Since training camp is days away, it’s time to start looking toward the upcoming 2011 season. I want to begin by looking at each player on the Warriors roster and lay out for you what I expect from each player. I will try and keep these as realistic as possible, because I believe in sports, you generally are what you are. Even with young players, you don’t often see a huge jump in production from season to season unless it’s tied to a proportionate jump in minutes. Players are even more stable in terms of attitude, leadership and other distinctions of personality. If you have a player who doesn’t speak up in the locker room, he’s not likely to transform into a vocal leader from one season to the next. Sure, it has happened before, but it is the exception, not the norm.
After I spell out my thoughts on each player, feel free to join in the conversation. What are your expectations? First up: sophomore point guard Stephen Curry.
Curry exceeded all expectations I had for him as a rookie, but that was because my expectations were fairly low. I thought he would struggle to play consistent minutes, his game would mirror that and we’d be looking at him heading into this season as a talented player yet to fulfill his potential. He threw that out the window as a rookie, improving each month and finishing second in a tightly contested rookie of the year race with Kings guard Tyreke Evans. Curry finished the season averaging 17.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists in 36.2 minutes per game. I think Curry’s averages for the 2011 season will increase even without a substantial increase in minutes, because he won’t have the low production from the first couple of months of the season dragging down his stats like he did as a rookie. I think you’ll see Curry average close to 20 points per game, with between four and five rebounds and probably about seven assists per game.
Curry will continue to cement his status as the best shooter in the NBA. I think we’ll see him flirt with the hallowed 50-40-90 percentage string (50 percent from the field, 40 percent from distance, 90 percent from the line), though I believe he’ll fall short. It’s really hard for high-volume shooting guards to shoot 50 percent from the field and I think Curry will fall short. That said, I think he’ll increase his field goal percentage this season from 46 percent to 48 percent, with his 3-point (44 percent) and field goal (88 percent) shooting staying about the same.
I expect Curry to continue to take over the leadership role on this team, a process he began last season. Curry will benefit from having a teammate like David Lee, who will support and defend Curry’s role as leader of this team. As other players see Curry leading and Lee following, they will get in line. The wild card is Monta Ellis. The hope is he will accept a lesser role on this team, with Curry and Lee as the first two options, and thrive. I don’t know if he can do it. If he can’t, I don’t see it affecting Curry or locker room chemistry this season because I don’t believe Ellis has any pull with his teammates; they will all follow Curry.
The one weakness in Curry’s game is defense. He averaged almost two steals per game as a rookie, but as discussed on this blog before, steals are often a poor indicator of good defense. Many players who average a high number of steals gamble too often on defense, leaving themselves out of position and foiling the concept of team defense. Curry is guilty of this. He is not a good one-on-one defender, often struggles to defend against penetration and when paired against bigger guards, he is especially defenseless. Curry’s defense for Team USA wasn’t anything to write home about. I don’t expect a lot of improvement on the defensive end from Curry this season.
I do expect Curry to improve his other weakness: turnovers. Last season, Curry averaged 3.05 turnovers and in the final few months of the season was often creeping closer to four per game. I think the natural maturation that comes with having played a season in the NBA will help Curry in this area. Curry plays point guard and he will handle the ball the majority of the time for the Warriors, so he’s going to have some turnovers. But I expect he’ll be a little more careful with the ball this season and get the turnovers down under three per game.
Post your expectations for Curry below.