Can Seth Curry keep improving in his second season as a Sixer?
A related question, as dramatic as it sounds, is this: Can he become the most efficient three-point shooter ever?
The 30-year-old Curry is No. 2 in career three-point percentage at 44.4. Steve Kerr is first at 45.4 percent, and Curry's older brother Stephen is seventh (43.3 percent).
Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey interrupted a question during his end-of-season press conference Tuesday to speak a bit about Curry.
“You know what, can I just talk about Seth for a minute? Seth is improving before our eyes, which I think is super exciting — again, a testament to him and what (head coach Doc Rivers has) been able to do,” Morey said.
Curry averaged 18.8 playoff points per game this season on a 72.7 true shooting percentage, and his off-the-dribble skill and pick-and-roll success with Joel Embiid were impressive. The Sixers’ best offense was often having Curry make an Iverson cut to the wing, run a side pick-and-roll with Embiid, and then figure things out from there.
Looking at times like he would never miss an open catch-and-shoot three wasn’t new for Curry, though.
Curry on catch-and-shoot 3s (regular season)
- 2018-19: 49.7 percent
- 2019-20: 48.1 percent
- 2020-21: 48.6 percent
The bump in playoff volume was the main difference. Curry took 11 catch-and-shoot triples during the Mavs’ 2020 first-round loss to the Clippers. He attempted 59 during the Sixers’ playoff run this year, making 32.
Besides his postseason excellence, the biggest reason for optimism with Curry is the hope that a full offseason will enable him to more completely recover his fitness after testing positive for COVID-19 in January.
“I feel fine,” he said on June 8. “I don’t think until I get the full summer that I’ll be back to fully where I want to be, but I’m more than good enough. Coach is doing a good job of getting me rest when I need it. I’m in constant communication with them about how I’m feeling out there on the floor throughout the game. You’ve got to just play through a lot of stuff come playoff time.”
Depending almost entirely on Curry to find good looks from the perimeter likely isn’t the Sixers’ best approach. He can handle the ball and doesn’t turn it over much, but his top attribute is not breaking down set defenses.
However, it’s uncommon for a player to have an elite quality like Curry’s shooting while also possessing several other useful tools. Half of Curry’s attempts this season were three-pointers, per Cleaning the Glass, and 39 percent were two-pointers not at the rim. He made a stellar 47.9 percent of those mid-range shots.
“I try to make the right play,” Curry said in March. “I feel like I can score from all three levels — shooting the three, mid-range, floater and getting to the rim. I don’t try to put myself as a one-dimensional player as far as just shooting threes.
“I try to just make the right play every time now, whether it’s my shot or finding a shot for a teammate. That’s why I’ve been efficient over my career, because I don’t come down thinking I’ve got to get up a three. I think about scoring the ball. The goal is to score, whether it’s two, three — whatever it is.”
Curry posting 20 points a night in his early 30s would be a surprise, although it’s not ludicrous to think he’s an ascendant player. The early portion of his professional career was mostly spent in the G League, proving he was worthy of an NBA roster spot. The 2020-21 season was only his fourth playing over 50 games. It was his first as a full-time starter.
Defensively, Curry’s margin for mistakes is low. Though he defended Bogdan Bogdanovic effectively in the Hawks series, Atlanta targeted the Lou Williams versus Curry matchup to great effect during the Sixers’ Game 5 collapse. Kevin Huerter gave Curry problems in Game 7, too.
Though it’s natural to first consider external options in examining how the Sixers can make offseason upgrades, continued improvement from Curry would be impactful.
He’d need to reach historic levels to get better — at least as a three-point shooter — and yet that doesn’t seem out of the question.