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Buyer Beware of Stephen Curry

Stephen Curry's problem is that he's fast becoming the Allen Iverson of college basketball. What I mean by that is that, as good as he is individually, as good as he might one day be, there's a danger that his scoring reputation isn't really that solid, that it's reliant on volume much more than efficiency.

I've seen Curry in person twice now, first against Winthrop last year, when he had an awful game, but his teammates were able to put away the home team without him, and then yesterday, when Davidson hosted Butler and lost, 75-63. Both games appear to be exceptions to Curry's usual stellar play, but evidence is mounting that Curry really isn't more than a long shot to be a starter at the next level.

Let's take a look at two players for comparison. The first is one of Curry's opponents in the Butler game who may not get a real NBA opportunity, Gordon Hayward, and the other is the guy who I think represents Curry's ceiling in the pros, Eddie House.

STEPHEN CURRY (as of 2/22/09)


34.0 / 28.6 / 4.1 / 5.9 / 2.6 / 45.0% / 37.7% / 86.7%

Hayward is a freshman, measuring somewhere between 6-6 and 6-8, depending on how much you trust published measurements, so as a pro, wherever that might be, he projects as a 2-3 swingman. He didn't handle the ball much against Davidson, preferring instead to work for space off the ball, but he did do a little dribble penetration, drawing the ire of Davidson fans for using his off hand to hook his defender just about every time. He wasn't clearly a superior athlete or basketball player to everyone else on the floor, but it was clear after a certain point that he was a tough cover.

For the season, Hayward is putting up 13.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.6 steals in 32 minutes per game. He's shooting 48.7% from the field, 45.9% from three, and 82.6% on free throws. As you can see, his scoring rate stats look a hell of a lot better than Curry's. He shoots a far better percentage from three and, as a result, a better percentage from the field. He's not concerning himself with creating plays for others as the point guard, yet he's taken less than half the shots Curry has. Argue about Davidson's other choices all you want, but Andrew Lovedale is no still, and the rest of the smalls on that team aren't in Curry's league, but they can still hit shots. He shouldn't really be taking shots at this volume.

The thing that will get Curry picked in the first round of the NBA Draft, though, is the intrigue that he might be an effective point guard. Against Butler, even coming off an ankle injury, he showed remarkable quickness off the dribble, making Butler look silly in transition. He made a couple great passes that led to easy shots, but by and large he was the point guard only in the sense that he brought the ball up, handed it to someone else, then became a shooting guard. I don't remember him once driving the lane in order to create for someone else.

That leads us to Eddie House, who built a four year track record at Arizona State that got him drafted with the 8th pick of the second round. In his senior year, House put up 23.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 2.3 steals in 37 minutes per game. He shot 36.5% from three (a slight drop from his previous two seasons, just like Curry), and 42.2% from the field. He was a dynamic college scorer who scored 50 points in a game, and he was the kind of guy coaches had to plan their defenses around. The thing is, NBA teams saw through it. They saw the 623 attempted field goals his senior year and concluded the eye-popping point totals were a product of volume much more than skill.

For years, NBA teams have treated House exactly as they should. He's a guy who has just barely enough ball handling skill to be considered a point guard, but not enough to ever trust as a starter at the position, and enough scoring skill to make up for his inability to create for others, but not nearly enough to make up for his inability to defend anyone other than average points, and thus he's been a role player who's started 30 games in 9 seasons.

This is where Curry's headed. In an absolute best case scenario, he bulks up a bit, doesn't lose his quickness or his swag, and becomes a shorter Gilbert Arenas, still unable to effectively guard twos, still a gunner, still considered a point guard, and a lightning rod for those who see gaudy point totals and think "awesome!" and those of us who try to examine the process he used to get those point totals.

The sweet-looking stroke and "intangibles" (always funny how people say they can tell what they are when they're... intangible) will get him drafted in the first round, but buyer beware, as his team simply isn't the same without real point guard Jason Richards creating for everyone. Give Gordon Hayward 650 shots and tell me how good his stat line looks.


Also went to the Charlotte Checkers game last night. Not much to report, except that they had a franchise-record crowd of roughly 12,000 people.