Is Stephen Curry a Top Five Point Guard Ever?

Nov 12, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) celebrates a basket in the third quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. The Golden State Warriors beat he Minnesota Timberwolves 129-116. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 12, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) celebrates a basket in the third quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. The Golden State Warriors beat he Minnesota Timberwolves 129-116. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports /
facebooktwitterreddit published a list that ranked the NBA’s 10 best point guards in league history. Among some of the obvious names like Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson was a somewhat controversial choice: Stephen Curry was ranked fourth on the list.

Once dominated by trees patrolling  the paint, the NBA has become a point guard’s league and, more recently, has become Stephen Curry‘s league.

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In his seventh season, Curry is playing the best basketball of his career–even better than last season when he was named the league’s Most Valuable Player and defeated an awe-inspiring LeBron James in the Finals. Curry isn’t just the Association’s best point guard, he is it’s best and most dominant player.

Basketball is a sport borderline obsessed with legacy and rankings so, of course, published a rankings of the game’s best point guards in history. According to ESPN’s writers, the best point guards of all time (from tenth to first) are: Bob Cousy, Walt Frazier, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Chris Paul, Isiah Thomas, Curry, John Stockton, Oscar Robertson, and Magic Johnson. The list features some of the game’s biggest stars, all Hall of Famers or eventual Hall members.

Steph Curry is a special talent. His skill set is unlike anything the league has seen before. Curry is an unprecedented combination of flash and efficiency–he’ll do something that for any other human being would be nearly impossible, but for him it’s a high-percentage maneuver.

Now the question is: does Stephen Curry deserve top 10 consideration, let alone the fourth spot?

Let’s take a look at some the numbers.


Only two of the listed point men averaged over 20 points for a career: Robertson (25.7) and Curry (21.6). For the most part, the greats have all been efficient scorers as well. Curry’s remarkable 47.4% shooting from the field places him sixth on the list. Per 36 minutes, only Cousy averaged more field goal attempts than Curry, while the Golden State guard’s true shooting percentage of 60.9% places him just under Johnson (61%) and above Stockton (.608). Curry’s three-point shooting is miles ahead of everyone else’s making him the deadliest weapon out of the bunch, forcing defenses to focus all their attention on stopping him. This applies to no other point guard on this list.

For many, regular season stats are almost meaningless if the production can’t be replicated in the playoffs. Out of the 10 guards, many of whom are recognized as some of the game’s biggest postseason performers, Curry’s scoring average is the highest. In three postseasons–one of which includes a title–he is scoring 25.9 points per game. Only Robertson (22.2) and Paul (20.9) are over the 20 points per game mark.


At 6.9 dimes per game, Stephen Curry’s assist numbers are below everyone else’s besides Frazier. However, the traditional numbers don’t tell the whole story. Per 100 possessions, Curry’s assist numbers are actually ahead of Robertson’s while his assist percentage is slightly below Kidd’s and Thomas’. While useful, assist numbers don’t tell the whole story when it comes to passing.

Curry is just as talented a passer as Johnson during his “Showtime” era, but as teams aim to get the ball out of the 6’3 guard’s hands, his traditional assists suffer while his secondary or “hockey” assist numbers go up. Curry leads the league with 2.5 secondary assists per game which is a direct indication of his quick-thinking passing as a result of teams blitzing him with several bodies. Though the numbers may not support it on first glance, Curry’s passing ability is on par with every great point guard, though he’s not the traditional “pass-first” point guard many like.

Awards and Accolades

Curry is just beginning to build his resumé, but he does have some noteworthy achievements in just seven years.

Curry is a two-time All-Star and his popularity almost guarantees he’ll be a starter for years to come. He defeated Klay Thompson in a Three-Point Shootout that became an instant classic. He was chosen to be a part of the All-Rookie team in 2010 and has been named to two All-NBA teams including a first team selection last year. The greatest marksman the NBA has seen, Curry holds several shooting records including three-pointers in a season.

During one of the most spectacular years any athlete in recent memory has enjoyed, Curry was named the league’s Most Valuable Player last season, surpassing Frazier, Kidd, Paul, and Stockton in that regard. He also came away with his first championship, setting himself apart from Nash, Paul, and Stockton while tying Kidd and Robertson. Curry has also won outside of the NBA, winning two gold medals for Team USA in both the 2010 and 2014 FIBA World Cups.

As of right now, the others have the edge over Curry in this category simply because he hasn’t played a full career yet. Regardless, Curry has reached certain milestones and heights that others have not.


Taking everything into consideration, Curry is already an all-time great point guard.

Curry is already on a path few in league history have been on. I looked up some numbers to see which players fit that criteria. Of course, these numbers are arbitrary, but I felt that they were a good baseline to view great players. Here’s a complete list of players that, for a career, have averaged at least 20 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds on 45% shooting from the field: Robertson, Jerry West, Larry Bird, James, and Curry. That’s it.

Many people wondered (and complained) that it was too soon to put Curry in this discussion. I would argue that no, it’s not too early. In 1996, a panel selected the “50 Greatest Players in NBA History” and a 24 year old Shaquille O’Neal, who was in his fourth season, was honored. Greatness isn’t determined by age or experience, some players just embody it. O’Neal did. And so does Curry.

Stephen Curry
Stephen Curry /

If your primary concern is a list of accomplishments, then Curry probably isn’t there yet. But he possesses an elite ability that no one else in league history has come close to. And in his short career, his highs have been arguably just as high, if not higher, than any other point guard. Few players–regardless of position–have dominated the league the way he has over the last few years. The greatest players change the game and the way it’s played. They inspire generations of fans and players. Curry is doing al of that.

Is Stephen Curry the fourth greatest point guard of all-time?

In my opinion, Curry’s ranking is valid, if you take his dynamic talent and ever-growing resumé. My answer is yes and that this will only become more evident in time. Curry will not only become a clear-cut great point guard of all-time, but, based on his current trajectory, he can become one of the greatest overall players.

Many don’t believe he belongs there, whether because they think he’s just a jump shooter or it’s too soon or they just don’t like him. For those that instantly scoff at the notion of Curry being compared to the greats, after looking at all the numbers and facts, a more relevant question than “is Curry the fourth greatest ever?” appears: why can’t he be?