Steph Curry entered his 12th NBA season carrying the weight of expectations. Not only did Steph have to be perfect, but he had to drag his teammates to unparalleled heights, and oh, by the way, make the playoffs. Many doubted he could make that walk up the mountain with a 5,000 boulder on his back while simultaneously draining threes and winning games. The West is too deep with scorers everywhere, size back en vogue, and hungry veterans wanting what Steph already has: a ring. Complicating the Steph plan are Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre, pedestrian players with inconsistent skills. Rookie big James Wiseman faces a heavy learning curve. Maybe if Steph was a shooter and a scorer, maybe if he was half Steph and half Iverson, or half Steph and half Kobe, there would have been optimism about this season without Klay Thompson, but most thought Steph would try like a motha but come up short.
Curiously, Stephen Curry is not playing every single minute, is not near a career high. When he was 24- remember those days- Steph played 38 minutes a game. Now, 33 minutes. He is taking the most shots he has ever taken in his career, 21.3 and 12.0 threes, something he has never done. If you give him a pass for last year’s truncated injury season, this is the first time he has not shot 40% or above (from three). His assists are close to career averages which is problematic. He has to have at least 8 assists per game for the Warriors to have a shot to makes the playoffs. But then, considering who he is passing the ball to- Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre aren’t getting buckets, collectively their shooting percentage is 37%.- this Warriors season makes sense.
Curry’s offensive rating is appropriately Curry-esque, 120, while his defensive rating is the worst of his career. He owns a 28.3 PER, second-best of his career. He is still making 42% of his jump shots and in the 4th quarter 60% of his threes. So Steph is Steph. What? Do you think he would suddenly change?
It’s the Warriors that are…well…a train wreck. They trot out the worst defense in the league, giving up 121 points per game. They play fast and are a good scoring team but take a lot of shots because they have to. They are James Harden-esque, volume, volume volume. As a team, they only make 43% of their shots. In their last title year, 2018, they made 50% of their shots.
More Warriors mediocrity: they rank 21st in 3-point percentage though they take the 6th most threes. Long gone are those ridiculous 3-point averages that put them near the top of the league. They are nearly last in offensive rebounding, but thanks to James Wiseman are 3rd in blocks. Teams score a lot on the Warriors but not because they have a lot of open looks. The Warriors do a good job of guarding but they foul too much. They are the worst team in the league when it comes to reaching and putting players on the line.
Opening night was dismal. Even Steph didn’t look like Steph. When they lose, they lose big. When they win it is close or Steph drops 60. The inconsistency fits a roster with too much iso and Steph brilliance.
Dub fans and the Warriors are bitter about the doubters because, well, if you won 3 titles in 5 years, if a game-winning shot kept you from the perfect season, if Kevin Durant’ s defection- blame it on Dray or Santa Claus- dropped the Warriors into economy class yanking away all those first-class perks, you’d be in your feelings too.
The Steph doubters were not doubting Steph. How many times can you shout until your face turns purple he is the best shooter in NBA history. But the question is about more than his shooting. How does he lead average players? Early in his career, he was compared to LeBron James but can he be LeBron James? Can he lead a group of players who don’t possess elite talent? It’s not about 62 points but about 20 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds, and a win.
Klay Thompson’s injury was devastating on nearly every level. It left Steph Curry holding a very big bag. But he can only do so much and that is what the doubters meant by their Warriors skepticism. 73 games is still a long season and Steph Curry is one man.
He is not a miracle worker.