As our summer mainstay, Aaron's writing a 370-part series discussing almost every notable player who was -- as of last season -- getting minutes in the NBA. Intent is to get you talking, thinking, and appreciating the myriad of wonderful folks who play in our favorite sports league. This afternoon's trio: Stephen Curry, Anthony Morrow, Lavoy Allen.
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Follow Stephen Curry on twitter at @StephenCurry30.
I don't really understand the relationship between Stephen Curry and Warriors fans. I'm friends with many, and one consistent thread related to Curry is disappointment -- disappointment in his injuries, disappointment in his sometimes lazy conditioning, disappointment that he simply hasn't been better. I'd challenge that, a bit. First off, while the injuries are a huge problem, expressing disdain for the athletes for suffering them is somewhat absurd. It's an absolute shame that Curry has now suffered the ninth ankle sprain of his career and dealt with five injuries in a single, compressed season. I don't want to detract from how aggravating that is to fans. But I also don't want to detract from the fact that it really isn't his fault. Lazy conditioning may be a factor of some sort, but conditioning is never some kind of all-encompassing factor. It's one of many factors that combine with bad luck to make an otherwise solid player turn into an injury-riddled mess. As for the last part, disappointment that he's been rather up-and-down, and hasn't been a better player? Curry isn't exactly chopped liver.
Over his three-year career, Curry is sporting a shooting percentage of 44% from three -- that's the second best career three point percentage in NBA history. Anemic though his defense may be, he's improved his assist percentage every season and he's made some gains on a rebounding front. He's done all of this with relatively high usage for a point guard, which makes his sparkling percentages even more impressive. He's three percent away in raw FG% from having career shooting percentages of 50-40-90 -- which would make him the only player in history to accomplish that feat. Stephen Curry has his problems -- he's a bit turnover prone, his conditioning could use some work, and his defense needs help. But in terms of quality, he's about as good as you can get, and one of the best players from his draft. When a team's fans chastise a player like Curry, I like to look back and imagine who else they could've gotten that would be doing better. So let's examine the 2009 draft. Obviously, Curry isn't quite up to the rarefied air that surrounds Griffin and Harden. Then again, the Warriors didn't pass on either of them -- they picked seventh. Of the players chosen after Curry, there's only one player I think you could argue has been a distinctly better player in the NBA -- Ty Lawson, chosen at #18. At the time of the draft, even that was considered a bit of a reach -- had the Warriors taken him at #7, they'd have gotten a small boost in productivity while getting an offseason or two worth of scorn and mockery. Would that have really been worth it?
In the end, Curry is somewhere around the 4th best player taken in his draft. Only one player taken after Curry is distinctly better than him, and he was a shock that nobody really thought would be a fantastic NBA player. I don't really see where the disappointment in Curry's game itself comes from -- his per-minute averages have been remarkably consistent throughout his career thus far, and his only serious flaws come from things his injury history can account for. I really hope Curry gets better -- I think he's extremely fun to watch and an incredible talent. It's true that Curry needs to work with a personal trainer and stick to a better fitness regimen, but if he balances himself better and works on his step, I don't see any reason he can't get past these injury problems and contribute on a big-league level to a contending Warriors team. Shooters like Curry who can put up shooting percentages like he does on the high usage the Warriors give him are a rare commodity, mostly because they didn't actually exist until Steph Curry stepped into the league. I think Warriors fans should give him another go at it and cut him some slack. And I really hope he surprises everyone with a fully healthy, expansive year next year. Let's make it happen, Curry.
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Follow Anthony Morrow on twitter at @MrAnthonyMorrow.
Hey, speaking of shooters, it's Anthony Morrow! Morrow is another of the active players who reside in the top 10 of the NBA's all-time career shooting leaderboard -- Curry is second, Morrow is ninth. In fact, five of the top 10 are still active in the league -- the other three are Steve Nash, Steve Novak, and (hilariously) Jason Kapono. You may gather from Kapono's inclusion that being an NBA all-time great at shooting the three pointer isn't necessarily a mark of superstardom. You'd be right. Of the top fifty in career three point percentage, I only count four hall-of-fame players: Nash, Drazen Petrovic, Ray Allen, and Reggie Miller. That's it. Which is actually a relatively interesting phenomenon. There are very few career leaderboards where you have to go that deep to find four hall-of-fame caliber players. Raw field goal percent? The fourth is #21, Charles Barkley. Turnover percentage? The fourth is #31, Dan Issel. Personal fouls? The fourth is #4, Robert Parish.
The history of the three point line may have something to do with it, but I don't think it fully explains it. There have been many hall of fame players since the imposition of the three point line, and even if you ignored players that played the majority of their minutes before the rise of the three, it's still easier to find hall of famers higher on every leaderboard -- even the negative ones -- than that of the three point percentage. Which is really very interesting. I think the phenomenon is primarily due to the way NBA teams have used the three since it came about -- it has become a set shot, a pivot in an offense meant to open up the floor for players to dominate the paint and to get defenses off-balance. In this usage, you need to have players who are designated three point threats, with the ability to get off a shot with virtually no set-up time. They aren't meant to come into the arc on offense, and generally don't -- they float outside the arc, always ready, always poised.
The key is that they aren't allowed time to set up their shot, or impose creativity -- the underpinnings of what makes a great three point shooter like Anthony Morrow good at what he does also makes him relatively awful at most other aspects of the game. Defense is about creativity and the ability to make reads and challenge offense. Becoming a prolific set-shot three point shooter who needs no airspace or time to get off his shot is about muscle memory and developed learning -- not just in the arms and shoulders, but also in their feet. Learning to stop on a dime with your feet set to take a three is not an easy skill to learn, nor is it very conducive to defense, where creative footwork and staggered stops can confuse the offensive player and give you a distinct advantage. Nor is it very conducive to developing as an excellent passer or an excellent rebounder, as you need to be on constant alert to ensure your form stays perfect.
Morrow is a pretty great representative, here. His game isn't simply predicated around the three, it is the three. An anemic rebounder, a poor passer, and not all that much like the scoring-type Jamal Crawford player who dominates the ball. Morrow is a shooter who picks his spots, sets his feet, and makes threes at an astonishingly prolific rate. He works his form constantly, and in his rigid set stances on defense and blithely telegraphed passes you can begin to see where developing the fluid quickness of his beautiful shot may inadvertantly have made it more difficult for him to develop his talents in other areas of the game. The same applies to players like Jason Kapono, and Steve Novak, and Kyle Korver -- they built their games around being incredible three point shooters. That's perfectly fine. But unlike most NBA talents, being an incredible three point shooter often involves developing skills that act counter to the creativity that makes many of the NBA's greats endure past their time.
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Follow Lavoy Allen on twitter at @BroadStBully24.
Lavoy Allen was one of the surprises out of this rookie class, though many still haven't heard of him. The Philadelphia-born Allen was selected with the 50th pick in last year's draft out of Philadelphia's Temple University to play for the Philadelphia 76ers. (He might have a passing familiarity with the city of Philadelphia.) Immediately, the selection was widely panned as a marginal-or-worse one by analysts before and after the draft. In particular, last year's NBARank had Allen rated the 500th out of 500 players. I think my favorite part of the comments there is the general sense of bemusement among Philadelphia fans -- particularly the last comment, where "flyrman57" points out that due to the ranking, there was literally no possible way Lavoy Allen would be a bust. Now THAT'S putting a nice spin on some bad news.
Regardless. Allen was actually a pretty good player for the Sixers. He barely played, but when he did, his averages were very good -- his per-36 numbers averaged out to a double double, 10 points and 10 boards a game. He had his share of highlight moments as well, including this ridiculously clutch tiebreaking shot in the final minutes of Game 2 in the Sixers' second round series versus the Boston Celtics. It's rare for a rookie to be a contributing factor on a team that gets a few bounces shy of an conference finals berth, but alas, there he was. He's got the skillset to be around for a long time, too. He's extremely strong for his size, and has enough height and length to guard NBA big men. He's got a decent set shot at the long two, and he's a solid finisher. If he works on his high foul rate and adds a bit more heft to his post game, Lavoy Allen has a good chance to be a really solid player in the NB--...
... wait, his twitter location is seriously "between Nicki Minaj's cheeks"?
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At the end of each post, I'll be scribing riddles for the next batch. Whoever gets the most right will get a shout out at the end of the next post. Tweet me your answers at @docrostov, or post them in the comments. If several people tie, I'll post everyone who tied. Apparently I'm making these way too hard -- a bunch of folks tied with 2/3, including @ChattJacket20 and @loverofsports. So I'll try to make the riddles for Friday's first post easier.
- Player #19 was somehow selected 16th overall in one of the last 5 drafts. You still wouldn't recognize him. (Look up the last few drafts.)
- Don't really know how Player #20 went from dazzling in the WCF to bad contract trade bait in less than two years. He did it, tho.
- For my money, the toughest player in the league. Player #21 aint nothin' to ___ with.
See you on Friday, folks.