Sunday, December 5, 2021

Warriors’ Steph Curry on his way to breaking the NBA record

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It’s early days, but Steph Curry is well on his way to achieving something no shooter in NBA history has ever done – including himself.

The Golden State Warriors lead the league with a win / lose record of 12-2. They’re doing so without the help of all-star shooting guard Klay Thompson or sophomore James Wiseman, both of whom will be returning in the coming months and both likely to end up in the Dubs starting XI before that too.

How does Golden State achieve so much success? There are several answers: they play a great defense, they bounce the ball back with tremendous effort, they are insanely deep, and they get meaningful input from young and / or new members of their squad.

These are all great answers, and they are all part of the equation. But the best answer remains the most obvious – the game of Curry. His offensive performance this season, particularly the historic one he put in 14 games behind the 3-point line, has kept the Warriors on top in the Western Conference and could keep them on top for the remainder of the season.

Curry shoots and makes 3 points at an historic pace in the early stages of the team.

Tim Kawakami, of The Athletic, outlined Curry’s current development in a Twitter post on Wednesday November 17th.

“Hey, Steph Curry has just pushed over 40% off the 3 point gap for the season (now 40.6%). Knew that this climber could somehow make it. ” Kawakami wrote online. “Besides, if he’s playing 80 games he’s on track to make 432 3s. Hey Steph, why don’t you take 450? “

The NBA record for 3-pointers in a single season is 402 according to the basketball reference. These shots were taken by Curry himself in 2015-16. James Harden, now of the Brooklyn Nets, is second on the list of 378 3-pointers he dumped as a member of the Houston Rockets in 2018-19.

Curry has the next three highest totals, including 337 3-point points during last year’s shortened campaign. This record is enough for fourth place, and the season has been shortened by 10 games.

Despite Tom Brady’s temporary exception, Father Time remains undefeated in the world of sports, or in the world of anything else, and it could easily catch up with Curry. The now 33-year-old Dubs superstar will turn 34 in March 2022 before the regular season ends. As Kawakami noted, curry has only crept up over 40% from the depths this season.

For those not keeping a close eye on his lifetime percentages, this is the lowest average he has shot behind the bow in his entire career – except for 2019-20 when Curry only played five games before a broken hand incapacitated for a year. For comparison, Curry shot 45.4% behind the line in 2015-16 when he became the only player in NBA history to score more than 400 3-point points in a single season.

So how is he going to break his own record? The answer is volume.

For the number of tries Curry makes, it is still ridiculous to drill more than 4 out of 10 shots past the 3-point line. In fact, it’s a great number for players who only shoot three or four times per game from these points.

This season, Curry tries to score 13.4 3 points every night he plays. That’s 0.7 more per contest than Curry’s average last season when he set the all-time NBA record for 3-point attempts. The reigning top scorer of the league also drilled 5.3 shots from below in 2020-21. That year he makes 5.4 per basketball reference.

Here’s how the math works – Curry takes 3-point shots at a clip lower than ever, albeit still at a surprisingly high rate, but he also shoots more than ever. This could be a function of Thompson’s absence from the line-up, and Curry’s attempts could fail if his backcourt vice president returns after more than two years of absence. But that is not necessarily the case.

Recently retired sniper JJ Reddick was featured as ESPN’s newest basketball analyst earlier this month. During his opening press conference, Reddick was asked which historic NBA teams he wished to be a part of.

One of his answers was the Warriors of Curry and Thompson, and when Reddick gave his reasons for doing so, he produced an interesting dynamic that occurs when great 3-point shooters hit the ground at the same time for the same team.

“So I read this interesting statistic. It was like a three year course where the two players with the most open threesomes in the NBA were Steph and Klay, ”said Redick. “That doesn’t seem intuitive, but the reality is, the more shooting you have on the court, especially if you have elite shooters, the better you will look.”

Based on the statistic Reddick is referring to, Curry will look more open-minded when Thompson returns. This could result in Curry scoring even more 3-point shots, as the Warriors’ total 3-point shots per game would likely also increase. It could also result in a much better look, which would likely result in Curry’s percentage rising from the deep and potentially reaching the same number of 3s or even more despite trying the same number or even fewer.

The realities of Thompson’s return make the real question of whether Curry will break his own record – which he is on the right track after 14 games in the season with 30 brands – simply a matter of health.

Curry missed nine of 72 games last season. He has one more game to play this year. At his age, Curry won’t play 82 games. However, he had a run between 2012 and 2017 in which he appeared in 78-80 games annually.

If Curry stays healthy, he probably won’t sit much before Thompson returns – an event the team says is slated for sometime around Christmas. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr might also have an incentive to play Curry a game or two longer than he normally would if Golden State had a chance to finish the season number 1 in the Western Conference.

If Curry holds out, he’ll likely do the seemingly impossible again. At this point he’s only competing with historical versions of himself, but what a competition it turns out to be.

This season, Curry tries to score 13.4 3 points every night he plays. That’s 0.7 more per contest than Curry’s average last season when he set the all-time NBA record for 3-point attempts. The reigning top scorer of the league also drilled 5.3 shots from below in 2020-21. That year he makes 5.4 per basketball reference.



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