Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Magic Basketball previews the 2011-2012 NBA season with a look at the players we’re most excited to watch this year.
When Eddy asked me to think of a player I was most excited to watch, my mind immediately went to every player on the Thunder roster. But — curses! — Nate beat me to it with his killer piece on Tuesday on James Harden, the league’s pre-eminent beard.
I realized I’m tired of talking about Ryan Anderson, even though I’m really stoked for his season, and tired of hearing how excited everyone is for Ricky Rubio. And then I wanted to write about one of the players involved in these mega trade rumors, but I realized that those are being covered so exhaustively that even thinking the name Chris Paul triggers some sort of trauma-induced narcolepsyasdfjasfmcea.ddffll. See? Like that. It just happened.
In trying to think about who I was excited about this year, I was forced to stare into the new Twitter-created attention abyss, wherein everything about the NBA is so rapidly transmitted, commented upon and digested that anything exciting is ground into a mealy pulp of commentary within minutes. For those of you scoring metaphors at home, I just said that Twitter has turned the NBA into a chasm of boring oatmeal — everything in today’s news cycle happens so fast that you can’t be surprised by anything, and everything fresh about the league is so quickly overexposed that it becomes stale.
Even the rookies, for God’s sake: I already know how Rubio struggles with his shot, I already know about Derrick Williams’ problems as a “tweener” (there’s a word I would banish from English) and I know how Jan Vesely’s girlfriend kisses and what every basketball writer I follow thinks about that.
I realized I was struggling to dredge up excitement because I have a hard time imagining being surprised any more. And then, somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind, I thought: “Stephen Curry.”
List the things you know about Steph Curry. His father was in the NBA, and his younger brother plays for Duke and seems constantly wearing the expression of a snotty stoner kid whose pizza order is late. He can shoot. He went to a small college. He is forced to play with Monta Ellis, who is perhaps the single worst match for his talents in the league. There are vague rumblings he wants to play for the Bobcats someday.
Nowhere on this list of things that I know about Stephen Curry is anything of substance — he is, blessedly, a young player who, so far as I know, has not courted a persona, has not developed a unique social media style, who has remained a baby-faced cipher of efficient shot selection. I am not a long-term or educated observer of the Warriors, but it seems like, from where I’m sitting, Stephen Curry is the only young franchise cornerstone whose diary I have not been reading for the past year. Steph Curry could still surprise me.
Last year, in his second season, Curry posted a PER of 19.4, good for seventh among point guards. Put differently, every point guard last year with a higher PER than Curry has been an All-Star at least once. His True Shooting percentage was half of a percent lower than Steve Nash’s, but his usage rate was nearly 25 percent. Let me put it to you like this: in his second-year, Curry shot fractionally worse than a player many claim to be the best shooting point guard of all time, while using almost a quarter of his team’s possessions. On top of that, only four point guards with higher usage rates had a higher assist rate, and two of them were outliers Gilbert Arenas and Lou Williams.
Basically, Stephen Curry is already nearly as efficient a high-usage option as there is in the league, and he has not yet played his third season.
Today’s young guards are bulls in a china shop. John Wall, Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook are the most explosive crop of athletes, potentially, that the position has ever seen. Stephen Curry is the opposite of this. Russell Westbrook averaged four more shots at the rim per game than Curry did, but Curry’s True Shooting percentage was six points higher. While other young freaks like Westbrook are locomotives steaming into the lane, Stephen Curry is a baby-faced assassin drone, bombing away from long range with the composure of a monk.
It’s easy to see that Curry already has an impressive list of accomplishments for such a young pro. When you combine his relative underexposure with his continued growth and the uncertainty of a new coach, Curry is the player we know the least about who is most likely to really impact this season. All I know about him, truly, is that he is young enough to still have some mystery but accomplished enough to convince me of his talents.
Which is to say, I know almost nothing about him, and for that, I love him.