What Warriors' Steph Curry needs do to join top-10 NBA players ever

What Warriors' Steph Curry needs do to join top-10 NBA players ever

During his two MVP seasons, Steph Curry was one of the most transcendent talents the NBA has ever seen. The greatest shooter in league history forever altered the way the game of basketball is played.

Kids used to want to "be like Mike," soaring through the air for an acrobatic dunk. Now, they wish to pull up from anywhere on the hardwood and drain a dagger 3-pointer ala Curry.

Curry already is the best player under 6-foot-3 in NBA history. He passed Steve Nash, Allen Iverson, Isiah Thomas and Jerry West during his meteoric rise to the top of the game. He's already, according to my very scientific list, a top 20 all-time player.

But the top 10 is rarified air. It's reserved for the undisputed greats. Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O'Neal and the like. It's a group that's hard to crack into, with the guardians of basketball history always standing watch.

It's an almost impossible group to enter. In order to do so, you must not only have a lasting impact on the game -- which Curry undoubtedly has -- but you must also have unimpeachable credentials when it matters most.

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To be clear, the "Curry hasn't performed well in The Finals" narrative is tired and lazy. But he also hasn't always played his best when the lights are brightest.

The 2015 NBA Finals MVP going to Andre Iguodala isn’t important. What likely will matter is the fact that -- even in the loss -- LeBron James was the best player in that series, as he was in the 2016 Finals when Curry and the Warriors blew a three-games-to-one lead.

Kevin Durant undoubtedly was the best player in both the 2017 and 2018 NBA Finals. The injuries to Durant and Klay Thompson played a factor in the Warriors' loss to the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 NBA Finals, but Curry once again was outplayed by Kawhi Leonard. The difference between being the No. 11 player of all-time and No. 8 is razor-thin, so these things will matter.

To be clear, Curry was very good in the 2019 Finals with Durant missing all but a quarter and Thompson missing Game 3 before tearing his ACL in Game 6. Curry averaged 30.5 points per game, 6.0 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. He scored 47 points in Game 3 and forced the Raptors to use a box-and-1 defense to try and contain him. Curry did just about all he could to will the Warriors to a title and keep the dynasty alive.

But he didn't hit the shot to breathe life back into the dynasty. With fewer than 10 seconds remaining, Curry had a good look at a 3-pointer that would have given the Warriors the lead, sent the series to Game 7 and silenced all the doubters who believe Curry fails to deliver in the biggest moments.

Yet the ball clanged off the back of the rim and the Warriors' dynasty, as it was currently constructed, was no more.

In fact, Curry is 0-for-8 on go-ahead shots with fewer than 20 seconds to go in his NBA playoff career.

When debating the best of the best, all of that matters. All those above him have had their moments. Jordan had a number of game-winners. James erased a three-games-to-one deficit against one of the greatest teams of all-time. Magic's skyhook in Game 4 of the 1987 NBA Finals will live on forever. The list goes on.

Another hurdle Curry will have clear is proving he can once again win a title without Durant. Yes, Curry led the Warriors to the 2015 title. But after blowing a three-games-to-one lead in 2016 and falling to the Raptors last season, questions will remain about Curry's ability to carry a team to the title if Durant's not there.

The 2015 title is often viewed with a blemish with James and the Cleveland Cavaliers playing short-handed without Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving.

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There are no knocks on Curry. To be considered a top-10 player of all-time is an honor you must earn by proving you are better than some of the greats that came before you. Curry already has cracked the top 20 and perhaps even the top 15. His impact on the game of basketball never will be forgotten, and he'll finish his career as one of the best statistical players ever. Full stop.

But he still has work to do to reach the pinnacle. Perhaps he won't reach it. No player under 6-foot-5 is in the top 10. It's almost universally reserved for dominant post players or transcendent wings capable of hauling a team to a title.

Curry won't ever have the usage rate of a James Harden. The Warriors don't play that way, and he doesn't want to. He's the embodiment of an unselfish superstar, willing to do whatever is needed to win.

But he'll need to win again, without KD, and do so as the most impactful player in The Finals. That doesn't mean win Finals MVP, a subjective award that has been given to the wrong player a number of times. Curry must lead the Warriors back to the title and have a Finals moment that has eluded him thus far.

Only then will he be allowed into the NBA's hallowed ground.

NBA free agency: Warriors could target these big men for next season

NBA free agency: Warriors could target these big men for next season

The Warriors will go into the 2020-21 season with positional needs to shore up their depth if they intend to make a run at the title. If Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are healthy next season, the front office will have to mix and match with what they already have filling out the roster.

At their disposal, the Warriors will only have the taxpayer mid-level exception and minimum contracts to hand out to unrestricted free agents. So what areas do they need to address the roster? 

This week we already examined the guards and wings that could interest the Warriors. The center position definitely could use another piece as well. 

Kevon Looney was supposed to be a major factor in the frontcourt, but injuries derailed his season and unfortunately, there always will be question marks about his durability moving forward.

Marquese Chriss came out of nowhere and blossomed into the guy that might be holding down the starting center spot next season. Alen Smailagic is way too young and raw to be expected to make a major contribution next season, and the Warriors will be reluctant to use Draymond Green at center too much during the regular season. So the team will need at least one more big, preferably of veteran status, to add to their depth.


NFL rumors: 49ers have discussed Raheem Mostert, Kendrick Bourne extensions

NFL rumors: 49ers have discussed Raheem Mostert, Kendrick Bourne extensions

As the 49ers and George Kittle try to iron out what is sure to be a massive contract extension, the reigning NFC champions also are looking at giving extensions to two other offensive pieces.

The Athletic's Matt Barrows reported Wednesday that "extensions for Raheem Mostert and Kendrick Bourne have been discussed."

Mostert is signed through 2021, but he is in line for a pay raise after the 2019 campaign he had. Mostert evolved into one of the 49ers' key offensive options throughout the season and ended up leading the team in rushing with 772 yards. Mostert, of course, exploded in the NFC Championship Game win over the Green Bay Packers when he ran for 220 yards and four touchdowns in a 37-20 win.

With Matt Breida now a member of the Miami Dolphins and Jerick McKinnon's health still a question mark, Mostert will enter the season as the No. 1 back and a focal point of an offense that is laser-focused on getting back to the Super Bowl and finishing the job.

As for Bourne, he was tendered this offseason as a restricted free agent, and will be an unrestricted free agent next offseason.

Originally undrafted out of Eastern Washington, the 49ers gave Bourne a chance to make it at the NFL level and he has improved every season of his young career. Last season, Bourne caught a career-high five touchdown passes and caught six passes for 88 yards and a touchdown during the 49ers' playoff run.

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Bourne has been working hard this offseason in San Jose, with picture and video flooding social media to show that he plans to take another leap in 2020.

At just 24 years old, Bourne's football still is ahead of him and the 49ers would like to keep him in the pattern for the foreseeable future.

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