Breaking news: the Golden State Warriors are good at basketball.
They employ the two best shooters in the NBA today, a skilled, versatile Swiss-Army knife as a power forward, and a plethora of solid role players that fit perfectly around their core. As such, they are on pace to set the NBA record for most wins in a season, and will win the title barring a significant upset, injury, or spontaneous combustion (which is a more likely scenario than the former, in my opinion).
Their best player, Stephen Curry, is having a season for the ages and has been the center of numerous debates among NBA fans, analysts, and even former players. Curry’s fans are saying he has the potential to be the greatest player of all-time, while his detractors believe he is the fourth best player in the NBA currently, at best. The truth is that he is probably the best player on the planet today, but will likely not touch the career accomplishments of players like Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Magic Johnson when all is said and done (though he has proven us wrong before, so who knows?).
However, one debate that has not been talked about much, and is probably the best discussion with legitimate points on both sides that we can have on Curry today, is: would he make the Hall of Fame if he were to retire today?
I’m not talking about retiring at the end of the season, after he wins his second straight MVP and likely his second straight title (again, barring the spontaneous combustion thing). No, I’m talking today, March 4th, 2016.
In my opinion, Curry has done enough to merit a spot in the Springfield up through this point in his career.
Let’s start with his shooting, which is how everyone starts a Curry conversation. People have mentioned him with the elite shooters in the history of the game, but I believe that does a disservice – to Curry. He boasts the best combination of volume and efficiency behind the three point arc the league has ever seen.
According to basketball reference, only nine players have ever made at least 200 3s in a season while also shooting at least 43% from behind the arc. Curry has done so three times, including this season.
In those seasons, he has the top three spots for the number of threes he’s made, and only two players have had single seasons with 200 3s with more accuracy than Curry (Kyle Korver shot 49.2% last season, and Glen Rice shot 47% in 1996-97). Curry is shooting 46.8% from deep currently, so he could definitely pass Rice in that regard as well.
There also are only eight players in NBA history who are 43% shooters from deep in their career (with at least 100 career attempts), and Curry has made more than double the amount of threes than the next highest person on the list.
I could keep going with three point shooting stats, but you probably get the point.
Curry has also accomplished more in the NBA than some players currently in the Hall of Fame (check Bleacher Report’s article for their 10 most undeserving Hall of Famers). For example, a player like Earl Monroe made the Hall of Fame after a solid, but unspectacular career*. He had career averages of 18.8 points, 3.9 assists, and 3.0 rebounds – solid, but hardly Hall of Fame worth when compared to Curry. Curry also has double the amount of career 40 point games than Monroe (20 to 10), which was considered a crowning achievement of his at the time.
This is not meant to pick on Monroe at all – he was a fine player in his day who impacted the game greatly. Rather, this is just meant to show that Curry has already put up numbers that are Hall of Fame worthy when compared to players who have already been enshrined. (Oh, and if you want to talk about impacting the game, look no further than Curry’s jersey sales, or people entering the arena hours early to watch him warm up, or Mark Jackson’s comments about Curry impacting the way high school players play).
Lastly, Curry is currently having one of the best single seasons ever in NBA history, and that should absolutely be considered when discussing his Hall of Fame case. If the season ended today, Curry would have the highest single-season PER ever among players who played at least 1000 minutes, and would tie Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 1971-72 season for most win shares per 48 minutes (since there are still 23 games left, Curry is likely to deviate from that number some, but should finish no worse than second).
Also, the combination of Curry’s usage and efficiency this season is absurd and otherworldly in ways that are nearly impossible to describe with adjectives that are currently in the dictionary.
In NBA history, only five players have ever posted an effective field goal percentage of 58% with a usage rate of at least 28%. Those players are Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal (who did it six times!), Amar’e Stoudemire, LeBron James (who did it twice in Miami), and Curry, achieving the feat last season and this season. So 58% eFG and 28% usage is clearly an impressive combination, right? Curry is currently boasting a 64.3% eFG on 32.7% usage this year. That 64.3% is easily the highest number among players meeting this qualifications, and the usage is only bested by O’Neal having one season with a 32.9% rate, a season in which his eFG% was 58.4%. Curry is also the only player on this list relying mostly on shots away from the hoop. He’s averaging 11 three point attempts a game this year, and the next highest non-Curry number on the list is James’ 4 attempts per game in 2013-14.
There are definitely arguments against Curry’s current Hall of Fame candidacy, such as his brief run of success (he’s only made three All-Star games) and general lack of other achievements that typically are considered when evaluating players among All-Time Great status, such as All-NBA honors. However, Curry is unlike any player the NBA has ever seen and we should use different criteria for evaluating his career as such. He will get more MVPs, All-Star appearances, All-NBA selections, and (likely) titles, and that will solidify him as a surefire Hall of Fame selection in the future. With that said, his accomplishments up to this point are too much to ignore.
Curry is the figurehead for the NBA’s revolution to become a three-point shooting league. He also is the most “unguardable” player in the game today, as he can drill shots at a high rate from anywhere inside the half-court line. He also is the most popular player the league has seen in some time (yes, including LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Kobe Bryant), and the impact he has left on the sport in such a short time is unprecedented. For all of those reasons, Stephen Curry has built up a case for the Hall of Fame that is difficult to deny, even if he were to retire today.
*Monroe was a good shooter and likely would have benefited from a 3-point line, but he still was never as good as Curry is now.
**All statistics accurate as of March 3rd, 2016, before Golden State’s game against Oklahoma City.