shot at surpassing Chris Paul and Tony Parker as the league’s top point guard, but that he would receive stiff competition from the likes of Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook.

Well, Rose is scheduled to miss the entirety of this season, while Westbrook will only return after the All-Star break because of a bothersome right knee.

In addition, Paul has a separated shoulder, which should reportedly keep him sidelined until the All-Star Game.

That leaves Curry and Parker as the league’s top point guards at the moment. The Warriors’ floor general is averaging 23.5 points and 9.2 assists per game on 44.2 percent shooting from the floor, good for a PER of 22.3.

Moreover, the Warriors have looked completely lost without the scoring and playmaking of their leading scorer. When Curry rides the pine, the Dubs’ offense stagnates and they statistically morph into a unit worse than the Milwaukee Bucks according to’s advanced stats tool.

Insert him back into the game, and Golden State outscores teams by 9.2 points per 100 possessions. For the sake of context, that figure is superior to every player in S.I.’s top 20, save for one (Chris Bosh). Have a look below:  

S.I. Rank


Outscore opponents (per 100 poss.)


Kyrie Irving



Blake Griffin



LaMarcus Aldridge



Chris Bosh



Dirk Nowitzki



Stephen Curry



Marc Gasol



Kevin Love



Derrick Rose



James Harden



Carmelo Anthony



Kobe Bryant



Dwyane Wade



Dwight Howard



Tim Duncan



Russell Westbrook



Tony Parker



Chris Paul



Kevin Durant



LeBron James



Curry’s offensive exploits have kept the Warriors relevant this season and placed them among the Association’s contenders. Parker’s stat line is a bit more modest, but it is still stellar. The San Antonio Spurs’ guard is producing 18.4 points and 6.3 assists per game on 51.6 percent field goal shooting, giving him a PER of 20.5.

The Frenchman plays less minutes on average than most stars by virtue of Gregg Popovich’s strategy to keep his starters fresh for the regular season and playoffs. When we project the numbers of Curry and Parker over 36 minutes per game, it stands out that their production is quite similar.

In other words, the title of best point guard in the league is a battle amongst these two players, at least during the time that other elite athletes at the position are shelved.  


The All-NBA 1st Team

An argument could be made that this season’s All-NBA teams might need an asterisk attached to them because of the names that will be missing due to injuries. Kobe Bryant has been out for most of the year because of an Achilles tear and knee fracture.

Derrick Rose will likely miss the season while Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul will miss approximately 40 games combined. What’s more, Dwyane Wade is sitting out back-to-backs in an effort to preserve his knees for the postseason stretch.

Even Parker has benefitted from some rest periods courtesy of Gregg Popovich, which suggests he might sit out more games during 2013-14. All of these missed games eventually add up.

Indeed, when determining the members of the All-NBA 1st Team, performance matters, but so does actual game appearances.

Put it this way: would you rather hypothetically have Wade (21.9 PER) for 65 games or James Harden (21.4 PER) for 75 games? The answer is probably Harden by virtue of the superior game count.

Health is a skill, as they say.

Thus, if we looked today the players that are most likely to make the All-NBA 1st Team as guards, it would appear as though we have six guys up for contention:

  • Stephen Curry
  • James Harden
  • Damian Lillard
  • Kyle Lowry
  • Tony Parker
  • John Wall

We have already outlined Curry and Parker’s credentials. Damian Lillard is playing terrific basketball this season for a Portland Trail Blazers team with a shot at the Western Conference crown.

He is one of the league’s best guards and probably deserves a spot on one of the All-NBA teams. However, it would be difficult to place him on the league’s premier five-man group.

Portland scores at a very high rate with him on the floor, but they can actually survive without him despite having one of the worst benches in the league.

That is probably a product of LaMarcus Aldridge’s dominant play so far this season.Lillard has been really good in his support role, but not top-five good.

In the case of John Wall and Kyle Lowry, their per-36 numbers are the most underwhelming of all players listed above and also, their teams are trying to stay afloat in what is a brutal Eastern Conference.

A player on a .500 unit can still make the All-NBA 1st team, but that normally requires a superhuman performance over the course of the season.

Tracy McGrady’s Orlando Magic finished the 2002-03 campaign with 42 wins and he earned a spot on the exclusive list. All McGrady did that season was average 32.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game on 45.7 percent shooting.

On the flip side, Kobe Bryant averaged 27.6 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game on a Los Angeles Lakers team that went 34-48 and only made the All-NBA 3rd team because of injuries and the team’s record.

Wins matter, even for future Hall of Fame players. Wall and Lowry are nowhere near that level of production this season, and their teams are flirting with an even record.

That basically eliminates them from the discussion and only leaves James Harden as competition for Curry and Parker. Harden passes all of the checkmarks and is therefore worthy of consideration.

There is an argument to be made that he is the best player on a Houston Rockets team that could finish the year with a top-four record in the conference. Statistically, he is the second-best 2-guard in the league.

He trumps all others at his position when it comes to games played, productivity and team record. Thus, one can conclude that Harden’s play warrants an inclusion on the All-NBA 1st team.

Therefore, the discussion regarding the backcourt for the league’s premier five-man unit at this point in the season revolves around Curry, Parker and Harden.

That does not mean this will be the case by season’s end, but Curry is certainly right up in the mix.

Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them in the comments section or you can contact me by email at [email protected].