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Saturday, April 8, 2017

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Eyes On NBA: Stephen Curry's 2016-2017 Season

By @TrueGodImmortal

So, Steph Curry isn't a MVP candidate this year to many. If you ask me, he's probably 5th or 6th in MVP voting this year under Russ, Harden, Kawhi, Isaiah Thomas, and LeBron James in that order. Now, with that out of the way, we have to take a look into his year so far. The season is getting ready to end, but Steph has seemingly set himself up to have a tremendous season. Shooting 47% from the field and a career low near 41% from three point range, Steph is currently averaging 25.3 points per game, 4.4 rebounds per game, and 6.6 assists per game. To put it in perspective, during Steph's first MVP season, he put up 23.8 points per game, 4.3 rebounds per game, and 7.7 assists per game. While Steph has seen a higher amount of points and rebounds (barely) per game this season compared to 2 seasons ago, this year was seen as a slump season. Was that accurate? Somewhat.

His shooting percentages have taken a hit, and his shooting slump really made things tough for him percentage wise, but if this is a bad season, it's only a bad season by Steph standards based on the year he had last season. Steph put up 30 points a game, pulled down a career high in rebounds, averaged almost 7 assists, was the NBA steals leader, and put up 400 three pointers, which was 100 plus more than his first MVP season. When the Warriors added Kevin Durant, who is a 26 to 27 point scorer in his own right, we knew Steph would take a hit and that his numbers would suffer a little bit. However, he's exactly where he should be. With Durant out for over a month, it allowed Steph to truly find his leadership role again, and he's once again looking like a two time MVP. He's had meetings against the three main MVP candidates in the West the last few weeks, and he's outplayed each of them in those games, showing a focus that will be vital for the Warriors for the rest of the playoff season I'm sure. So, is Steph having a bad year? A slump year? Let's examine his year.

*Steph Struggles To Adjust

-The first game of the season for the Warriors saw them get annihilated by the Spurs, but it was because they were a new team trying to figure things out. Despite the clear issues that they faced, Kevin Durant seemed to fit in well as the Warriors went on a 12 game winning streak as the Warriors attempted to make KD feel right at home in their run and gun offensive style. Steph had some rough games in the beginning of the season, none worse than the 0 for 10 performance he had from three against the Lakers early on. It ended the streak he had of consecutive regular season games with a three, and it showed a weakness in him that we didn't see much the previous two seasons. Despite that, Steph would have some really good games, but by his standards, it seemed like he wasn't fully in rhythm like that. The Warriors found their way, but Steph was struggling off and on, even during their initial 12 game win streak early in the season. Would he find his rhythm? Of course he would.

*Steph Breaks The Three Point Record

-After a terrible game of going 0 for 10 from three, Steph decided to go as hard as possible and break the record for the most threes in a single game. After having a 150 plus game streak of hitting a three end, Steph went and lit up the New Orleans Pelicans for 46 points on 13 of 17 from three, making another mark in history. That's crazy in a big way. Steph ended up making 400 threes the previous season, then break the record for single game with threes in the next season. It's a testament to his greatness that he was able to pull off these feats.

*Steph Begins To Find His Rhythm 

-As KD was coasting and enjoying a fairly easy season (so it seemed), Steph was finally finding his rhythm again. He would start to fit comfortably alongside Durant as leaders of the team, and had big time games against the Wolves, Lakers, Suns, Raptors, and Pelicans where he seemed to be in rhythm. The only issue is that it seemed like it wasn't consistent enough, as Steph would follow a great two games in a row up with a subpar performance once or twice in a row. It wasn't the MVP we were used to seeing, but he was still adjusting, and the Warriors were winning huge games by large margins. It did seem like he found his rhythm after the Christmas Day loss to the Cavs, and he would put together a consistent string of great games and shooting performances afterwards. As the All Star Break approached, Steph was putting up crazy numbers on the Hornets, the Clippers (and once after All Star), and a few more teams. Had Steph finally found the rhythm for the remainder of the season?

*Shooting Slump And 5 Losses In 7 Games

-There was a time where Steph was going 2 for 8 from three, 0 for 9 from three, and that persisted for a short period. His confidence seemed shot, and his shots just weren't falling. The shooting slump affected him and the Warriors as games they usually would have won were going to the final moment or they were losing to lesser teams. Then, when KD went out, it was on Steph to take the reigns again like he had in the past. It seemed as if Steph was exhausted and outside of two solid games over the Knicks and the Hawks, the Warriors took losses to the Wizards, the Bulls, the Wolves, the Celtics (at home), and of course the Spurs (a game where Klay, Steph, Andre, and Dray didn't play). This slump signaled that it could be trouble for the Warriors and as the Spurs inched closer to getting the no. 1 seed, the Warriors knew needed to regroup.

*Steph Leads The Warriors On A Win Streak Without Durant  

-As of this writing, the Warriors have won 13 games straight (they're playing a game as I finish this with Steph sitting out). If there was ever a stretch where Steph put in his MVP campaign, this was it. In those 13 games, he's averaged about 28 points per game, 7.9 assists, 4.5 rebounds, 2.3 steals and he's been in that 50-40-90 club during this time, shooting 50% from the field, about 47% from three, and of course 92% from the free throw line. Some of these tough wins over the Grizzlies, Rockets, Spurs, Wizards and Thunder (all playoff teams) have shown that Steph is still very much the leader of the offense on this team and that's the way it needs to be for the Warriors to go further and further. This stretch of wins shows you just how valuable Steph is, in case you forgot.

*300 Three Pointers 
-This is why I think his year is one of the best we've seen this season. In addition to averaging 25 points, nearly 7 assists, and almost 2 steals per game, Steph has put up well over 300 three pointers this season. As of this writing, he has 313 three pointers, and though he won't break his own record, you'd have to admit that for a guy who is supposedly having a down year that being the only man to ever hit over 300 three pointers (and do it in back to back seasons) is one hell of a feat. The legacy of Steph as the greatest shooter ever continues to grow when he does things like this.

*Steph Puts 42 on The Wizards And The Suns  

-This was essentially the MVP game. Steph had some great games during the season, but the Wizards is his best game thus far if I had to say so. Even better than his 13 three pointers game just about. Well maybe not better than that, but it was right there with it. He was excellent and in the Human Torch mode, showcasing that he's not lost a step and that he's in rhythm for the playoffs, which would be dangerous for every single NBA team. He would also show out against the Suns in the last game, putting up 42 points (with 11 assists) in a really efficient shooting night, and he outscored the entire Suns team in the first quarter 23-18. That right there is just yet another testament to the true greatness that Steph possesses and with him in rhythm going forward, this will be interesting, especially now with Durant back in the fold.

Final Thought
Is this really a bad season for Steph? Not at all in reality. Is it the season he had last year? No, but anyone expecting him to have the season he had last year was delusional. He's having a great year overall, and by all means, if shooting nearly 48% from the field, 41% from three, with 25 points a game, 313 three pointers on the season, and almost 7 assists a game is a bad season (with a 65-14 winning record and the no. 1 seed in the West), then I'm sure 99% of the players in the league would love to have that "bad year". Is Steph having an unanimous MVP year? No, not at all, but he's having a damn good year and is still one of the top 5-6 players this season regardless (if you think otherwise you're not watching close enough). Will Steph continue his rhythm into the playoffs? One can only hope for the Warriors" sake, but if he does.... it's going to be a tough road for any team in the NBA.



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