There’s arguably no other jump shooter in NBA history quite like 2014-15 NBA MVP Stephen Curry.
Grantland.com’s Kirk Goldsberry thinks so. As a prelude to the 2015 NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Curry’s Golden State Warriors, he wrote an article on June 4 paying tribute to the Warriors guard’s jumper.
Goldsberry starts off by comparing Curry to author John Steinbeck and artist Robert Rauschenberg—two men who were the standard of perfection in their respective fields.
Goldsberry then tries to determine if it’s Curry’s lightning-quick release, his ability to make the transition from dribbling to shooting or the slope his shot creates as it swishes through the net which makes his jumper so unique.
The Grantland.com author couldn’t come up with one specific reason, only saying Curry is the “most breathtaking” player in the league today.
Goldsberry tweeted a shot chart which shows the shots Curry has made during his six-year NBA career to prove his point:
— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) June 4, 2015
The Grantland.com update argues Curry is simply one of a kind. He makes shooting a three-pointer look so effortless. Point guards like him aren’t supposed to break three-point shooting records, but Curry seems to be the lone exception to the rule.
Curry has also been creating his own legacy by going against the norm of assisted threes: dishing out to the open man who spots up and buries the trifecta. Instead, Curry thrives on the unassisted three-pointer, especially ones hoisted from the corners, per Goldsberry.
As a matter of fact, the 2014-15 NBA MVP placed ninth in the league with 118 unassisted triples this season. Of those made shots, he registered a 47 percent shooting clip, says Goldsberry.
Curry not only shattered his own record for made threes in a season (286), he also outshot the entire Denver Nuggets threes as far as unassisted triples were concerned (118 to 106), per Grantland.com.
Goldsberry singles out Curry and the Houston Rockets’ James Harden as the best in this category. However, he gives the edge to Curry, saying, “Nobody on earth can self-generate beyond the arc like he can.”
On the subject of off-the-dribble three-pointers, Goldsberry says NBA players typically make 32 percent of their attempts. Curry made a remarkable 43 percent, topping that category for players who had at least 150 attempts this season.
Here’s the list of NBA players who made the most number of off-the-dribble three-pointers in 2014-15, per Grantland.com:
- Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors, 147 (43 percent)
- James Harden, Houston Rockets, 110 (36 percent)
- Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers 103 (33 percent)
- Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers 90 (40 percent)
- Lou Williams, Toronto Raptors, 88 (31 percent)
Goldsberry stresses Curry’s 147 off-the-dribble threes are more than half of the 286 he made this season. No other player in league history has been able to pull this off, prompting Goldsberry to say Curry is not just a great shooter, it’s that he “is the most creative great shooter ever.”
The Grantland.com update says the slam dunk is arguably the most exciting play in basketball, but draining an in-your-face three-pointer, like Curry does so effortlessly, is just as jaw-dropping.
Goldsberry cites this Sports Science YouTube video which discovered Curry can get a shot off in just four-tenths of a second. Curry’s release is one of the reasons why his jumper is second to none.
The Sports Science video also says Curry’s shot has already been launched 12 feet in the air just as another player got his own shot off.
How important is a quick release? Release angle? Arch on the shot? Check out Sports Science and Stephen Curry! http://t.co/ket7NWTZxA
— Shoot-A-Way (@TheShootAWay) August 7, 2013
The simple takeaway: Curry’s shot is virtually unblockable, per Goldsberry.
Even if you put a hand in Curry’s face, he will still drain his shot. A Grantland survey reveals players drain just 24 percent of their three-pointers with defenders right in their faces. In contrast, if the defender is around 12 feet away from a shooter, the latter will make his three-point attempt 44 percent of the time.
In this regard, Curry is literally in a league of his own. Goldsberry says the Warriors point guard drains 44 percent of his contested three-pointers. That’s a full 20 percentage points higher than the average three-point shooter.
Curry is also not just a one-dimensional offensive player: He placed eighth in field goal percentage (63 percent) among 50 players who put up at least 350 attempts from eight feet or closer, per Goldsberry.
What’s more astonishing is Curry’s shooting clip is higher than the likes of Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol and Blake Griffin.
Curry’s 63 percent shooting percentage from that eight-foot parameter around the basket is considerably higher than the 49 percent he registered during the 2012-13 NBA season, per Grantland.com.
To close things out, Goldsberry argues Curry’s versatile game represents a huge paradigm shift in today’s game. Past shooters such as his father Dell Curry and his head coach Steve Kerr were strictly role players who spotted up and gave their respective teams an additional boost on offense.
This is not the case today. Curry represents a new breed of players who are making NBA basketball fun to watch. With the 2015 NBA Finals upon us, Goldsberry says Curry “seems poised to paint his first masterpiece on the league’s biggest canvas.”
The Parting Shot
Stephen Curry is arguably the best shooter the NBA has ever seen.
Perhaps Goldsberry was prompted to write his piece in the wake of retired point guard Steve Nash’s comments about Curry in a June 1 interview with Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher:
Consistency. Can someone consistently make shots, night in and night out, year after year? That’s the true mark of a player. You could break it down a lot of ways, they shoot the ball, you always think it’s going in.
Steph is able to seamlessly get his feet down, gather his weight between his feet and go up in the air and shoot it in rhythm as if he’d just been standing there, caught it and shot it.
Truly, from the eye test, he’s the greatest there’s ever been.
Whatever Goldsberry’s inspiration is to write about Curry’s seemingly impeccable jumper, it’s hard to dispute the facts he laid out for us.
When you think of Curry, guys such as former Houston Rockets guard Calvin Murphy and ex-Denver Nuggets and Washington Bullets guard Michael Adams (who had that unforgettable shot-put-like shooting motion) come to mind.
These players are small guys who played bigger than their stature. They’re wily shooters who drove opposing defenses crazy.
— UPROXX (@UPROXX) June 2, 2015
Stephen Curry takes it to a whole new different level. As Goldsberry pointed out, he can hurt you just from about anywhere on the basketball court.
If Curry becomes a better defensive player, he could win several more NBA MVP Awards in the next few years.
Curry has only had six years of NBA experience, so some may argue it may be too early to say he’s the greatest shooter in league history.
Point well taken. But what are the chances we come across another player of his caliber and unique skill set? If he maintains his onslaught in the next five years or so, then yes, he is the best shooter the NBA has ever seen.
Without a doubt, Curry is the epitome of the NBA player who goes beyond his limitations to succeed.