Every basketball fan knows just how good Stephen Curry is. The former Davidson guard has quickly emerged as one of the best players in the league and the Golden State Warriors franchise player.
A player of Curry’s caliber understandably does a lot for his team, but especially for a team that is stocked with other talented players, Curry’s usage — or in many cases, over-usage — is a concern.
There is no denying Stephen Curry can play, but sometimes he plays too much. Curry averages 37.8 minutes per game, which is fifth-most in the league. He averages the ninth-most touches in the league with 85.3 per game, but does the most with his touches, averaging 0.32 points per half court touch, which is best in the entire NBA.
His minutes are a real problem. In free agency when the Warriors lost Jarrett Jack to Cleveland, many wondered if it would come back to bite them, and while the Warriors have made up Jack’s statistical production, Jack limited Curry’s minutes to a more manageable total. Until Jordan Crawford arrived from Boston a few weeks ago, Curry was the starting point guard and backup point guard. Ideally for the Warriors, Crawford’s production will limit Curry’s minutes, but right now both Curry and Klay Thompson play more than 37 minutes per game, which is far too much work for both of them at this juncture.
Los Angles Clippers guard Chris Paul averages more touches per game than Curry, but plays only 34.6 minutes per game, a difference that adds up over an 82 game schedule. Paul has been out since Jan. 3rd and in that time period and the Clippers have actually gained ground on the Warriors in Paul’s absence. Thanks to competent backup guard Darren Collison, the Clippers have done more than stay afloat. Take Curry away from the Warriors, and their place in the Western Conference standings will sink faster than the Titanic.
Curry is also asked to do everything on the offensive end of the floor. Take the Warriors 102-87 win over the Chicago Bulls Thursday night. Curry had 43 points, an average of 1.48 points per possession, shot 68 percent from the field, had nine assists and played a Warriors team high 43 minutes.
In the play above, Curry brings the ball up with the stronger, longer Jimmy Butler guarding him. He passes the ball at the elbow to Andre Iguodala before making an L-cut to set a screen for Klay Thompson. His screen for Thompson does not free the Warriors shooting guard, so Curry then rubs off a Marresse Speights screen to create position on Butler at the elbow. Curry puts the ball on the floor and hits a difficult runner over three Bulls defender. Plain and simple, he worked way to hard to score those two points.
In the play above, Curry casually dribbles the ball up the floor, and thanks to a half-speed cut by Klay Thompson to clear the left corner of the floor, Curry is able to create space against Kirk Hinrich and sink a corner jump shot.
In this play from the third quarter, Curry brings the ball up, then plays pick-and-roll with center Jermaine O’Neal dishing him the ball when O’Neal gets to the nail on the floor. Curry then goes backdoor on his slower defender Kirk Hinrich and puts up another contested shot. All three plays show just how much Curry can and does do on the offensive end of the floor. He is asked to set up his teammates, but also lead the team in scoring. In fact, almost 25 percent of the Warriors points per game come from their superstar point guard.
Stephen Curry is a star. And stars need to make plays. All I am saying is that if the Warriors want to make a run in the playoffs, they need Curry to be on his A-game the entire time.
But playing him 38 minutes a night and asking him to score or set up his teammates on every possession without much rest brings into question just how fresh he will be come April and May when the Warriors need him most.