Stephen Curry was experiencing an uncharacteristic problem during the first five games of the Golden State Warriors’ 2020-2021 season: he kept missing outside shots. Curry entered Sunday night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers shooting just 32.1 percent from three-point range and 42 percent from the field. It was a continuation of what we saw from Curry in the five regular season games he played last season, when he hit only 24.5 percent of his threes and 40.2 percent of his field goals before suffering a year-ending broken hand.
The foundation that once helped make Curry an all-time great had crumbled around him in Golden State. Kevin Durant left in free agency for the Brooklyn Nets, Klay Thompson suffered two season-ending injuries, Andre Iguodala was traded, and Shaun Livingston retired. The Warriors’ ecosystem of ball movement and selflessness didn’t look as good with Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Oubre, and Eric Paschall as its supporting pieces. A defense that once triggered so many transition opportunities for Curry to be freed shooting from deep suddenly sank to the bottom of the league.
All of this was used by some to discredit both Curry’s past and future. In reality, he was just waiting for the shots he typically makes to start dropping again. It finally happened in the sixth game of the new season against Portland.
Curry exploded for a new career-high 62 points on 18-of-31 shooting from the field and 8-of-16 shooting from three. This was the Steph we know and love bringing an eruption of joy to the basketball court once again.
When Golden State was at its peak as the greatest dynasty of its era, there was a common refrain after every win: the Warriors were inevitable. That’s not the case anymore with Durant out East and Thompson still sidelined, but it remains true for Curry.
Curry was still scoring on just about league average efficiency even as his three-pointers kept rimming out. He’s still never finished a full season under 40 percent three-point shooting. It’s a universal truth that he’s the greatest shooter ever. The fact that he wasn’t hitting shots in a funky 10-game sample across two seasons doesn’t discount any of that.
Because Curry’s shot attempts are so audacious, it feels easy to slander him when they’re missing. This is of course fool’s gold as a legitimate criticism: the fact that Curry still demands so much attention on his absurd shot attempts is a significant part of his greatness. Those looks might miss for a couple games, but we know they’re going to fall eventually. There’s a nearly 6,000 shot sample throughout Curry’s career that tells us he’s going to make those attempts at an incredibly impressive rate eventually.
Don’t discount Draymond Green’s place in Steph’s breakout, either
Green played his second game of the season on Sunday night after missing training camp and the preseason with a foot injury and a need to follow the league’s Covid protocols. In his first 46 minutes this season, Green has scored exactly one point. If you watched the game instead of just checking the box score, it’s abundantly clear how dramatic his impact has been since returning.
Green was absolutely masterful defensively against the Blazers, taking away plays before they ever happened like an elite defensive back on the football field. His return gives the Warriors a fighting chance they didn’t have without him.
This doesn’t even capture Draymond’s impact on the Golden State offense, which was remarkable for a player who scored one point. Green ended the night with eight assists, giving Golden State a passing hub that allows Curry to zoom around the court off the ball.
The two still have a special connection together. It was only fitting that they hooked up for Curry’s final bucket of the night.
It should be impossible for any team to survive losing Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. The drop off from the role players during Golden State’s heyday to today is almost as stark. For all the gravity Curry possesses, it’s on Oubre and Wiggins and Paschall to not be complete liabilities for this team to reach whatever ceiling it has.
We still don’t know much about what the post-dynasty Warriors are going to look like. What we do know is that Curry, even on the brink of his 33rd birthday, remains the greatest shooter ever. Get your jokes in when his shots are missing, because that won’t be happening for long.