Arguing that Stephen Curry could use help feels sacrilegious, but lately the Golden State Warriors superstar has not looked like himself.
Fortunately for him, help in the form of Klay Thompson has finally arrived, and the addition could help Curry get back on track.
Before last night’s game against Cleveland, which marked the return of Thompson, Curry had a 16-game stretch wherein he hit just 36.7% of his shots.
That’s not three’s, mind you. Shots. Overall.
As strange as it may sound that one of this generation’s most efficient scorers struggles to that extent, it’s an uncomfortable reminder that Curry is closing in on 34 years of age and could be nearing the end of his prime.
With Thompson out, Curry has had to shoulder a larger offensive responsibility, which manifested itself in a 32-point scoring average last season. This year, Curry has settled in for about five points less per night, as he’s flanked by Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole, both of whom are averaging over 17 points per game.
And yet, it isn’t quite enough. Defenses respect both Wiggins and Poole from the outside, but neither has the gravity of Thompson which meant Curry has had to – once again – do mostly everything in terms of shot-creation and creating space for himself to get off shots.
Curry is assisted on just 57% of all jump shots, per Basketball-Reference, which is a number that might be a smidge too high for when taking into account age and no Thompson for all but one game this season. As Curry ages, lessening his creation burden could be a key to prolong his impact.
In fact, during the last time he and Thompson were both healthy – the 2018/2019 season – 68.9% of Curry’s triples were assisted. This is a number that should make a comeback.
Of course, make no mistake about the talent here. If there’s a player in the history of the game who has the ability to get off shots off his own dribble, it’s Curry. This should remain a part of his game until he retires, but to balance it with a healthy diet of assisted shots could go a long way.
Thompson’s Ripple Effect
While head coach Steve Kerr will ramp up Thompson’s minutes slowly, per Josh Schrock of NBC Sports, the addition will light a fire under the feet of both Curry and the remainder of the roster, as defenses will undoubtedly be tuned in to where Thompson is at all times.
The 31-year-old shooting guard has hit 41.9% of his career three-point attempts, hitting on average over 253 triples per season over his past four healthy seasons. Thompson has the NBA high of 14 made three-pointers in a single game.
Thompson’s own shooting prowess will allow Curry to fly as much under the radar as what is possible for, well, Stephen Curry. After all, there are limits to how anonymous Curry can make himself out there.
Thompson’s 17 points in 20 minutes of play during his first game back proved a strong sign that the inclusion of him into the starting lineup will have a ripple effect on the starters, some of whom will be dropped down a spot in the scoring priority.
Wiggins will likely move into being the third scorer, potentially turning him more effective due to the space he will now have around him. As discussed before, Poole will now be the primary scorer off the bench, allowing him to carve up second units.
However, it all comes back to Curry.
For the 33-year-old, it’s time to bounce back to his normal levels of efficiency. Ignoring his injury-plagued five-game sample during the 2019-2020 season, Curry’s 38.7% from downtown marks his first healthy professional season wherein he is failing to hit 40% from behind the three-point line. His 42.2% shooting overall is also a career-low.
For the Warriors, who have championship aspirations, and are currently slotted as the second-most likely champion, per FanDuel Sportsbook, now is the time for Curry to regain his touch, as to best propel the Warriors forward.
The return of Klay Thompson should help him do just that.