Is Stephen Curry Overrated?Posted by nvr1983 on January 4th, 2009
Since his 40 point explosion in Davidson’s first round victory over Gonzaga last March, college basketball fans have been bombarded with the Stephen Curry lovefest that has been spearheaded by Dick Vitale and ESPN. The WWL and other hoops aficionados loves to point out that Curry was ignored by every major school including Virginia Tech, the alma mater of his father NBA All-Star Dell Curry. Like every other basketball fan we love the way Stephen plays and his sweet stroke from the perimeter that has been augmented by a surprising ability to get to the hoop and finish. Since last March, it has been hard to find anybody that would be critical of the baby-faced assassin from Davidson, but here at Rush the Court we like to let our minds not our hearts analyze the situation.
Like many NBA scouts, I have had my reservations about anointing Stephen the next great NBA player much to the chagrin of some Davidson fans. However, I continued to marvel (see my post minutes after Davidson knocked Gonzaga out of the NCAA tournament in the first round last year) at his ability to put up numbers despite the best efforts of the opposition (with the exception of the antics of Jimmy Patsos). After watching his performance against Purdue (5/26 FG), his third sub-par game this year against quality (BCS-level) competition, I started to wonder if all those BCS conference coaches and NBA scouts may have been on to something. So I started to crunch the numbers, which led to some very surprising results.
To break down Curry’s career, I divided up his 82 career games into 4 major categories (overall, BCS + Gonzaga, Non-BCS, and Southern Conference) both year-by-year and his career. Even though Gonzaga technically isn’t a BCS team, I think we can agree that they have been a national power for the past decade and would reasonably be considered a BCS-level team (ignoring the past 2 weeks).
Although Curry is still able to get his against quality competition (25.7 PPG in BCS + Gonzaga compared to 24.2 PPG versus all other teams), he becomes significantly less efficient in doing so. His field goal percentage drops from 49.1% against non-BCS competition to 40.4% against BCS-level competition. The numbers become even more interesting when you look at Stephen’s numbers year-by-year against BCS-level competition.
While Stephen has been able to continue to increase his scoring against BCS-level teams each year, his field goal percentage has dropped precipitously this year. This could merely be the result of a couple of off-shooting nights (even MJ had his bad games), but it is more likely related to the increased load being placed on Curry as the team’s new point guard with the departure of Jason Richards, who led the nation in assists per game last year. However, despite having Richards shouldering the ball-handling load last year Curry’s shooting percentage was significantly lower in BCS games than it was in his games against non-BCS games.
What does all this mean? Aside from the obvious, that BCS teams are better than non-BCS teams, it raises the interesting (and controversial) argument that Stephen Curry may not be good as the hype suggests. He is certainly capable of putting up big numbers, but so were many other great college players who never were able to translate their game to the NBA.
While this certainly doesn’t mean that the big-time programs were right to pass over Curry (most teams could use a guy putting up those numbers), it does raise some questions as to just how good he actually is. Although blogs like to attack ESPN and other media outlets for endlessly hyping the Dukes and UNCs of the world, we might want to ask another question: are they giving too much credit to Curry and Davidson? He makes for a great story with his lineage and boyish looks then being passed over by every major program before ending up at a small school that strung together a nice run last March.
I hope that Stephen goes on to have a more prolific NBA career than J.J. Redick has to this point, but it is hard to see a statistical difference between the two when you compare Redick’s senior year to Curry’s junior year. [I felt comparing these two season was the most appropriate since NBA scouts had major reservations about J.J. until his senior season when he was the best player in the country–with a nod to Mr. Morrison–when they began to only have moderate reservations about him] In college, Redick was a phenomenal shooter, who never even bothered to look for the 3-point line as he routinely jacked up 25-footers while still shooting a ridiculous 42% from beyond the arc. By his senior year, he had even developed a drive to the hoop. While it wasn’t something that other teams feared it at least kept them honest, which is right around where Curry’s ability to drive is at this point. However, none of that helped Redick when he faced LSU’s Garrett Temple, whose athleticism and length frustrated J.J. into a 3-for-18 performance in his final college game. The question is whether Curry is any more developed and capable at this point than Redick was. Looking at the numbers and Curry’s big-game performances this year, I would have a tough time saying that Curry is even playing at the level J.J. did that year.
Like many other basketball fans, I would love to see Stephen prove me wrong during the rest of 2009, which would potentially set me up to earn a spot on the 2009 list of “Top 10 Erroneous Columns”. Honestly, I think it’s more likely that we’ll see Nolan Smith harass him into another 7-for-25 game at Cameron on Wednesday night.