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To Stephen Curry: Take the Money and Run

By 03.27.09

Stephen Curry
Yesterday’s Winston-Salem Journal had a piece on Stephen Curry and his plans on entering this summer’s NBA Draft (“I’m 50 percent in the middle,” Steph says in the interview). Here’s my advice to Steph: Take the guaranteed NBA (probable) Lottery money and run because it’s not going to last long.

It’s not that I don’t love Steph’s game, because I do. The ratchet is crazy, the range is even crazier, and he’s one of the two or three bona fide superstars in all of college basketball. Unfortunately that doesn’t make him an NBA player. Could he be an NBA bit player, a situational specialist, who can probably hang around for a while and collect checks because of shooting ability? Definitely. A future star worthy of the Lottery? No way.

The guys in the office kill me and call me a hater because of my stance on Steph, but that’s just the reality of the situation. It was never more clear to me than the other night during the Davidson/St, Mary’s NIT game on ESPN when I was watching Steph and another guy kind of in his same situation, Patty Mills, running amok against mid-major defenders. They were both doing their thing – sort of – against competition not even close to what they’d see in NBA summer league games. For his part, Steph poured in 26, albeit on 27 shots.

For a guy who shoots a ton of threes, Curry clocked in at a solid 45% from the field this season. But when he goes against tougher competition, he becomes much more of a volume shooter. Check out his lines against top squads this season:

vs. NC State: 15-33
vs. West Virginia: 9-27
vs. Purdue: 5-26
vs. College of Charleston (three meetings): 11-25, 7-22, 5-18
vs. Duke: 10-22
vs. Butler: 6-23
vs. St. Mary’s: 11-27

This is not to ignore the 44-point blitzkrieg he put on Oklahoma at the start of the season, but even then, he shot just 6-15 from the floor, earning a big chunk of his points at the foul line. True, every single night Steph is the main focus of the other team’s defense, but volume shooting on the next level for an undersized (he’s listed at 6-3 which means he’s probably closer to 6-2 or 6-1) shoot-first point guard (which is what he will have to play in the League) doesn’t really work unless you’re Allen Iverson.

And keep in mind that these shooting numbers are coming with college athletes defending him. Discovering ways of getting buckets on Appalachian State’s backcourt is a whole lot different than doing the same against an NBA backcourt, even if we’re talking about second- and third-tier NBA guards like Kyle Lowry and Jarrett Jack.

An NBA scout who has long been one of my go-to sources for player analysis always asks the following questions when I hit him about whether or not Player X can play in the League: “What does he do better than most other guys in the NBA? If you’re asking this question, it probably means he’s going to be a backup, so how does he match up with players he’d be facing? Who can he guard?”

Asking those about Curry, the answers to the first question are A) He can shoot/manufacture points better than most bench players he’d be facing and B) he’s shown that he’s an above-average passer. So how does he match up against other backups? Can he guard the Keyon Doolings, Nate Robinsons and Jason Terrys of the NBA? I’m not so sure that he can. Maybe, maybe not. Conversely, can they guard him? Maybe, maybe not.

The point of all of this is that there are a lot more questions than answers about Stephen Curry on the next level, much more so than the other players, even in a weak 2009 draft class, projected to go in the Lottery. DraftExpress has Curry going eighth, NBADraft.net (which has Steph in the 2010 NBA Draft) has him going 17th and ESPN.com’s Lottery Generator has him consistently going top 10.

The bottom line is that if Steph gets word that he will most likely be a lottery pick this year, he needs to go. I know that people will say that he doesn’t need the money because of his dad and that he should stay and develop for one more year to improve his stock. To that I say I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want to live off his dad’s money and if he comes back, no matter how many 40-spots he puts up against mid-major comp, I guarantee we will be having this same conversation about his NBA stock this time next year.

If he decides to come back to school, great. I’d be more than happy to watch him get buckets in college next season. Maybe I’m wrong (it’s happened before), but if there’s Lottery money and security for a guy who most likely is Eddie House on the next level, he needs to take the money and run.


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