Most nights, I watch Warriors games in my office at work. I’m usually in the middle of putting the newspaper together for the next morning, and so my actual attention to the game usually fluctuates between casual viewing and check-the-score-every-couple-minutes. But Wednesday night, against a boring opponent (the Clippers and their “all-star” Chris Kaman) in a game that had virtually zero significance, I found myself enthralled. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the screen.
Thank you, Stephen Curry.
Curry dominated former Warrior Baron Davis and the Clippers on Wednesday night, notching his first career triple-double with 36 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists, the Warriors’ first triple-double since Chris Webber in 1993. It was an impressive type of triple-double, too, as Curry became the first rookie to have at least 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists since the Suns’ Kevin Johnson did it in 1988.
Chris Webber and Kevin Johnson . . . that’s good company.
The Warriors’ electric, exciting, likeable rookie point guard keeps finding new ways to make me believe that he is the best player in his rookie class. Before passing this off as excited hyperbole, hear me out. There’s only one player I put in Curry’s class, and that is Sacramento’s outstanding shooting guard Tyreke Evans. Evans is the leader in the rookie of the year chase in most national media circles and is certainly deserving of the hype. But if you look at the situations surrounding each star rookie, you’ll see that Curry is a better player, even if his stats don’t indicate it.
First, here are the relevant stats for each player:
Evans: 20.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.5 steals, 16.2 FG attempts/game, 6.3 FT attempts/game, 46 FG%, 26 3p%, 79 FT%
Curry: 14.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.8 steals, 12 FG attempts/game, 2.1 FT attempts/game, 46 FG%, 42 3p%, 87 FT%
Evans has the edge in points, but that’s partly because he is the top offensive option for his team, as you can see by his 16 field goal attempts per game (compared to Curry’s 12). When Kevin Martin has been in the lineup, he has shared the offensive load with Evans. But Martin has been out for most of the season, making Evans the sole focus of the Kings’ offense. The only other player on Sacramento’s roster who comes close to Evans’ shot attempts is Jason Thompson, at 10.8 per game.
While Evans is option No. 1 on offense for the Kings, Curry is the third option on offense for the Warriors, coming in right behind Corey Maggette, who averages 12.8 shots per game. But Curry has to share the court with Monta Ellis, who takes 22.3 shots per game. This is a major difference and shouldn’t be overlooked. The Kings’ run their offense through Evans; Curry has to share the ball with one of the NBA’s highest-volume shooters (Ellis ranks second in the NBA behind the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant).
If you look at the rest of the stats, Curry and Evans look pretty even. Evans rebounds a little better, but assists are a wash, as are steals. Curry is a better shooter than Evans, and his shooting has only improved as he has become more comfortable in the league. Curry has the ability to put up Steve Nash-level percentages as he develops in the league. His shot is that pure.
On paper, it looks pretty close. For me, what sets the two apart is that Curry has thrived despite being his team’s third offensive option, and when he has been the main offensive option (when Ellis or Maggette have been hurt), he has been unbelievable — better than Evans. Again, I’ll leave you with Curry’s numbers in the four games this season when Ellis has been out of the lineup and Curry has been the team’s top offensive option.
30 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per game, 7 assists per game, 2.5 steals per game, 47 FG%, 46 3p%, 86 FT%
That’s the clincher. Evans’ statistical edge over Curry this season is a byproduct of his role in the Kings’ offense. When Curry has been given complete control of the Warriors’ offense, he has proven himself to not only be the NBA’s best rookie this season, but one of the NBA’s best young stars, period.
P.S. Also, Monta Ellis needs to be traded. He is holding Curry back.