I was reading something on a message board a couple weeks ago about Stephen Curry and what kind of statistical jump Warriors fans expect from him in his second season in the NBA. Many of the predictions were astonishing, somewhere in the neighborhood of 20+ points, 5+ rebounds and 10+ assists. Some were predicting 12 or 13 assists per game. Considering Curry’s rookie statistics — 17.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists — a jump as fantastic as 20-5-10 would be very impressive, not to mention almost unprecedented for point guards in the modern era of the NBA.
Curry played 36.2 minutes per game last season. An increase in minutes might result in an upturn in Curry’s statistics, but I don’t expect that number to go up in 2010-11. I know Curry was playing close to 40 minutes per game the final four months of the season last year, but I’m hoping (and expecting) the Warriors’ coach, be it Don Nelson or somebody else, to cut back and give Curry a more responsible workload next season. That goes for Monta Ellis and his 41.4-minutes-per-game average, too. If Curry plays 34-36 minutes per game next season, you’re not likely to see a noticeable jump in statistics generated by an increase in minutes.
Curry was one-half of the Warriors’ offense last season, sharing the load with Ellis. There wasn’t a legitimate third option on offense who demanded a share of the offensive pie. This season, Curry and Ellis return, but the Warriors have brought in David Lee who averaged 15.5 shots per game last season with the Knicks (Curry only averaged 14.3 shots per game). Hopefully, Ellis’ 22 shots per game will decrease by five-to-seven shots and those extra touches will go to Lee. Sharing the ball between three good players instead of two means Curry probably won’t see a bump in shot attempts. Since he’s already an efficient scorer, I don’t expect an increase in that category either, which could otherwise provide a statistical boost.
The presence of Lee, especially as a pick-and-roll partner, could help Curry increase his assists total, but I think an increase of 3+ assists per game is an unrealistic expectation.
A stroll through recent history demonstrates that big statistical jumps in the second seasons of the NBA’s top point guards are rare. I decided to look at the 10 best point guards who have entered the NBA since 2000 (don’t look for players like Steve Nash or Jason Kidd on the list) and see how their stats changed from their rookie season to their sophomore campaign. Barring a big increase in minutes, there were no statistical jumps as large as some are predicting for Curry this coming season (though Deron Williams and to a lesser extent, Russell Westbrook, come close). Some of the players on this list didn’t play a lot of minutes their first two seasons, so I’ve adjusted each of the players’ stats for both their rookie and sophomore seasons to 36 minutes per game, to give a more accurate statistical reading.
There is little evidence to suggest that Curry will see a huge statistical jump this coming season. Looking at the top point guards who have paved the way for Curry, I think a more realistic expectation would be 18 points, four rebounds and seven assists per game in the 2010-11 season. That still makes Curry one of the top point guards in the game, especially considering his shooting prowess.
TOP 10 POINT GUARDS (2000-2009)
1. Chris Paul
Rookie season: 16.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 7.8 assists
Sophomore season: 16.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 8.7 assists
2. Deron Williams
Rookie season: 13.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 5.6 assists
Sophomore season: 17.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, 9.1 assists
3. Rajon Rondo
Rookie season: 9.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.8 assists
Sophomore season: 12.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 6.1 assists
4. Gilbert Arenas
Rookie season: 15.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists
Sophomore season: 18.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 6.5 assists
5. Derrick Rose
Rookie season: 16.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, 6.1 assists
Sophomore season: 20.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, 5.9 assists
6. Tony Parker
Rookie season: 11.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, 5.2 assists
Sophomore season: 16.4 points, 2.8 rebounds, 5.6 assists
7. Russell Westbrook
Rookie season: 17.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.9 assists
Sophomore season: 16.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, 8.4 assists
8. Devin Harris
Rookie season: 13.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 5.1 assists
Sophomore season: 15.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists
9. Jose Calderon
Rookie season: 8.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 7.0 assists
Sophomore season: 14.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, 8.6 assists
10. Jameer Nelson
Rookie season: 15.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, 5.3 assists
Sophomore season: 18.2 points, 3.6 rebounds, 6.1 assists
Others receiving consideration: Aaron Brooks, Raymond Felton, Mo Williams, Luke Ridnour, Lou Williams, Nate Robinson, Jarrett Jack.