It seems like it wasn't that long ago that we were wondering if Stephen Curry would ever evolve from being a great shooter to being a great point guard. And now, as Curry fully blossoms into his status as en elite game disrupting point guard, his shot has weakened to merely very good (and recently somewhat terrible). What's going on? Every measure of his shooting percentages have fallen this year, including FT%, and yet his PER has jumped two points. Probably some of the answer lies in statistics...aside from his deflated shooting, every other measurable part of his game has gone up this year. More assists, rebounds, steals, even blocks. The only part that's plummeted is his defensive rating, which dropped six points (a good thing!). If you look at his last 5 games, an even more interesting portrait emerges. His FG% is an abysmal %35, he's 5 points below his scoring average and yet they've won 5 straight. Again, other stats have jumped in those 5 games...11 APG, 7 RPG, but that doesn't tell the whole story. Iggy being back helps with those 5 wins, but I would've been pretty surprised at the beginning of the season if you'd told me the Warriors could win 5 games in a row with Curry shooting that badly.
I think a large part of what's happened goes beyond what's easy to measure statistically (though I'll bet there's a stat that would tell me this which I don't know about)...It seems Curry has embraced at least an iota of the Russell Westbrook school of not sacrificing the good in pursuit of the perfect (even the turnover rate is Westbrook-like). He's unleashed himself as a disruptive force...finally fully healthy and filled with a confidence and sense of responsibility borne of his playoff run, Curry walks into every game with a new relentlessness. Perhaps it was watching Westbrook own the end of their last meeting defensively, on the glass and with the winning shot that's converted him, but I see opposing players reacting frantically to his presence in a way reserved for a few superstars. Teams are distorting their schemes, defenders are barking at each other, and he's finding lanes and seams that only the great point guards do. How many times did the Cavs send 3 guys to stop his drives? The Suns defenders (including defensive stud Bledsoe) looked like puppets at the end of his string most of the game. There's something psychological happening to other teams, they can't get their minds around him, and it's making games almost inexorably tilt towards the Warriors in ways that don't always make sense. His shot is probably suffering from all this attention, but it's also opening up the game for everyone else...I found an interesting stat that measures some of that impact...not only has David Lee's scoring average jumped 3 ppg, but he's averaging 1 more offensive rebounds per game in December than November. Bogut's scoring average has gone up 1 ppg, and he's also added an offensive RPG. Green and Barnes also have a shade more Offensive RPG. So, not only are Curry's assists impacting other players, but my guess is that Lee and Bogut's defenders are swarming to Curry, leaving easy opportunities for Warriors players on all those missed Curry shots.
It's a wonderful and even confusing thing to watch. Curry was on the verge of becoming one of the all time greatest shooters and we may just have to settle for watching one of the all time greatest PLAYERs bloom in front of our eyes instead.