In 2008, Stephen Curry made the decision to stay in college, passing up millions in the NBA Draft, and it turned out to be a great move for the NBA’s newest MVP.
In March 2008, Curry led Davidson to the Elite 8, where they lost to eventual national champion Kansas 59-57.
Curry, who caught fire during the tournament, had become a national sensation. Rather cashing in on that newfound fame with an immediate jump to the NBA, Curry came out the day after the Kansas game and announced that he would return to Davidson for his junior season.
Not only was Curry passing up the chance to earn millions in the 2008-09 season, he was also bucking one of the biggest reasons young players enter the NBA Draft even before they are ready. That is, they want to get to the NBA as soon as possible in order to get to their potentially more lucrative second contract sooner.
But Curry saw the bigger picture. When he made his announcement, his reasoning was simple.
“I don’t think I’m ready,” he said at the time.
The biggest issue was that Curry had spent his first two seasons at Davidson playing shooting guard with the older Jason Richards running the point.
Prior to announcing his return to Davidson for his junior year, one scouting report from DraftExpress.com praised Curry’s shooting ability but projected him as a career backup guard in large part because he was too small to be a shooting guard and nobody knew if he could play point guard:
“He can be prone to having his shot blocked, which is due to his size just as much as it’s due to him having to take so many closely contested shots every game … There are many question marks surrounding his game at the next level, ranging from his size to his position to how his skills will translate in general, but his talent, clutch ability, and the intangibles he brings to the table are undeniable. It’s tough to project his role at the next level at this stage of his development, but even without dramatic improvement, a Jannero Pargo or Juan Carlos Navarro type role is not very much of a stretch. If he improves on his point guard skills or grows another inch or two while adding some strength, full-fledged careers at either the PG or SG position are not out of the picture.”
The next season, Davidson failed to reach the NCAA Tournament, losing in the second round of the NIT, and Curry fell off the radar of most fans. However, he had accomplished what he returned to school to do.
Curry was now a point guard and much more valuable to NBA teams.
Eleven months after their previous report on Curry, DraftExpress.com was singing a different tune and praising his decision to return to school.
“The biggest revelation of this season is the relative ease in which Curry has converted to the point guard position. Still obviously possessing a shoot-first mentality, Curry has looked fairly unselfish running his team’s offence, displaying excellent court vision and a real knack for getting teammates involved (relative to the team’s situation). He does a good job on the pick and roll, and is a much more creative passer than we were previously able to see, capable of handling the ball with either hand and being very adept at playing at different speeds. Although he’s probably never going to be a pure playmaker in the Steve Nash or Chris Paul mould, he plays the game at an excellent pace, looks extremely poised at all times, and appears to show a good enough feel for the game to at least develop into a capable facilitator.”
That sounds an awful lot like the Curry we see today. By staying an extra year, Curry went from being a mid- or late-first-round pick to the sixth pick in the 2009 NBA Draft.
Injuries ultimately slowed his progress and the Warriors were able to extend Curry with what has turned out to be the biggest bargain contract in the NBA in 2012. But at the same time, Curry was able to avoid being pigeon-holed into being a back-up role player and is instead the NBA’s reigning MVP.
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