Western Conference All-Star starter. All-NBA Second Team. Sixth place regular season MVP. Career highs in points pre game and assists per game.
These are merely some of the accolades Stephen Curry has earned in the 2013-2014 season. While the Golden State Warriors may not have progressed out of the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs, they can take pride in the fact that their leader has improved leaps and bounds from last season. Many questioned Curry’s ability to lead the team. Concerns surrounded his health issues, with many citing his worrisome ankle which had flared up towards the end of the 2012-2013 season. However, he quashed those remarks by only missing four games this season.
He really improved as a playmaker for his team, as evidenced by the jump in assists numbers (from 6.9 to 8.5). His assists per game ranks him fifth in the league. However, there was an increase in turnovers per game (from 3.1 to 3.8), and while some of that can be attributed to an increase in usage rate (from 26.4% to 28.3%), Curry has been found guilty of throwing the ball away on many possessions.
This season saw a drop in Curry’s three-point percentage (from 44.5% to 42.1%), especially with opposing defences being more aware and more diligent in chasing Curry off the three-point line. Apart from the decrease in three-point shot attempts (from 706 to 672), not much has changed in his outside shooting game. He doesn’t seem to favor one particular area, but many shot attempts originate above the break; Mark Jackson would frequently have Curry run a high pick-and-roll with Bogut above the three-point line, and once Curry was clear, he would launch a three.
Curry showed a more aggressive approach in his game this season, with more shot attempts in the painted area (23.8% of his shots were in the paint, with a FG% of 53.5%). This resulted in an increase in his free throw attempts (from 3.7 to 4.5 per game). Curry relied less on his midrange jumper (from 154 to 115), but shot a better percentage from that area (from 45.5% to 54.8%). All this translated into a more efficient field goal percentage for Curry (from 45.1% to 47.1%), and his true shooting percentage was a career high 61%. Combining that with his usage rate, he had the third highest true shooting percentage and usage rate behind LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
Even with such an impressive season, there are still areas of Curry’s offensive game that need improving. Curry led the league in turnovers this year, with many of them being careless throw aways with the game hanging in the balance. He needs to improve his decision-making abilities, especially when the team’s offense relies on him so heavily.
Another aspect that needs improving is his ability to finish in the paint – he shot only 53.5% in that area. A shot he has not yet mastered is the floater, and if he were to add that to his arsenal, it would enable him to finish at a higher percentage while avoiding contact with the rim protector, something his wiry frame cannot handle too often. If Curry continues to work on his finishing, he can add another dimension to his offensive game, leaving opponents to having to pick their poison.
Jackson was notorious for relying heavily on Curry to create his own shot. There was a big increase in unassisted three-point attempts this season (from 39.8% to 54.4%). Among the top-5 for most three-point shot attempts, Curry was the faraway leader for most unassisted attempts (Damien Lillard was second with 42.9%). While Curry may be a very prolific three-point shooter, it definitely can’t hurt to have him run off screens and have a larger portion of his shot attempts to be assisted. With a quick release that he has, even an inch of separation would go a long way to creating a high percentage three-point shot for Curry. Furthermore, relative to his three-point shot attempts, Curry does not attempt many corner threes. This shot is referred to by many as the easiest three-point shot, and in theory would provide Curry with an easier look. With Steve Kerr — who many consider one of the best shooters ever in the NBA — on board as the new head coach, many fans have been hoping that he will bring with him the treasure trove of plays his previous coaches have run for him.
Curry has really stepped it up last season with the improvement in his playmaking ability. If he is able to maintain this improvement, coupled with his shooting prowess, he could resemble Steve Nash in his prime. Who knows? Perhaps with a more detailed offensive plan, we might see Curry flourish even more next season. MVP, anyone?