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DAR Sports: The Importance Of Steph Curry

By @TrueGodImmortal



I wanted to write a list of the best.... something. However, after the last few months, one has to wonder where all of the hatred towards the best point guard in the game today is coming from. Yes, Steph Curry is the best point guard in the entire NBA and he is a top 5 player in this game today. Now, when we look at players that have impacted the game and changed the way the game is played, there are a few names that come to mind instantly. On that short list of players, you can include Steph Curry. For all the knock against his size, his regular defense, and the fact that he's not the most athletic or the highest jumper, Steph just might be the most dangerous player on the court today. Sure, defenses get nervous seeing Kevin Durant or LeBron James with the ball, but there is no force on the court quite like Stephen Curry. I hate to utilize the advanced stats that get thrown around, but one look at those advanced stats show that no one effects the game quite like Steph.





The Importance of Steph goes all the way back to his time at Davidson. At the time, players like LeBron, Durant, and Westbrook came to see him play and watch him work. Davidson was never positioned or seen as one of the best schools to play for in the NCAA, but the school became front and center with Steph at the helm. Through his time at Davidson, Steph etched his mark in the history books at the school, setting the NCAA record for the most three pointers in a season, along with being the NCAA Division I scoring leader in 2009. Steph was the Most Outstanding Player in the SoCon Conference Tournament twice, was a three time All-SoCon player, an All-American, as well as the SoCon Player Of The Year two times in a row. He currently holds the following records at Davidson, and I doubt these records will be broken anytime soon:


-All-Time Leading Scorer
-All-Time Leader In Three Pointers Made
-All-Time Leader In 30 Point Games
-All-Time Leader In 40 Point Games
-Single Season Leader In Points Scored
-Single Season Leader In Steals
-Single Season Leader In Freshman Points Scored




The fact is, when Steph got to Davidson, he took over. When he was drafted in 2009, many people thought the Golden State Warriors made a mistake by selecting him with the 7th pick. Joining a team that was struggling to find playoff relevance, no one could have predicted what Steph could have brought to the league and the franchise. In his rookie year, Steph showed immense promise as a player, inserting his name in the conversation for Rookie Of The Year. To some, he should have won over Tyreke Evans, who pulled away with the trophy. Truth be told, considering what Steph did that season, I think he probably should have won, but finishing 2nd in the voting, along with an appearance on the All-Rookie First Team was a high honor. Steph was thrust right into a starting role at point guard for the Warriors, who needed a shift in their culture as a team, and it seemed as if they found a gem in Curry following rookie averages of 17.5 PPG, 5.9 APG, and 1.9 SPG along with solid shooting numbers of 46% from the field and 44% from three. Still, Steph was taking a backseat to the leading scorer on the team, Monta Ellis, and while Steph continued to improve as a player, he faced resistance from Monta in taking the reigns for the franchise.






After his stellar rookie season, and an equally solid sophomore season where he shined during NBA All Star Weekend (he won the Skills Challenge), Steph got hit by the dreaded injury bug that has halted many a player. Before the 2011-2012 season began, Steph had surgery on his right ankle to repair torn ligaments caused by multiple strains during his 2nd season. His ankle would heal from surgery in time for the season to start, but he would sprain it multiple times during this season, once in the preseason and against the San Antonio Spurs during the regular season. He would miss some time before straining a tendon in his right foot during a game against the Phoenix Suns, and Steph was right back where he started, forced to get another surgery. During the 2011-2012 season, he only played in 26 games, and many critics and analysts were saying Steph might be more of a liability for the Warriors going forward. After trading away Monta Ellis in favor of Steph as the guy to lead them, the Warriors, perhaps Golden State had a mistake. The Warriors decided to take a chance on Steph, signing him for four more years for 44 million dollars. At the time, some criticized this move due to his injury history, but the 2012-2013 season proved to be vital for the Warriors organization, but mostly for Steph. 







After missing the playoffs for 6 straight seasons, the Warriors, armed with a new coach in Mark Jackson and a revitalized Steph won 47 games and made the playoffs as the 6th seed. This was the breakout season for Steph, as he played 78 games, and averaged 23 points, 7 assists, and 4 rebounds a game on 45% shooting from the field and 45% from three. It was his first season breaking the three point record that was set by Ray Allen, as he would make 272 three pointers to become the new leader. Looking back on that number now, it feels almost pedestrian for Steph. I always look at the 2012-2013 season as the year that Steph was unleashed, and started the path to become a top tier player in the league. In addition to breaking the three point record, Steph had his career high scoring game in the NBA this season, dropping 54 points in a game against the Knicks in his most infamous performance up until that point. He would also lead the Warriors to the 2nd round of the playoffs in a hard fought win over the Denver Nuggets and a hard fought loss over the San Antonio Spurs.





After that season, we saw a change in the Warriors organization and the franchise. Going into the 2013-2014 season, many people felt as if the Warriors could have what it takes to grow and challenge in the West one day. After a successful season previous, Steph came into his own, and became a superstar essentially. He made his first All Star team and made the All NBA team for the first time, landing on the All NBA Second Team. The Warriors would expand on their regular season success from the year prior, finishing with a 50 win season, going 51-31, claiming the 6th seed. After losing their coach Mark Jackson, the Warriors went into the 2014-2015 season with Steve Kerr as head coach and a hungry Steph leading the pack. This would become the best season for Steph up until this point.
 




*The First MVP Win One of the biggest narratives that is always debated (and falsely debated) in basketball in recent history is rooted in the MVP discussion. Every year. In recent memory. For the last few years, minus 2016, who wins MVP is always extremely debated. In 2015, many people had this discussion and this is a part of why I feel like Steph doesn't get the respect he deserves. After a 51-31 season and becoming the 6th seed, the Warriors would watch the growth of their team into a true force in the West during the 2014-2015 season. The biggest catalyst and the reason for that growth is Steph. He was already a really good player, but this was the year that he really broke through the glass ceiling in the NBA. As the leader of the Warriors, he led them to their most successful season ever up until that point and for sure, the MVP talk began. Still, some misinformed people weren't sold on Steph for MVP. 





The argument against Steph during this season was rooted in two players who people believed had a better case. The first person was James Harden, and the second one was the man who they always wrongly say deserves MVP every year, LeBron James. Let me state this first: neither of them had a real claim to MVP based on the criteria used over Steph. For all the Harden fans who look to his numbers as some sort of justification, as well as the narrative that the Rockets won 55 games that season solely because of Harden do a disservice to the prior season the Rockets had and the rest of that team. In 2013-2014, the Rockets went 54-28, earning the 4th seed, a few games better than the record the Warriors put up that season. By comparison, in 2015, the Rockets finished with the 2nd seed and a 56-26 record, just two seeds and two games higher than the previous year. The narrative was that Dwight Howard missed about half of the season, making Harden's job tougher, which was fair. However, during this season, there were solid vets off the bench like Josh Smith and Jason Terry, alongside Corey Brewer, as well as Trevor Ariza and Patrick Beverly in the lineup. Houston had been a solid team and a really good team the last three years, as their record progressively got better, but did it really compare to what Steph did? Let's break down the facts.



Aside from the advanced stats, which all mostly work in Steph's favor, there are two telling differences in their numbers individually. For one, the only real category that Harden was ahead of Steph in was points per game (and rebounds per game, but that's by design). Steph was further ahead in assists, slightly ahead in steals, ahead in FT%, FG%, and 3 point FG%. Now, here's what makes these numbers even more telling: Steph averaged 32.7 minutes per game played, while Harden played 36.8 minutes a game, which would tip the scales in the favor of Steph for playing four minutes less per game and putting up nearly identical numbers to Harden, moving ahead of him in most categories and posting a higher offensive rating, defensive rating, and win shares. The fact remains, while many people like to say Harden deserved the MVP to suit their own personal biased narrative, the truth of the matter is Steph deserved it and it wasn't close. In addition to their numbers being close, Steph took his team from the 6th seed to the 1st seed, led them to a 67-15 record, which was an improvement of 16 more wins up from 51-31, against the Rockets only moving up from the 4th seed to the 2nd seed (keep in mind, the seeding was done differently then and there were 3 other teams in the West that won 55-56 games), and only improving from 54-28 to 56-26. While this may seem insignificant to some, it matters in the narrative. While many attempted to disrespect and sleep on Steph, he earned that MVP award with no question. This would not be the only time this season that Steph would face disrespect, but he would also see an award he should have won given to another player on his team.





*Robbed Of The 2015 Finals MVP
Steph should have been the 2015 Finals MVP. Period. Andre Iguodala was a great complement to Steph and he did a solid job defending LeBron and helping the Warriors secure the win, but the biggest catalyst for the Warriors victory was without a doubt Steph. For all the advanced stats people out there, the player with the largest win share? Steph. The player with the biggest impact on the game statistically? Steph. The leading scorer during the series? Steph. The leader in assists? Steph. Sure, at first glance, Iguodala shot better from the field and from three surprisingly, but he got a lot of open looks due to the defenses focusing mostly on Steph, another sign of his impact on the entire series. With 44% FG, 39% from three, and 89% from the free throw line, there was nothing wrong with the numbers that Steph put up in the Finals. By comparison to his regular season numbers that won the MVP, Steph saw a slight bump in assists, improved his rebound per game total, had a higher scoring average, and averaged almost 2 steals a game. A look at each game in this series can show you why Steph was robbed and should have the Finals MVP here deserved.



In game 1, Steph was pretty solid, shooting 50% from the field to finish with 26 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists, and 2 steals to give the Warriors the win. In game 2, Steph had his worst game of the series, shooting terribly and going 5 for 23 from the field, but if that was enough to take away the Finals MVP from Steph, then there are a number of Finals MVP winners who had the same issue happen, including Kobe in 2010, who went 6 for 24 in the decisive game 7 win but still won over Pau Gasol who played better than Iguodala played during the 2015 Finals. In game 3, Steph actually managed to catch fire and step up big time, as the rest of the Warriors struggled against the Cavs on the road. Steph finished with 27 points, shooting 50% from the field and 54% from three, but the Cavs managed to steal the win and take a 2-1 lead. What people think made the difference was Iguodala starting in game 4 and slowing down LeBron for one game, but the truth be told, the turning point came in game 3 when Steph figured out the defense and took charge at the end. Steph had been the leader the first three games, and aside from the game 2 performance, he had played pretty well in those first three games. In game 4, Steph put up 22 points and 7 assists, helping to lead the offense and allow Iguodala to score when he needed to by drawing the attention to himself. We forget that fact. However, game 5 is the game that should have won the Finals MVP for Steph period. He caught fire in this game, closing the door on the Cavs to take the 3-2 series lead, shooting 57% from the field, 54% from three, putting up 37 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals. This game should have won it for Steph. The voters for Finals MVP seemingly had a bias against him because there was a pretty clear path for him to win.



One has to wonder what kept them from giving Steph the Finals MVP, but when it comes down to it, with 26 points a game, 5.2 rebounds a game, 6.3 assists a game, nearly 2 steals a game, and the biggest game of the entire series for the Warriors that put them up 3-2, it really makes no sense still. There have been times when a player was robbed of the Finals MVP, and while many people criticized Steph's performance in his first Finals, I think he was great and very well should have been the Finals MVP.



*Second MVP Win
The 2015-2016 season was historic. The Warriors would end up breaking records left and right, and while Draymond Green was having an amazing season alongside Klay Thompson, the engine of the offense was clearly Steph Curry. He had one of the most historic seasons individually, leading the league in steals, winning the scoring title, breaking his own record, hitting 400 plus three pointers, and leading his team to a record breaking 73-9 season. Simply put, a healthy Steph Curry in 2016 was the best player on the planet during the regular season. After not winning the Finals MVP the year before and being robbed of the award, Steph made sure the world remembered who the MVP was, and with a solid supporting cast, he had one of the single greatest seasons I've ever witnessed. He had a number of amazing performances this season that were unreal from his 51 point performance against the Washington Wizards, his outrageous 46 points against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and even his 40 point performance against the Grizzlies to secure the 73-9 record and 400 three pointers on the year. Literally, from start to finish, there was no player better than Steph during the season.




Until the playoffs.








After an injury sidelined Steph during the first round, he was never the same again through the playoffs consistently. Playing at about 60 or 70% health, he managed to pull through and get the Warriors back to the Finals, but during the Finals, his inconsistent play helped to cost the Warriors the series. The team itself was beaten down and injured, but no excuses. Steph didn't play up to par and for the first time in his career, the pressure seemed to get to him.






*Pairing With KD
After losing the 2016 Finals, literally a few weeks later, Kevin Durant came to join the Golden State Warriors in free agency. The question was could two of the three best players in the NBA co-exist right away? Would Steph be willing to share the ball? Would the leader of the team have to defer more for KD? Would he be willing? The answer was yes. It was rough in the beginning, as Steph had some struggles through the season, but for the most part, the adjustment was seamless because the show ran through Steph still. While KD was overall a better player, Steph was the engine that ran the Warriors vehicle. If the offense didn't run through him, it wasn't going to run right. The advanced stats all showed that Steph was once again the most important offensive force for his team even with KD and Draymond having vital roles and Klay having his frequent scoring outbursts. There were a number of impact Steph performances during this 2016-2017 season, from his record breaking 13 three pointers in the game against the Pelicans to his magnificent performance against the Charlotte Hornets and the Los Angeles Clippers, Steph showed that even next to KD, he could still be him once Durant got integrated into the system. The Warriors were on a roll, heading on the road to face the 76ers and the Wizards and then a supposed fatal blow was dealt to team when KD went down with an injury that would sideline him for the remaining duration of the regular season. With KD out, the Warriors lost 2 games in a row, won two games, and then lost three in a row and almost lost their hold on the no. 1 seed in the West. As they sat at 52-14 with 16 games left in the season, it was time for a return to form for Steph Curry in the absence of KD.








*Stepping Up In Durant's Absence
The Warriors have an undefeated system that rivals the Spurs, and might even be a little better. However, when Durant went down, it looked bleak for the Warriors. After a comeback victory to end a three game losing streak over the 76ers, Steph broke out of what was seen as a slight shooting slump, and with Klay Thompson stepping up as well, we saw magnificent performances from Steph throughout the rest of the time that KD was out. Whether it was his 27 point performance over the Kings, his 32 point performance over the Rockets on the road, or his takeover of the game in San Antonio to bring them back from a 20 point deficit, Steph showed up every game. His best performance of the entire season might have been against the Wizards, as put up 42 points and 8 assists on 68% from the field and 64% from three or perhaps his 42 points, 11 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks performance against the Suns on the road right before the end of the season. The Warriors would finish 67-15 for the year. KD would return before the season ended, but the MVP Chef Curry mode had been activated once again just in time for the playoffs. Steph was back.




*Leading The Warriors In The 2017 Playoffs
If the most important player in general for the Warriors is Steph, then the success of the team really seemed to depend on his play. Durant could be on point during the playoffs, but if Steph was off, the Warriors might have a much bigger issue coming away with the victory. Sure enough, Steph was ready for the playoffs and he showed up big time in the first round. The Blazers gave the Warriors a tough fight in game 1, but a relatively easy game 2 win set the tone. However, the loss of Durant for a few games with an injury, as well as coach Steve Kerr due to health complications could have hurt a lesser team. However, Steph was the leader and in game 3, we saw that. In the crucial moments of game 3, Steph made all of the clutch shots to defer the Blazers and their dreams of having life in the series, finishing with 34 points. In game 4, Steph did more of the same, as KD returned but played limited minutes, and Steph finished with 37 points on the night on 60% from the field and 64% from three, alongside 7 rebounds and 8 assists.






Steph would carry that into the 2nd round, and despite a standard game 1, he showed up big time in game 2 and game 3, before putting up an amazing game 4 performance to close out the Utah Jazz. In the Conference Finals, it seems as if Steph was just getting better and better during the playoffs, as he put up 40 points on 54% from the field in game 1 to take a comeback victory against the Spurs, had a relatively easy 29 point night on 61% from the field and 67% from three in just 30 minutes against the Spurs in a game 2 blowout. After a hard fought game 3, Steph came back in game 4 playing out of his mind to close out the Spurs, putting up 36 points on 58% from the field to win the series and make the Finals. The Finals is where Steph played well enough to win the Finals MVP without question this year, but of course, the award went to Kevin Durant. This is mostly by design as the Cavs defense attempted to isolate and double team Steph at all costs, allowing for KD to get a lot of open looks and clear paths to the basket, especially in the first two games. 








Still, one look at how Steph impacted the games from every angle shows that he and KD should have got Co-MVPs together. Steph put up a triple double in game 2 of the Finals, and he put up a double double in every game of the Finals, finishing with averages of about 27 points a game, 8 rebounds a game, 9.4 assists a game, and 2.2 steals a game, which is his best performance in the Finals of the three straight he's helped lead the Warriors too. All the critics who had something to say about Steph and his playoff performances and his Finals performances were now quiet. Steph lead the team in the Finals in assists and steals, and his impact throughout was just undeniable. For the entire playoffs? Steph would average 28.1 points a game, finish with a career playoff high 6.2 rebounds a game, 6.7 assists, and 2 steals per game on 49% from the field, 42% from three, and 91% from the FT line making him the most important person for the entire playoffs for the best team (with Durant right there in equal importance).






All in all, you're looking at quite possibly a top 3 point guard of all time when it's all said and done, the greatest shooter ever, and the most overall dangerous force offensively in decades. He isn't the scorer that Jordan or Kobe is, he isn't the passer that Magic was or LeBron is, he isn't even that aggressive most of the time, but that's how he earned the name of the Baby Faced Assassin. At any given moment, you might look up and see Steph drop 25 in a quarter, 30 in a quarter, and his 3rd quarter takeovers are legendary. Love him or hate him, Steph Curry is the most important player of this generation, as he changed the game forever. No matter what a Dahntay Jones has to say, what the rookies who snubbed him had to say, a majority of them have such a heavy focus on the three point shot because of Steph. We have power forwards, centers, and more all regularly shooting threes and trying to run fast paced offense because of Steph and the Warriors. You can say he didn't deserve a MVP award, neglect to recognize the fact that he deserved to win Finals MVP, say his Unanimous MVP was a fluke, say he choked away a 3-1 lead (there is truth to that), and say he took a backseat to Durant at times (that is true somewhat), but you can't deny the impact and importance of Steph to this game of basketball. He's a top 5 player in the NBA (top 3 in my opinion), a champion, and he's revolutionized the NBA today. How could you hate on that?


-True 

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