After Stephen Curry scored 70 points in leading the 10th-seeded Davidson Wildcats to victories over 7th-seeded Gonzaga and 2nd-seeded Georgetown, the sophomore sensation receivedome 1,800 Facebook friend requests. Davidson’s Fall 2007 enrollment was just 1,674 students. Needless to say, Curry’s name has spread far from the small liberal arts college campus outside of Charlotte, N.C.
Curry added 33 points in a decisive 73-56 win against Wisconsin in the Sweet 16. After scoring 30+ points in his first four career NCAA Tournament games (he scored 30 in a first round loss to Maryland last season), Curry was “held” to 25 points on 9-25 shooting from field in a dramatic 59-57 loss to top-seeded Kansas. Even in defeat, Curry made headlines, being named Most Outstanding Player of the Midwest Regional and deservingly so.
While Curry’s dreams of a Final Four appearance won’t be realized this year, the dream of following in the NBA footsteps of his father, Dell Curry, who played 16 years in the league, now seems almost certain. The question is, what kind of pro would Stephen Curry be?
The parallels to his father are obvious in terms of his shooting touch. Dell ranks 21st in NBA history in 3-pointers made and 22nd in career 3-point percentage, leading the league in the 1998-99 season. However, Stephen shows signs of being a more prolific scorer. His averaged 21.5 points per game as a freshmen, 25.9 as a sophomore, and most impressively, he’s averaged 31.6 against stiff competition in his five-game NCAA Tournament career.
With two years of eligibility left, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Curry stick around in school for another year or two. Being at a small school like Davidson, he may not want the bright lights of the NBA just yet. And his wiry 6’3” 185-pound frame may not be the prototypical NBA body.
But the buzz surrounding Curry may never eclipse the level it’s at right now, save an unlikely repeat march in the tournament by Davidson. NBA scouts have to be impressed by the way Curry handled the variety of defenders and defenses that were thrown at him over the past couple weekends. Curry is likely a mid-late first round pick at this point with a lot of upside.
His body resembles Monta Ellis, but he doesn’t have quite the same explosiveness. I think the better comparison is Sacramento Kings guard Kevin Martin. Listed at 6’7”, Martin is a few inches taller than Curry, but he is also listed at the same weight of 185 pounds. While Curry may be bothered most by taller, longer defenders, he’s very crafty with the ball and moves well without it. Plus, running of the screens at Davidson is one thing, but coming off a pick set by an NBA big man should help free Curry, who doesn’t need long to fire his quick-release jumper.
That’s Stephen Curry’s NBA ceiling: Kevin Martin’s innate ability to score combined with Dell Curry’s feathery touch from beyond the arc. At this point, the biggest question marks are on defense. At this point, his body is not strong enough to handle most NBA 2-guards so the question is whether he can defend quick point guards. Otherwise, he becomes a defensive liability.
On the other end of the projected-future spectrum, I’d compare Curry to someone like Juan Dixon, who averaged better than 25 points per game for Maryland on their way to winning the 2002 tournament. Dixon is another undersized guard, who at 6’3”, 164 pounds played shooting guard in college. Dixon is now on his fourth team in six seasons, averaging 8.8 points for his career and only 4.3 this season. For me, a career mirroring Dixon is the low end projection for Curry.
Curry is best suited as a scorer. He’s played with a good point guard in Jason Richards at Davidson and I think he’ll be most successful as a scoring guard rather than as a playmaking point guard. His size makes that a tough fit in the NBA, but if teamed with a big, physical point guard, Curry can become a 15-20-point a game scorer in the NBA.
Personally, I’d like to see him stay in school for at least his junior year and maybe his senior year as well. Add a few pounds in the weight room and add a few moves to his offensive repertoire.
Here’s the dilemma. The odds are that if he stays in school, his draft stock dips a bit after the hype of this tournament becomes a memory and he goes late first or possibly even early second round. However, he enters the league more polished, more NBA-ready and has a better chance at a long, successful career a la his father.
If he enters the draft this year, the upside is that he’ll get drafted earlier and maybe someone even takes a flyer on him at the backend of the lottery, earning him a significantly more lucrative contract. However, he’ll also be burdened with greater expectations and less physical tools to live up to them. With an NBA father, Curry doesn’t fit the mold of many who make the jump to the pros. He certainly doesn’t need the money. So while no one could blame Steph Curry if he decides to capitalize on his fame and turn pro, I’ll applaud his wisdom if he chooses to return to the place where he will have cult hero status that goes beyond any number his Facebook page can count.
For more information, visit MattHubert.com.