By Justin Taylor
When I say that Stephen Curry is not the point guard of the future in Golden State (or San Francisco) most would probably expect me to cite his glass ankle or his leafy body. It’s hard to fault him much as a basketball player so I won’t be doing that either. You might start scanning down the column for trade proposals or some alternative master plan (although as it turns out I’ve got a couple, crazy I know.) I just don’t think Steph is a point guard. Being a great passer, having superior basketball IQ and an inability to match up against any other position size wise does not make you a point man by default in the NBA. At least it shouldn’t.
When you think of the point guard position in the NBA you’ve been thinking about guys like Chris Paul, Steve Nash, Deron Williams, Tony Parker and Rajon Rondo for years now. In recent years we’ve seen Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and John Wall coming in and changing the make up of the position for better or worse. I miss the era of the floor general or in Avery Johnson’s case the days of the Lil General. Just because Curry doesn’t fit the new, old or Avery mold as a point I don’t think that’s my answer either. Curry doesn’t create passing lanes like the first group nor does he shred the defense like the youngsters.
This is a guy who tends to take what opportunities the defense provides but doesn’t break them down and make them pay when they react. There’s nothing wrong with that but not really attributes of a game changing point guard. Since the day we drafted him and decided he was the new point guard I’ve had him pegged as a slightly better Mike Bibby but as a pure point. I think Bibby has a leg or at least an ankle up on him as a point guard right now though.
My main argument is framed by the fact that Stephen Curry could be one of the best shooters this league has ever seen. This baby-faced assassin was born to play shooting guard whether it is in a Rec League or the NBA. This guy was outshining professional shooters as a twelve year old. He was the best shooter on any team he’s ever played but all of the sudden the term SHOOTING guard is open to interpretation. The problem is that the NBA is an amusement park ride that has a sign out front that reads, "Must be 6’6 to play anything but point guard."
Saying Reggie Miller was an average defender would be a major compliment, maybe too generous. He thrived because he had a playoff contending offense based entirely on him during his Hall of Fame career. Rip Hamilton was never praised for his defense but he was prominently featured on a team-oriented offense that won an NBA championship and came within a game of a second! Stephen Curry is better than both of those guys at what they did best but we’ll never see that because he’s busy making sure everyone else gets their touches. Give him the let Reggie Rip treatment, run the offense through him and watch defenses suffer the consequences. Having this kid bring the ball up the floor neutralizes one huge asset he could share with Reggie Ripper; they ran defenders ragged trying to keep up with them around 10 screens a possession.
We are still in the same position we stood with Monta Ellis just a couple years ago. The only difference now is that we actually have the option an ideal sized two guard. Isn’t Steph a better shooting guard than Klay Thompson? It’s a rhetorical question because I know that he is a superior player to Klay and he is a natural two guard. Wouldn’t it be attractive if we had a bigger point that could run the team, get everyone their shots and defend some of the bigger guards when we’re not playing zone? Let’s be honest, whether Steph is playing the one or the two we’ll be playing a lot of zone. We’ve been asking that question since Baron Davis left us for the opportunity to produce movies and dunk Krispy Kremes instead of basketballs. At that point Thompson is anchoring the offense on the second unit with Rush and McGuire hopefully manning the three.
If Monta Ellis is a top 5 shooting guard in the league (and I believe he is) then Stephen Curry can be too. If a trade comes along that will allow you to package him (future 1st rounder +Dorrell Wright) for a Deron Williams, a Chris Paul or a Rajon Rondo I’m all in. Adding a natural floor leader to the balanced roster we have right now could take this team to heights we haven’t even thought of yet. I can’t blame Williams or CP3 for not making any commitments to this cursed franchise, which makes it nearly impossible for the team to consider such a move. I was disappointed however to read about the rumored Rondo deal that didn’t go through in the preseason. Even if it was a rumor perpetrated by some blogger with about as much inside info as myself. I may be on an island with that one but I liked the dynamic that would have added to the team.
This isn't Steph Curry at his best.
The realistic conclusion is to draft North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall. The guy can’t throw a rock in the ocean from more than 10 feet but from day one on the job he is the best natural point guard and tempo controller on this team. This would make Curry to be the smartest most efficient shooting guard in the league instead of a good point guard in a league full of them. You now have five guys playing ball the way they were born to play it and none of them worrying about how every move effects the other four. The rookie would make Steph, Klay, D. Lee, Jenkins and Bogut more efficient and effective even if it were only for 15 minutes a game. In crunch time he allows you to space the floor and set up the best crop of shooters in the game without taking the big men out of it.
Marshall might even come in as less of a liability on defense but I think we can all agree he can’t be any worse. Considering the depth of point guards and shooting guards across the league, where is Steph less of a burden on that end of the floor? The inability to contain opposing point guards is more detrimental to the team than any size advantage the shallow pool of shooting guards would have. If we are going to be playing from behind on defense either way I think playing from ahead on offense is the best course of action. By my count we’ve got three above average defenders on the roster in Rush, McGuire and Bogut. Mark Jackson preaching defense to the squad or the fan base doesn’t equal a solid defensive unit.
The biggest lesson to take from Don Nelson’s NBA Anarchy Cookbook (I couldn’t find any copies in print but I swear I’ve read it) is to highlight the strengths and mask the weaknesses of his shooters. He did this while setting fire to the talents and confidence of his big men but that’s another column. The point is Chris Mullin couldn’t guard a stop sign but he managed to do ok for himself, no? In years past it was called small ball or Nellie ball but that was because we never had a center. That is going to change this season. Goodbye to the ghosts of Alton Lister, Erick Dampier, Adonal Foyle, Andris Biedrins and Mikki Moore. Holy shit! The last two are on the current roster? Do they know that? Anyways…welcome Andrew Bogut, I hope you’re ready for early foul trouble cause the perimeter floodgates are open when Steph is on the floor.
This is the guy we drafted. Was this guy worried about everyone else's shots?
I hate the way he’s been pigeon holed into being a less effective version of himself. I hate his ankles. I hate that we might overpay him at the end of next season but does that make me a Curry hater? I’d like to see the Warriors draft or trade for a true point guard to maximize his and Thompson’s talents at the same time. I’m driving that bandwagon and there’s room if anyone wants a ride. He needs a screen here and there, a balanced floor, a healthy ankle and someone to get him the ball where he can hurt the defense, basically anywhere on the right side of half court.
If management can show a little balls and/or creativity in providing some of these things it just may allow him to be the prodigy he was born to be. Stepping up and doing what’s right make for a long happy career for him and us fans on his way to the rafters. If they prove to be one of those that think he is too small and feathery to be anything but a one in this league we’re going to need a new point guard before we get to San Francisco. I’d rather have the next Reggie Miller than the next Mike Bibby but the guys in the front office are the ones who can make him better than both.