8 Early Criticisms of Stephen Curry That Sound Absurd in Retrospect
After careful examination and analysis, I have come to the brave conclusion that back-to-back NBA MVP Stephen Curry is good at basketball. If you don’t trust my impressive basketball acumen, there are plenty of stats that say Curry had the most efficient and one of the best (if not the best) offensive seasons of all time. He shattered his own record for most three pointers in a season (401 this year, 286 last year), and Curry did it all while leading the Golden State Warriors to an unprecedented 73-9 regular season record.
While it may seem obvious that Mr. Curry knows what he’s doing on the court, there was a time when he had his fair share of doubters. In 2009, when Curry decided to join the NBA, many wondered if this scrawny kid from a small liberal arts college could cut it against the world’s greatest athletes in the NBA.
Hindsight being 20/20, we’ve collected a few choice criticisms made by experts and scouts early in Curry's career. While most of these experts also issued praise for Curry's strengths (usually in the form of a Mike Bibby comparison), the opportunity to go back and see where they went wrong is irresistible.
1. ‘POOR PHYSICAL TOOLS’
For Draft Express, Jonathan Givony lauded Curry’s unselfishness and “excellent court vision,” though he conceded that “he’s probably never going to be a pure playmaker in the Steve Nash or Chris Paul mold.” However, Curry did “show a good enough feel for the game to at least develop into a capable facilitator, ala Mike Bibby or Mo Williams.”
Here’s more from that scouting report:
Defensively, Curry puts a solid effort in, but is extremely limited by his poor physical tools on this end of the floor. He lacks great height, length or strength, and possesses below average lateral quickness, making him a potential defensive liability when being matched up with some of the more explosive guards the NBA is known for
One of the bigger concerns about Curry’s offensive game is that he does not project to become a prolific slasher at the NBA level. His first step is average at best, and considering his skinny frame and poor explosiveness around the basket in traffic, it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to get to the free throw line anywhere near as much in the NBA as he does in college.
2. ‘HE IS PROBABLY NEVER GOING TO END UP BEING A STAR.'
The following harsh judgments come from a Bleacher Report article attributed to “Correspondent”—which means the author didn’t have the power of their convictions at the time, or they went back to scrub their name before they could be tied to such poor foresight:
Curry's physical limitations probably mean he is going to end up as more of a point/combo guard than a pure two. He doesn't have the size, the strength, or the lateral quickness/athleticism to defend shooting guards in the league
He is also going to run into some issues at the point as well. His first step leaves much to be desired, and it more than likely will mean that Curry will have problems beating NBA points off the dribble.
Best Case: I've seen a lot of people saying Mike Bibby, so I'll go with that; Worst Case: Jannero Pargo, Steve Kerr, and JJ Redick.
He probably is never going to end up being a star in the league because of a lack of explosiveness.
3. ‘DOESN’T HAVE THE UPSIDE’
Stephen Curry declared for NBA Draft. Doug Gottlieb "He doesnt have the upside of Rubio. Jennings, Flynn, Mills, Teague all more athletic."
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 23, 2009
4. ‘FAR BELOW NBA STANDARD’
NBADraft.net saw similarities between Curry and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, which is a comparison made recently by Phil Jackson. The scouting website also shared a plenty of praise, though they didn’t shy away from poking holes in Steph's game, either:
Far below NBA standard in regard to explosivenes [sic] and athleticism ... At 6-2, he's extremely small for the NBA shooting guard position, and it will likely keep him from being much of a defender at the next level ... Although he's playing point guard this year, he's not a natural point guard that an NBA team can rely on to run a team ... Struggles defensively getting around screens ... Can overshoot and rush into shots from time to time (vs. WV) ... Hasn't had to deal with getting benched due to poor performance (shooting) which has allowed him to shoot through any slumps. Will have to adjust to not being a volume shooter which could have an effect on his effectiveness ... Doesn’t like when defenses are too physical with him ... Not a great finisher around the basket due to his size and physical attributes ... Makes some silly mistakes at the PG position. Needs to add some muscles to his upper body, but appears as though he'll always be skinny
5. ANTHONY MORROW IS A BETTER SHOOTER
Shortly after the draft, then Warriors GM Larry Riley had this exchange at a press conference that didn't help dispel rumors floating around that the team had been considering a trade with the Phoenix Suns that would have included Curry. (The Suns president at the time? Current Warriors coach Steve Kerr.)
While not exactly criticism, this is funny to look back at nonetheless:
Q: Does this mean Curry is the PG of the future?
RILEY: No it does not. We’ll go into that and well start the season, we’ll train him as much as wee possibly can to play some as a back-up to Monta Ellis and to play some at the two spot. There may be times when they’re on the floor together of course.
Q: You know them both–out of [Anthony] Morrow and Curry, who’s the better shooter?
RILEY: It’s a little bit difficult to predict exactly how Curry’s going to shoot the ball, other than he’s going to be a good shooter.
Morrow’s a great shooter. Right now Morrow’s a better shooter than almost anybody in the league. I see him as ahead of Curry in that regard.
6. ‘NOT A GREAT FINISHER’
The Nets (then in New Jersey) ran a player profile ahead of the draft on their site, with the following “expert’s take” on Curry:
At 6-2, he's extremely small for the NBA shooting guard position, and it will likely keep him from being much of a defender at the next level. Although he played point guard his junior year, he's not a natural point guard that an NBA team can rely on to run a team. Curry is not a great finisher around the basket due to his size and physical attributes and he needs to add some muscle to his upper body.
7. ‘I JUST DON’T SEE CURRY BECOMING A SUPERSTAR’
After a full year of watching Curry play, San Jose Mercury News reporter Tim Kawakami had this to say about Curry in 2010:
The reason I still like comparisons to [Mike] Bibby is because I just don’t see Curry becoming a superstar, and Bibby has always been one of those very-good/almost-star/want-him-on-my-team players.
8. ‘NOT A FAN OF CURRY’
Scott Schroeder of Ridiculous Upside (now part of SB Nation) didn’t think Curry should’ve been drafted before the Philadelphia 76er's 17th pick (he went 7th in real life):
I'm not a fan of Curry. He was great in college, but I don't think he'll be great in the NBA. I do think he'd be a stud in Philadelphia however.
However, Schroeder did make the following prediction that has proven eerily accurate:
Match him with Andre Iguodala and his pseudo-point forward role, and boom tho. Amazing will happen.
Iguodala wouldn't join the Curry and the Warriors for another four years, but you can't argue the results haven't been amazing.