Whether it was from producing huge dunks, playing great defence, blocking shots or showing off his freakish athleticism, Andrew Wiggins did all that and…
Steph Curry has two MVPs, three championship rings and is one of the most popular players in the NBA but is under-appreciated.
It may sound crazy but Curry hasn’t always received due credit for his brilliance.
Some of the stuff he’s been doing for Golden State in the first month of the new season has been reminiscent of his back-to-back MVPs five years ago, the second of which is the only unanimous verdict in NBA history.
It’s time to start recognising Curry alongside the likes of Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in the chasing bunch behind Michael Jordan and LeBron James in the greatest players of all time debate.
The way he dismantled the Nets in Brooklyn on Wednesday was a statement to the rest of the league that he’s got a third MVP in his sights.
He and Kevin Durant have been the standout players over the first 20 per cent of the season. But Curry struck a dagger blow into his former Warriors teammate’s chances when he exploded for 37 points on 9/14 three-point shooting in just 29 minutes at the Barclays Center.
The Nets aren’t renowned for having the most parochial fans going around but there were noticeable cheers for Curry when he was launching and hitting his long-range bombs.
An MVP chant was even audible at one stage – the Warriors are popular league-wide on the back of their recent golden era but that’s ridiculous.
Almost as ridiculous as the shots Curry was making, pulling up from well beyond the arc with the kind of ease that only he can muster.
He’s already cemented his place as the greatest shooter of all time and it’s only a matter of time before he overtakes Ray Allen for the most three-pointers in NBA history.
Curry’s 33 but the way he plays, he could easily tally another five or six years of high-production scoring.
That’s not to say the way he plays is easy – it’s physically demanding to be often the smallest player on the court yet find a way to break free of the defence, which has been specifically assigned to make his life as miserable as possible before he gets the ball let alone once he has it in his hands.
The next time you’re watching a Warriors game – they play Cleveland on Friday – focus on the amount of effort Curry expels on the offensive end just to shake free of defenders and their schemes.
Curry has to fight through screens and sprint around the court just for the chance to get a few seconds of clean air to launch.
Not that he’s the black hole he’d have every right to be – even though he’s always the best scoring option on his team, the assists he dishes out keep the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Otto Porter Junior and his main partner in crime, Draymond Green, well fed.
And the Warriors are off to a league-best 13-1 start despite Klay Thompson still being sidelined as he looks to work his way back onto the court after a succession of serious ACL and Achilles tears.
Last year’s No.2 in the draft, big man James Wiseman, is also yet to touch the floor this season.
And although he didn’t match the feats of Minnesota’s top pick, Anthony Edwards, and Charlotte’s rookie of the year in LaMelo Ball, the Warriors sophomore will add even more depth to Steve Kerr’s rotation.
Curry’s nine three-pointers in the 117-99 shellacking of Brooklyn not only established him as the early MVP favourite ahead of Durant, it was also the 37th time he’s achieved the feat.
NBA stats guru Kirk Goldsberry put Curry’s superiority into perspective with a tweet that showed no one else is in the same league, let alone ball park for nine threes in a game.
Most Career Games With 9+ 3-Pointers Made,
Stephen Curry …. 37
James Harden ….. 9
Damian Lillard ….. 9
Klay Thompson …. 7
JR Smith …………. 5
Kobe Bryant …….. 4 pic.twitter.com/lY2h2aW62S
— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) November 17, 2021
James Harden and Damian Lillard are next best with nine each, Thompson’s done it seven times with golfing aficianado JR Smith rounding out the top five with five.
It’s probably too early to declare the MVP race a two-horse race but apart from Curry and Durant, only last season’s winner Nikola Jokic has had close to their influence on winning.
Giannis Antetokounmpo has been strong for Milwaukee but they’ll need to improve their record, likewise for Luka Doncic at Dallas, LeBron James has already missed time and you can already put a line through any chance of Lillard breaking through for his first award.
Clippers star Paul George is probably the only other realistic chance along with Joel Embiid, who as been dominant for Philadelphia, but the All Stars centre will need to carry the Sixers on his back for the rest of the season to be in consideration for the top individual honour.
Flagrant foul: WTF moment of the week
Scottie Pippen is hitting the publicity trail hard to sell his book, Unguarded, but his claim that his legendary teammate Michael Jordan “ruined basketball” because his individual style of play encouraged the “Be Like Mike” generation to stop passing the ball was ludicrous.
There’s a lot of deep-seated resentment which has been spewing from Pippen since The Last Dance enthralled hoops lovers more than 12 months ago. He’s starting to tarnish his legacy.
Boomshakalaka! Quote of the week
Giannis Antetokounmpo sent every Milwaukee fan into the foetal position and, in related news, every Knicks fan still holding out free agent optimism into a frenzy when in an interview with GQ he said: “I just love challenges. What’s the next challenge? The new challenge might not be here.”
Out of the box scores: Stat of the week
The leading three-point shooter in the NBA this season, by percentage, is not Steph Curry, Patty Mills, Joe Harris or even Seth Curry.
That honour belongs to Pelicans centre Jonas Valanciunas, who has hit 55.2 per cent from downtown, the only player hitting better than one out of every two. The former Raptors and Grizzlies big man has been the only bright spot in the dismal New Orleans campaign.
Saturday – Lakers @ Celtics, 11.30am AEDT
Both teams have underwhelmed this season but any time the Lakers colours hit the Boston parquetry is worth watching. Russell Westbroook needs to step up for LA and Anthony Davis has to lose the pouting expressions to keep the team on track while LeBron James is sidelined.
Sunday – Hornets @ Hawks, 11.30am AEDT
It’s not the greatest slate of games even though there’s nine options so why not check out LaMelo Ball versus Trae Young. Both rising stars are under a bit of pressure recently after not living up to the high expectations they created last season.