Stephen Curry is the best player in the world. There. I said it since no one else will. While we were debating whether it was still LeBron James or Kevin Durant, and when Anthony Davis would inherit the mantle, Curry just seemed to grab the title without anyone noticing.
He’s the reigning MVP and led his team to an NBA title over James, but the latter is still considered by most to be the best player alive. That’s because while we’ve learned to look at basketball differently over the last few years, we haven’t adapted our notions of what makes a great basketball player along with it.
The reality is, that in the new, modern age of the game, the skills that Curry brings to it make him the best baller on the planet, and that’s why he’s the reigning champion and MVP. And from the early indications this season, he’s just getting better.
Curry is not just the best player on the best team; they are the Association’s best team because he is its best player. The chart below goes a long way toward proving that premise:
The vertical axis shows the plus-minus while a player is on the court. The horizontal axis shows his total stats Ostensibly, the higher up a player is, the better his team is while he’s playing; the further to the right he is, the more he has to do with them being where they’re at.
See that island in the top right-hand corner? That’s Curry. Sure, there are some other players, including Russell Westbrook, the quietly brilliant Blake Griffin and James, but they’re not even close enough to Curry to make a long-distance phone call.
Furthermore, look at the grouping of Warriors at the top of the chart. While they’re all impressive enough in plus-minus, they’re not that distinguished regarding the numbers they’re chalking up. It’s not hard to figure out that the Warriors are winning because of Curry more than anything else.
But lest you think he’s just the beneficiary of good fortune, consider this as an example. Draymond Green is second to Curry on the team in assists, and his teammates are shooting an effective field-goal percentage off his passes of 51.2 percent, according to his dashboard at NBA.com.
But when you parse out the passes to Curry, Green’s other teammates shoot an effective field-goal percentage of 36.8 percent. Curry’s is 71.2 percent when Green delivers him the ball.
Still not convinced? How about the impact that Curry has on the shooters around him? The other four starters have combined to make 16 of their 25 three-point attempts when Curry is on the court with them. They’ve hit just 2-of-6 attempts without him. Their collective effective field-goal percentage is 52.6 percent with him and only 48.2 percent without him.
Do you think the fact he’s making forty-seven percent!!! of his contested threes might have something to do with that? Or that he’s 55.6 percent on pull-up jumpers from deep!!!? The planet of Jupiter doesn’t pull that kind of gravity.
Curry is destroying the league, point blank.
The chart below shows the players since 1985 who have scored 130 points in their first four games, how many possessions they used to do it, and how many points they scored per possession used:
In fact, his opening salvo to the season is historically unprecedented. Since 1964, only four players: Rick Barry, Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan have scored more points through the first four games. And the remarkable thing about Curry is that he’s barely using any possessions to rack up those numbers.
Including field-goal attempts, free throws and turnovers, he’s used 104.32 possessions to score 148 points. That’s an average of 1.42 points per possession used, a flatly obscene number. The next best of the 100 top scoring performance through four games in NBA history is Jordan with 1.29 points.
In an age where the emphasis is on stretching the court, Curry isn’t just stretching it. He’s tearing it to shreds. He’s obliterating defenses. And he’s doing so while playing the second-best defense at his position in the league, based on ESPN’s DRPM.
He’s the best player in the world at the evolving brand of basketball. It’s time for us to evolve our definition of what that mantle means along with it.