Steph Curry the most game-altering player to ever step foot on a court

Steph Curry the most game-altering player to ever step foot on a court

Programming note: Warriors-Rockets coverage starts tonight at 6:30pm on NBC Sports Bay Area, and continues immediately after the final buzzer.

OAKLAND -- As the curtain is raised on a new NBA season, the conventional wisdom is the league consists of four distinct tiers, only one of which has a single member. That would be the Warriors, alone at the top and projected to lock up the No. 1 postseason seed several weeks before the season ends.

The reigning champions boast a collaborative work environment, a diverse and creative co aching staff and, conceivably, the most dangerous roster in NBA history. The Warriors are to the NBA what Tesla is to the electric car market and, moreover, they have the benefit of having Stephen Curry at the wheel.

And it’s quite a benefit when you have the most game-altering player, regardless of position, ever to set foot on a court.

[SHILLER: Kerr: Curry better now than his unanimous MVP season]

The Rockets, who come into Oracle Arena to open the season Tuesday night, make no attempt to hide their aspirations. They want to push the Warriors in hopes of knocking them over. Warriors coach Steve Kerr concedes that his system is based largely on principles created by former Warriors coach Don Nelson and advanced by Mike D’Antoni, now the coach in Houston.

The Rockets, however, do not have a Curry. Neither did the Knicks or the Suns, D’Antoni’s previous NBA teams. The closest he ever came was in Phoenix, with Steve Nash running the point.

“Steph is like Nash on steroids,” Kerr says. “He’s faster and quicker and he’s shooting from 35 feet instead of 25 feet.”

Curry’s presence is not the only reason the Warriors have been able to separate themselves. It’s also a product of being the only team with four legitimate All-Stars, each of whom is uniquely superior. No one combines movement and catch-and-shoot excellence as well as Klay Thompson. No one affects a game in more ways, at both ends, as well as Draymond Green. No one even begin to approximate the gifts Kevin Durant or Curry. Can you imagine a Warriors opponent rummaging through its roster trying to form a scout team?

And while Durant may be the toughest matchup in the NBA -- and the better bet for league MVP -- it’s Curry who flavors the essence of the Warriors.

“Everything we do revolves around Steph,” Kerr says. "If you want to say who affects the game the most offensively, Steph’s the best player in the NBA.”

Kerr has been around the NBA for 30 years, been teammates with Michael Jordan and Tim Duncan and an opponent of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Curry is indeed a different beast, a transformative figure in a toned but hardly imposing 6-foot-3, 190-pound physique.

The Curry Effect has been generated by the devastating power of 1,545 3-pointers in five seasons, and the way they rain despair down upon the faces of opponents. He frightens defenses in such a way it opens up scoring avenues for his teammates.

David West has been playing basketball for 25 years, the last 18 in the NBA and in high-level Division I at Xavier. He has been an opponent and teammate of Curry. He has played with and against greats, from the primes of Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson and LeBron James, but can’t even begin to summon a fair comparison to Curry -- all because of the 3-ball.

“It’s become such a psychological weapon,” West says. “Having been on other teams and knowing how a coach will try to prepare, you can tell. A coach wants to protect the rim and guard the 3-point line. And it’s an absolute nightmare, because you’re giving up layups. You’re basically going against what you’ve been trained to do. You’re giving up layups and paint points, because these (3-pointers) are too deflating. These are too defeating. These are too damaging to the psyche.”

For an example, go no further than the comments of Clippers coach Doc Rivers after his team took a 144-98 lashing last Jan. 28.

"At halftime, I asked the guys what's hurting us, and they said 'the 3'," Rivers said after the game at Oracle. "And I said 'You’ve got to be kidding me. We're even. We were 8-for-13 and they were 8-for-13.

“It's amazing the mental thing when they make a 3. They needed Curry to make a halfcourt shot to tie us (in first-half 3-pointers). They had 46 points in the paint. The paint is what killed us tonight. Their drives, their cuts, their layups, and our guys are still thinking about the 3-point shots. That didn't hurt us. It did later, but in the first half it was all the layups."

Yet it was Curry’s triples -- including a 51-footer to close the half -- that tortured the Clippers. It’s all they could think about.

It’s all the Spurs can think about, too, because San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich demands his team guard the arc. The minute Curry gets free and hits one from deep, Pop is out of his seat calling w timeout, knowing that one often leads to two and then three.

“This is something we’ve never seen,” West says. “There have been great shooters. But nobody has ever inflicted the type of psychological damage that he does.

“They’re knockout shots.”

Curry’s 3-point shooting has spawned a legion of wannabes, pale imitators firing from 25, 30 and 35 feet. As much as Wilt Chamberlain, and then Michael Jordan, did for the dunk, Curry’s influence has been far greater because shooting the deep ball seems so much more realistic thank soaring for a dunk. The belief is that one can practice toward being a great shooter, whereas dunking generally requires superior athleticism.

So, now, you see 3-pointers coming off the fingers of players from all five positions. Even such centers as DeMarcus Cousins and Karl-Anthony Towns won’t hesitate to float out beyond the arc and let it fly. Lurking beneath it all is the Curry Effect.

No team in the NBA averaged fewer than Minnesota’s 21 3-pointers per game, while D’Antoni’s Rockets launched a league-high 40.3 per game. Contrast that to 10 years ago, before Curry entered the league. The 76ers took the fewest treys, 10.0 per game, while Nelson’s “We Believe” Warriors and D’Antoni’s Suns tied for most attempts with 24.0.

Now, straight out of a D’Antoni fantasy, here come the Rockets, not only shooting a high volume of triples but spacing the floor -- as Curry does -- by setting up from well beyond the line.

“They’re saying, ‘All right, we ‘re going to space the floor to three feet beyond the 3-point line, because that’s even harder to guard.’ I never thought I’d see that,” Kerr says. “But Steph has played a role in that. So guys are actually practicing deeper shots. So there’s no question he’s making an enormous impact on the game and he’s changing the game.”

There is little doubt that rules changes, particularly on defense, also have had an effect on the direction of the game. Hand-checking is illegal but many teams are willing to employ variations of a zone defense.

Yet Curry continues to wage an assault on the record book. His 402 triples in 2015-16 were more than 116 better than the previous league record, his own at 286, set a year earlier. Curry owns four of the top five single-season bests, with the other belonging to Thompson.

Curry is 10th on the all-time list, with 1,971 3-pointers and it’s conceivable he could climb into the top five before his 30th birthday in March. Of the nine players currently ahead of him, four are retired and the five active players are all at least 36 years old.

So, yes, he’s changing the game. And Popovich, not a huge fan of the 3-pointer, doesn’t want to see any more changes. With Curry crushing triples during the 2015-16 season, the Spurs coach responded to those musing about a possible 4-point line.

Popovich wondered, well, why not a 5-point line before he answered his own question.

“The problem is, Steph would probably kill us.”

Warriors booed at NBA Draft when Adam Silver congratulates 'all-time great team'

Warriors booed at NBA Draft when Adam Silver congratulates 'all-time great team'

The Warriors are the villains of the NBA.

That much was confirmed Thursday as the NBA Draft festivities were beginning.

During commissioner Adam Silver's opening remarks, he congratulated the Warriors on winning back-to-back championships and was greeted with boos.

"This past season was defined by countless unforgettable highlights, including a record number of 3-pointers and the leagues highest scoring average in nearly 30 years. The playoff picture was decided in overtime on the last night of the regular season. Both conference finals were decided in Game 7s for the first time in 39 years and the NBA Finals featured some of the all-time greatest players and an all-time great team, the Golden State Warriors," Silver said.

At that point, the fans in Barclay Center let out a huge round of boos.

"Let me congratulate them on back-to-back championships. The Warriors entire organization embodies the values that have long defined this league, the quality and inclusion which judges made solely on talent, effort and achievement," Silver said.

Silver will mention the Warriors again when he announces the No. 28 overall pick of the first round.

Bob Myers looks into his crystal ball, predicts what NBA game will look like in five years


Bob Myers looks into his crystal ball, predicts what NBA game will look like in five years

Bob Myers knows a thing or two about basketball.

He was named NBA Executive of the Year in 2015 and 2017.

On Thursday, Myers joined BJ Armstrong and Gerald Brown on the podcast "In the Key."

Armstrong -- the former NBA guard and current agent (he reps Draymond Green) -- asked Myers the following question:

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"We have this era of small ball that forever you will be associated with ... you guys are without question the best at small ball ... what does the game look like five years from now?"

"What's happening is -- the center position is really the one taking the biggest hit," Myers answered. "The 3-point shot has changed what centers are asked to do ... going under a screen now is almost unheard of because the guards can shoot the 3 so well ... so now you're asking a 7 foot guy to somehow either hedge out on the screen and disrupt the pick-and-roll there. Or switch it.

"Now how many 7 foot men in the world are capable of staying in front of Steph Curry, anybody that's a perimeter-oriented player with rules that don't allow hand checking?

"So where do I think it's going? Clearly, we've gotten to a point where we are asking big guys to do things that they are not comfortable doing, and we're taking advantage of that ... I think where it's going is because I think the whole game has changed to the 3-point shot -- as we move forward in high school -- we didn't switch screens in high school. But if you come up now, the first practice, you're switching screens in high school; you're switching screens in college.

[LISTEN: Warriors Outsiders Podcast: Who will be the pick at No. 28? Will Golden State buy a second-round pick?]

"So if you take a big guy that's 10 years old right now that's 6'11" -- he's probably switching screens on the playground. So the point is, it's going to catch up where you're going to see a 5 that has been asked to switch screens since he was 12 or 13 years old, that when he gets to the NBA he's going to go, 'Yeah. I got this.' So the center position isn't going away."

Without question -- in both the present and the future -- big men are going to need to be able to hold their own when defending guards.

When you look at the upcoming draft, there are a lot of "centers" who are projected to to be taken in the Top 10.

And their ability to handle themselves on the perimeter defensively is under the microscope.

"I could be totally wrong on this," Myers said. "We could end this conversation and you guys could say, 'he's an idiot.' (laughter). I think everything will eventually catch up."

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller