Stephen Curry is back.
He didn’t really go anywhere. His team has been to each of the last four NBA finals — winning three of them — his jersey sales and sneaker sales are among the top in the league. He’s cemented himself as the greatest shooter in all of basketball.
Yet, on October 24, Curry announced to the world he was back.
What was so different that made the return alive and well?
Curry exploded in Oracle for 51 points in three quarters while draining 11 3-pointers against the Washington Wizards.
For the first time since 2016, the loveable baby-faced assassin that the country fell in love with, had returned to the court. Back were the walk-up 30-foot 3-pointers, back were the impossible fall away 3-pointers with defenders draped over him, back were the cocky post-make celebrations. All the ingredients that came together to make Curry a back-to-back (and the first unanimous MVP in league history) MVP were on full display against the Wizards.
To an extent, those ingredients have been there throughout the entirety of the 2018-19 season so far. In the lead up to the season, this quote, via The Washington Post, from Steve Kerr predicted what we’ve seen from Steph so far, “I do think there should be a slightly different theme this year.”
That theme, Stephen Curry is back. Curry’s moment is now.
Since Kevin Durant joined the Golden State Warriors the narrative has morphed into a debate over which all-time great is the better player. Durant has captured both of the NBA Finals MVP in their first two seasons together. Even though Durant’s arrival has led to on-court dominance in the Bay Area, Durant’s presence meant that the Curry-driven offense that helped the Warriors become a dynasty — and saw Curry begin to climb up all-time lists — had to be put on the backburner.
That’s not the case anymore. Durant is now ingrained into the Golden State offense and Warriors way. Now, Durant is encouraging Curry to shoot those crazy shots we all love. Part of that reason is that outside of those two All-Stars, only three other players on that roster are shooting 33 percent or better on 3-pointers on more than one attempt per game (Jonas Jerebko, Quinn Cook, and Draymond Green).
They may be top heavy, Golden State doesn’t really have as deep a core of perimeter threats as some of the other top teams around the league. This presents Curry with more opportunities to launch freely, especially with Kerr giving him a neon green light to let it fly as he pleases.
Obviously, the volume isn’t the same, but the areas from which Curry is exposing defenses look reminiscent to his previous MVP seasons.
Integrating a player of Durant’s caliber was priority number one for Golden State, however, that integration process seems to be over. After seeing his shots per game dip from 20.2 in 2015-16 to 18.3 in 2016-17 and all the way down to 16.9 last year, through six games Curry is currently taking 21.9 shots per game. His 12.7 3-pointers attempted per game this season would be a career-high.
With the Warriors sitting at 6-1 and Curry averaging 33.9 points, 5.6 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game while carrying shooting splits of 55.1 percent from the field, 52.7 percent on 3-pointers, and 92 percent from the free throw line — a statistical feat (55/50/90) that no player has sustained for more than 27 games — Curry has Kool-Aid Man “OH YEAH!” crashed his way into the MVP race to begin this year.