Stephen Curry is a singular talent in basketball history. That much has been common knowledge for about a decade now, as Curry has piled up three-pointers at a historic clip, solidified himself as one of the best shooters of all time, and helped the Warriors clinch a trio of NBA championships. Along the way, he has become a cultural icon and one of the most recognizable athletes on the planet.
The 2021 Warriors are nothing like the juggernauts they were in previous years, when Curry had help from elite players like Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. With Durant now in Brooklyn, Thompson missing his second year in a row to injury, and Green significantly diminished from the player he used to be, Curry has found himself leading a younger, less talented team––and yet he’s still playing some of the most astonishing ball of his career.
What Curry has done this season isn’t quite a renaissance. For one thing, he’s not that old––still a relatively spry 33––and for another, his game never dipped much. But after missing nearly all of last season due to injury and the pandemic, Curry has returned and put on one of the most impressive tours de force of any athlete in recent memory.
It’s worth pausing to appreciate the season Curry has put together in 2021; we might not see anything quite like it ever again. Here’s a look at how his season has been going so far.
Curry’s overall numbers (and highlights) are outrageous.
In 60 games, he’s averaging 31.9 points with a 48.7 shooting percentage. He’s making 42.9 percent of his three-pointers, 91.6 percent of his free throws, and handing out 5.7 assists per game despite not having nearly the caliber of teammate he once did. On top of that, he’s even pulling down 5.5 rebounds per game, more than he’s ever had before.
The stats speak for themselves, but Curry has made a few plays this year that are remarkable even by his lofty standards. You may have seen them come across your Twitter timeline. His unique ability to make something out of nothing has never been stronger:
His playmaking ability has been in fine form:
And same with his dribble-around-in-circles stepback threes:
Curry’s April was among the best months any player has ever had.
That sounds like hyperbole, but the numbers make it clear: He had five games in April with 40 points or more, a record for anyone 33 and older. He scored 30 or more in 13 of his 15 games that month, another new record. That’s even more impressive than it sounds—remember, the NBA is playing on a condensed schedule because of the pandemic. Putting up that many points while playing a game every other night is absurd.
Curry made 10 or more threes in four separate games in April. Only five players have had multiple games with 10 or more threes in their entire career. Nobody has burned as white-hot as Curry has this spring.
Curry’s final April numbers almost read like a joke: 15 games, 35 minutes per game, 37.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 46.6 percent shooting on threes, 51.8 percent from the field, and 90.8 percent from the foul line. There has never been another player in NBA history who has met all of those benchmarks over a 15-game period, according to data from Sports Reference. In other words, nobody’s ever played 15 games in a row quite like Curry just played.
Against all odds, Curry has grown stronger.
There are many reasons why Curry should be on the decline. He’s firmly on the wrong side of 30. His teammates aren’t nearly what they used to be. And he barely played last season after breaking his left hand early in the year. Everything points to a slower, rustier player with fewer teammates to help him put up big numbers.
Instead, Curry just had one of the best months ever. His usage rate––the percentage of the team’s possessions during which he winds up with the ball––is a career-high 34.5 percent. He’s averaging career highs in scoring and rebounding, and his other numbers are closely in line with the same brilliant Curry we’ve known for over a decade. No one beats Father Time, but Curry is trying his best.
Curry might drag a completely mediocre Warriors team to the playoffs this year.
The non-Curry Warriors are bad. That’s not anyone’s fault in particular. Thompson is one of the best players of his generation, but he’s injured, and the rest of the roster is lackluster. Green is not the player he once was. Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre pile up decent point totals, but based on way too many shots from the field. James Wiseman and Jordan Poole are 19 and 21, respectively, and might someday be key players on good teams, but not now.
And yet, because of Curry, the Warriors are sitting in the eighth spot in the Western Conference, and they’re slated to make it into the NBA’s play-in tournament for the postseason.
There’s nothing special about the 2021 Warriors, except that they happen to have a player who’s having one of the most incredible seasons ever. Curry alone makes the team worth watching.
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