Yesterday, an Armchair writer wrote an article attempting to explain Stephen Curry’s “fall from grace”. Dean Turner is the author that wrote it, but he is a Philadelphia 76ers fan writing about the Golden State Warriors. As a die-hard Warriors fan and being what I believe to be incredibly knowledgeable on the subject of the Warriors, it was difficult to read. His well-written, but ultimately inaccurate, article can be seen here.
After reading his article, I knew immediately that I had to write a response article. I had to set the record straight and restore order to the world.
To say Curry is “falling from grace” is delusional and a disgrace to the elite player Curry is. Although I could and probably still will passionately explain why it is incorrect, I am going to stray away from a simple “plea”. Instead, I will attempt to let the numbers prove it.
23 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 46% FG, 40% 3PT, 90% FT, in less than 35 minutes.
Curry has put up that stat line or better three times, his two MVP years, and his supposed “fall from grace” this season. You know who has never put up that stat line? MJ, Stockton, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Chris Paul, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, etc.
Last year, in Curry’s unanimous MVP year, he was actually second on his own team (and in the NBA) behind Draymond Green in total (+/-) on the year. Curry has posted at least a +875 rating (the Warriors scored 875 more points than they gave up with Curry on the court) three times, his two MVP years, and his supposed “fall from grace” this season. This year, he is well over 100 points better than second place Green (and 230 better than KD), and over 400 points better than the first non-Warrior.
(Quick aside, Dean also argues that the Heat were “an absolute mess” in LeBron’s first season… Well that mess featured LeBron shooting 50% while averaging 26 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists. Not to mention D-Wade averaging 25 points on 50% shooting as well. They went to the NBA finals before finally losing to the Mavericks in six games; that sounds like a mess a lot of teams would love to have).
Back to Dean’s first point about Curry’s struggles being attributed to Durant. When a team adds someone as prolific and as exceptional as Kevin Durant, there is most definitely a “feeling out” process that occurs. So it is quite true that Curry was much more passive at the beginning of the season. Curry is one of the captains on the Warriors. That made it partially his responsibility to make sure Durant got acclimated to the culture, and to a different style of play than he was accustomed to. Steph took fewer shots and deferred to Durant. He was intentionally less aggressive than he was during his record-setting campaign last year.
That all changed after the Christmas day game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Curry came out and said he wanted the ball more. This was highly unusual, considering Steph isn’t normally the person to come out and complain about team stuff. The coaching staff listened, and by all accounts KD told Steph to “get his” and be aggressive, and that he would find his way. The acclimation period for KD was over, it was time for Curry to be that MVP from last season.
In the first 32 games of the season (Christmas game was #32), Curry averaged 24.1 points, and 4.4 assists, while shooting 39.7% from 3.
The Warriors first game after that stretch, so game #33, was at home against Toronto. Steph had 28 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and shot 3-for-6 from 3. Most noticeably, he was +27 in a ten point victory.
Starting with that game, in Curry’s next 26 games (27th game is Durant’s injury), he averaged 26.8 points, and 6.9 assists, while shooting 41.7% from 3. With Durant now fully in the fold, Curry averaged two more points and assists per game, while also raising his 3PT% by a couple of points.
Since Durant’s injury on February 28th against the Wizards, Curry has averaged 24.8 points, and 7.2 assists, while shooting 37.2% from three-point range. His assists have remained the same, but both his points and efficiency have since dropped back towards that first stretch of games highlighted.
Needless to say, Curry and the Warriors had to slightly alter their style of play in order to include Durant into their offense (he replaced Harrison Barnes). After Christmas, with Curry’s aggression and Durant’s incredible consistency, the Dubs began to roll. They collected wins by 35 over Cleveland, 21 and 16 over Oklahoma City, 17 over Houston, and a whopping 46 point demolition of the Los Angeles Clippers, in which Stephen Curry was an absurd +42 in under 29 minutes.
Durant’s injury has forced the Warriors to once again alter their offense. Even during their current seven game winning streak, in which the last six have all been by at least 12 points, Curry has not looked quite the same. His aggression is there, but his generally incredible efficiency is not. With Durant on the floor and Steph being ultra-aggressive, he thrived. So much so, that Curry has gotten supremely comfortable with Durant on the floor, letting the game come to him and dictating the pace.
He brings so much to the Warriors, that even when he is struggling shooting, interactions like these occur.
So yes, Curry was most affected by Durant’s arrival. He has acclimated and adjusted, and is back to playing brilliant basketball.
Debunking Myth #1 that Curry has “fallen from grace” because of KD
Now this makes much more sense. There is a reason that not one person had ever been a unanimous MVP before last season. Steph put up such otherworldly numbers, that people had no choice but to vote him as MVP. He averaged 30 points, six assists, and five rebounds while joining the 50/40/90 club. If that is not enough, he led the Warriors to an NBA record 73-9 season. He made 402 three-pointers, when nobody had ever even made 300 in a season. It was arguably the greatest offensive season ever (depending on how you view Wilt’s numbers).
When Durant entered the mix, and even had Durant not joined the Warriors, Steph was due for regression. It is simply impossible to have a year as spectacular as Curry did, without falling back towards the mean, even just a tad. It has happened to other great athletes as Dean examines, but even then there are easy explanations. Peyton Manning regressed, but his team actually won two more games in 2005 than they did in 2004. That definitely does not sound like a “fall from grace”. Tom Brady tore his ACL and his next full season was without his original offensive coordinator. Yet they still won their division, and would go 14-2 the next year with Brady winning MVP. That does not sound like a “fall from grace”.
Even Wilt Chamberlain’s drop in points per game can be explained easily. The Warriors’ franchise moved from Philadelphia to San Francisco between seasons, creating quite a transition. However, just because these players regressed does not mean they “fell from grace”. I am pretty sure loads of teams would have been thrilled to acquire a “fallen from grace” Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or Wilt Chamberlain during their “down” years.
A fall from grace is not the right phrase to use. It suggests an athlete or person completely losing all ability to play/lead. Donald Sterling fell from grace because he was a racist who could not appropriately lead the Clippers. Unfortunately, even though I am still a fan of his, Tiger Woods fell from grace. After his very public affair and divorce, Tiger has yet to win another major or look anything like the golfer he was at his most dominant. Sudden, and steep, it was a true fall from grace.
Those are unlike anything Curry has experienced, for he is still arguably the best point guard in the world on the best team.
So yes, Curry has regressed a little bit back to the norm. But even then, his norm is still elite. He is still a world-class player with game-changing ability in his prime. He has come back down to earth ever so slightly, but it is definitely not a “fall from grace”.
Debunking Myth #2 that this natural regression is “29% to blame for Curry’s fall from grace”.
Natural Regression = 100% of the reason why Curry is not having a unanimous MVP type season
Sorry Dean but seriously?
Absolutely not. Zero percent of anything in regards to Steph “falling from grace”.
Stephen Curry is having a great year. In the end though, all he really wants to do is win a Championship. That is why Durant is here. That is why he was willing to sacrifice his outrageous numbers from last year. Curry is an elite point guard, on an elite team, with a chance to win it all. That is all that matters.