Warriors Cavaliers BasketballI was reading through some recent Warriors-related articles on the Web, and came across a nice feature about rookie point guard Stephen Curry. It’s a nice read (check it out here); what stood out to me most was a comment by Curry singling out the player he credits with helping him through the difficult first months of his NBA career. Through the Stephen Jackson fiasco to being a sometimes-starter at point guard, it hasn’t been an easy go for Curry and he said the player in the Warriors locker room who has helped him most in learning to deal with all the drama is Corey Maggette.

“(Maggette’s) really helped me keep my head straight through all of the turmoil the team’s gone through and through our ups and downs. He helps make sure I come in every day and focus and have tunnel vision with all of that going on and make sure I just focus on getting better. He’s really helped me get through this first month.”

That really surprised me. I never would have guessed that Maggette was the type of player to be working hard behind the scenes to keep this team together while Stephen Jackson and the rest of the early season drama was trying to tear it apart. It makes me look at Maggette a little differently. Most of what we read about Maggette is about the selfish tendencies of his game, and when you watch him play, most of the time it’s hard to argue. That doesn’t mean Maggette isn’t a talented player — he is. But his reputation as a shoot-first player is justified. Honestly, it was always my assumption that he was a me-first guy off the court as well and not a leader the Warriors could count on to right the ship when things were stormy. Perhaps my initial judgement I was wrong.

Granted, this is just one quote, but there’s little reason to doubt Curry’s judgement of the situation. Curry is an impressionable, talented young player who needed to be sheltered a little bit from what was going on in the Warriors locker room before the Jackson trade. If Maggette recognized that and took it upon himself to try and help guide him through these tough times, it shows me that Maggette possesses some veteran leadership qualities that make him a much more valuable component of this team than I previously thought.

In addition to his role as an unofficial mentor to Curry, Maggette has been playing very well this season. Maggette has been playing to his strengths this season, using his quickness to get to the basket and score or get fouled. When he gets in a rhythm playing that kind of game, his jumper often starts falling, making him a very dangerous matchup. When he comes out firing (and often missing) jumpers from the start, it’s not usually a good thing (and is what earned him his reputation as a selfish player).

Maggette’s high field-goal percentage this season (51 percent) and his high rate of free-throw attempts (6.1 per game) are products of his reliance on penetration to generate higher-percentage shots in the paint instead of settling for a jump shot. He is scoring and rebounding well, averaging 16.4 points and 4.9 rebounds in only 24.5 minutes per game. If Maggette were to play starter’s minutes (36 per game), his adjusted stats would be 24.1 points and 7.2 rebounds. That kind of production is the reason Maggette is ranked sixth among small forwards in John Hollinger’s ESPN player rating system, percentage points behind fifth-place occupant Danny Granger of the Indiana Pacers. That’s good company.

Maggette’s performance and leadership this season hasn’t been something many have written or talked about because there has been so much focus on Jackson, Monta Ellis, and the Warriors’ young talent. But his value to this team is underappreciated and he deserves some due credit.