- With a re-shaped Golden State Warriors offence around him, Stephen Curry will have to shoulder a heavier scoring load than ever to keep the team competitive.
- Curry said on a podcast that he knows he will have to be more aggressive and will possibly look to shoot more this season.
- If Curry stays true to his word, he could put up similar numbers to his unanimous MVP season in 2015-16 and enter the MVP conversation again this year.
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The Golden State Warriors will look a bit different to begin the 2019-20 season.
Gone are Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston. Klay Thompson is out until at least February recovering from a torn ACL. In their places are D’Angelo Russell, and several younger, “second-draft” players the Warriors are taking chances on with cheap contracts.
What remains the same, however, is that Stephen Curry will be the fulcrum of the Warriors offence and the star responsible for how far they go. To hear Curry tell it, he is prepared to shoulder the load and carry the Warriors if need be this season.
“This year, if I – for lack of a better term – s— the bed, it’s gonna be really hard for us to win games,” Curry told The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami on a podcast. “So, I accept that challenge, for sure. I understand what kind of player I need to be.”
Curry said he isn’t expecting an MVP-esque season from himself. However, if he plays the way the team needs, he may enter the conversation.
“I never put that much pressure on myself to say, ‘I gotta be MVP,’ whatever, because I know that’s kinda out of your control,” Curry told Kawakami. “I always look at myself and say when I walk off the floor, ‘Did I play well or not?’ … I definitely understand that if I’m playing the way I’m supposed to play and we’re winning games, then I should be in [the MVP] conversation. And that’s what I hope for, and I’m doing everything in my power to make it happen.”
Even with Russell on the roster to pick up some of the scoring slack, Curry is positioned to a throwback season, the type that earned him back-to-back MVPs in 2014-15 and 2015-16. In the latter year, Curry won unanimous MVP by averaging 30 points per game on 50-45-90 shooting (50% FG, 45% 3FG, 90% FT, a rare feat in the NBA) while making 402 three-pointers, an NBA single-season record.
“I’m gonna shoot way more threes than that dude,” Curry joked to Kawakami when asked if he’ll have a repeat of his 2015-16 season.
Even as he said it in a joking manner, there is evidence that Curry would be wise to put up more three-point attempts than ever. NBC’s Tom Haberstroh argued last season that Curry should take at least 15 three-pointers per game. Haberstroh noted that Curry had shot 49% from three on his 10th-15th attempts in a night, compared to 43% on his first 10 attempts. Curry’s efficiency and expected points would rise if he were taking 15 threes per game. He has averaged 10 attempts per game over the last five seasons.
Curry told Kawakami that while he tried to stay aggressive in previous years, he also had to set up teammates in Durant, Thompson, Iguodala, and Livingston. He said he might have to “force the issue” a little bit more this season if the Warriors offence gets “stagnant.”
Curry will have his work cut out from him, however, at least in the early going of the season. As ESPN’s Zach Lowe noted, Curry averaged 41 points per-36 minutes last season with Green on the floor, but Thompson and Durant off of it. In the two prior seasons, he averaged 45 and 38 points per 36 minutes in those same scenarios. Though they’re relatively small sample sizes (segments of games averaged out over 36 minutes of a full game), they indicated that Curry was ultra-aggressive – and successful – when he wasn’t setting up the Warriors’ other scorers.
Curry already showed glimpses of it in the preseason, like when he scored 40 points in 25 minutes of play.
But Curry won’t simply be able to replicate that this season. The Warriors are thin at almost every position. This year, opponents will trap Curry, forcing him to give up the ball to the Warriors’ lesser scorers and shooters.
The Warriors could have success in those moments if it means setting up Green with a 4-on-3 situation. But if Curry’s new cast of teammates doesn’t make opponents pay, other teams will feel even more comfortable forcing the ball out of his hands.
Even still, Lowe predicted Curry would win the scoring title. With Russell and Green on the court, the Warriors could play Curry off the ball more, running plays for him to catch the ball on the move and make a play.
Curry sounds fully aware of the challenge that awaits him and what he’ll have to do to keep the Warriors in the playoff hunt. It opens up the possibility of Curry having one of the most dynamic and must-watch seasons in NBA history.
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