2013 Playoffs – Stephen Curry Historical Stats

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The internet is abuzz with how great Stephen Curry is playing in this post-season.  Zach Lowe’s mind is boggling.  Bill Simmons is beside himself with joy.  The words “best player of the playoffs” and “best player of the playoffs if not for Kevin Durant” have been uttered.  High praise.

So what exactly makes Curry’s current run for the Warriors so outstanding?  Two things really.  Most obvious is his prolific, high efficiency scoring.  He’s putting up 23 points on 19 shots with almost 9 three point field goal attempts per game, shooting 57 TS% on a 25.7 Usage%.  But just as important, Steph is punishing teams that trap him by passing to his teammates for buckets.  He’s dishing out over 8 assists a game with an Assist Rate over 30%, that’s a lot of playmaking for a primary scorer.

To see how many people have ever done what Curry is doing right now, I set the following parameters on our Basketball-Reference playoff statistics search: 10+ games played, True Shooting percentage of 57+, Usage% of 25+, and Assist Rate of 30+

Per Game Advanced
Player Season FGA 3PA FTA AST TOV PTS AST% USG% TS%
LeBron James 2008-09 22.3 5.8 14.2 7.3 2.7 35.3 39.5 36.4 .618
Michael Jordan* 1990-91 22.1 1.5 8.7 8.4 2.5 31.1 36.7 32.7 .600
Michael Jordan* 1988-89 22.9 2.1 13.5 7.6 4.0 34.8 38.0 35.4 .602
Michael Jordan* 1989-90 26.6 3.1 9.9 6.8 3.5 36.7 34.5 36.1 .592
Baron Davis 2006-07 17.4 6.1 6.7 6.5 2.9 25.3 30.3 25.4 .622
LeBron James 2009-10 19.2 4.5 10.9 7.6 3.8 29.1 36.8 30.9 .607
Steve Nash 2004-05 17.9 3.6 4.1 11.3 4.7 23.9 43.9 26.6 .604
Kevin Johnson 1994-95 15.0 1.0 8.4 9.3 3.4 24.8 43.5 26.7 .663
Stephen Curry 2012-13 19.1 8.9 3.5 8.3 3.4 23.5 33.3 25.7 .571
Deron Williams 2009-10 14.9 5.1 11.1 10.2 3.0 24.3 41.0 25.6 .614
Gary Payton* 1997-98 18.3 5.0 5.0 7.0 2.6 24.0 30.4 25.6 .585
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/15/2013.

As with any list of great players doing great things, Michael Jordan and LeBron James headline it and comprise almost half of the applicable seasons including the top 4 by Win Share.  So it is.  After that the breakdown is BDiddy of the We Believe Golden State Warriors, Steve Nash of the pre-Sarver Fire Sale Phoenix Suns, Kevin Johnson of the Uh-Oh Charles Barkley’s Back Is Starting to Go Phoenis Suns, Deron Williams of the Boy I Hope We Don’t Run into Kobe and Pau Utah Jazz, and Gary Payton of the Noklahoma City Seattle Sonics.  And of course, Stephen Curry of the Hand Down Man Down Golden State Warriors who spawned this whole conversation.

Curry stands out somewhat in the way he’s producing.  He barely gets to the free throw line, but he still manages to score efficiently because of his high volume and accuracy from three point land.  Surprisingly, Steph has the lowest TS% on the list.  Everyone else is over 58% and most are over 60%.  But the way he’s scoring is so unique because it is all predicated on his deadeye shooting from range.  He drags the defense out and opens up passing lanes and opportunities just by having the ball in hand around the arc.  It’s fun to watch and very impressive because we’ve never really seen it done before – it’s like watching Reggie Miller play point guard (well), and everyone is still captivated by the process.

The good news for Warriors fans is that this is a damned exclusive list, and you’ve got two point guards (lead guards?) on it, and most of the players’ teams reached the conference finals.  The bad news for y’all Dubs is that the only season on the list to end in a championship is the 1991 Chicago Bulls campaign, a singularly odd playoffs in which Jordan broke the cardinal rule of doing too much to win by also being sickeningly efficient.  Miami seems to be way to good to lose to these Warriors, so it’s not likely Curry is going to have THAT kind of run, but I don’t think the NBA Finals are out of the question, and I don’t think I’ve ever in over 25 years of watching NBA basketball said “I don’t think the NBA Finals are out of the question” for the Golden State Warriors.  Not bad.

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4 Responses to “2013 Playoffs – Stephen Curry Historical Stats”

  1. Walt Coogan Says:

    This is a good statistical survey, but to be accurate and not regurgitate mythology, in ’94-’95, Barkley’s back was not ‘going.’ Barkley suffered from a bit of a bad back during the ’93-’94 season, largely because of his inadequate conditioning, near total absence of summer training, and refusal to take the time to rehabilitate himself, even after the Suns imported an $80,000 traction table from Canada to help Barkley’s back. (Durable Phoenix center Mark West used the machine on his sore back, but Barkley refused, because he was too ‘busy’.) Regardless, Barkley never missed a game due to his back during the ’93-’94 season (he missed 17 games in mid-season after tearing a quadriceps tendon in his right leg), and he successfully rehabilitated his back during the summer of 1994, albeit only after Phoenix sent strength and conditioning coach Robin Pound around the country to keep up with Barkley during Sir Charles’ golfing tour, forcing the player to perform his exercises after Barkley had bolted from the program. But Barkley was healthy during the 1995 playoffs, until he tore the meniscus in his left knee (diagnosed at the time as tendinitis) in the second half of Game Six of the 1995 Western Conference Semifinals at Houston. Barkley then limped through Game Seven (grabbing 23 rebounds on the one hand, committing 7 turnovers on the other), before undergoing surgery after that one-point loss. His back, however, was not the issue, and instead it represents a fallacy that most fans have succumbed to.

    • jpalumbo Says:

      Holy crap, that’s a great comment! Are you a long time Suns fan, or a sports injury student? Nice work.

      I honestly don’t recall the full character or order of Chuck’s injuries. I only have images left. I remember him completely unable to jump in on of those game 7s against Houston (certainly could have been 1995 – in fact I think the Suns were in white, so it would have to be). I didn’t even recall that knee injury happening though. I thought it was all back-related.

      I remember him pretty hobbled against the Spurs one post season. And I remember him getting the disk issues and then the knee in Houston.

      Given how poorly he took care of himself it’s a wonder he played as long as he did. Actually in ’97 the Rockets were on pace to win 60+ games before Charles’s inevitable injury. Of course that team was always doomed without a real PG, but that’s another post.

  2. Walt Coogan Says:

    Hey, thanks. Yeah, I’m a longtime Suns’ fan.

    Yeah, Barkley was very much hobbled in that Game Seven in 1995. On the one hand, he proved amazing, grabbing 23 rebounds with a bad leg, not to mention a tip off a Dan Majerle miss with under thirty seconds to play that allowed Kevin Johnson to grab the offensive rebound and tie the game at the foul line. On the other hand, Barkley tried to play his usual ‘hero basketball’ too often, even though he was hobbled, and committed 7 turnovers (against 5 assists) and shot 0-2 on threes. In what turned out to be a one-point game, every possession meant everything. If you could see K.J.’s body language on one possession late in the third quarter as he watched Barkley, who was 3-16 on threes over the last six games, dribble up the floor and shoot an out-of-rhythm, contested, fall-away three early in the shot clock on his bad knee …

    Truth be told, though, Barkley had been struggling and very up-and-down in that series long before he hurt his knee. The reason could probably be found in a few clues. After the Suns went up 2-0 in the series, Barkley boarded the team plane to Houston with one of his golfing and partying pals (Sir Charles promptly shot 0-10 from the field in Game Three). After Game Four, Barkley posed for photos with the Rockets’ dancers. And after the Suns lost Game Six in Houston, Barkley loudly joked in the locker room that the loss would sap some of the fun from his trip to a topless bar later that night.

    But in Game Seven, he was basically playing with the injury that ended Russell Westbrook’s postseason this spring; Barkley received a cortisone injection before Game Seven and again at halftime. And in June 1995, Barkley said that even if the Suns had won the Game Sevens against Houston in 1994 and 1995, he would not have been able to keep playing either year. ( A few days after the loss to Houston, Sir Charles underwent knee surgery, although he really didn’t do much rehab work during the summer and instead tried to play his way into shape early the next season.) Due to how well Kevin Johnson was performing in both of those postseasons (really the best playoff guard when Michael Jordan was either playing baseball or just coming off his baseball excursion), I think that the Suns would have still had a shot, but they would have needed Dan Majerle to step up.

    Indeed, in 1994, Barkley was hobbled in Game Seven, too, maybe not quite as bad as in 1995, but pretty close. Again, though, his back wasn’t really the issue (recall that he’d scored 56 points in a First Round game that year versus Golden State). Rather, Barkley pulled his groin in the third quarter of Game Five at Houston and then took three cortisone injections in the span of seventy-two hours. But he still couldn’t run without a limp or explode much in that Game Seven. He played quite well (24 points, 15 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals), but when Charles Barkley is attempting more three-pointers (7) than free throws (5), you’re going to be in trouble. Plus, he committed a crucial turnover at the end of the third quarter when the rallying Suns were down by just one and had a chance to take the lead with Hakeem Olajuwon on the bench. Instead, Barkley threw an ill-advised, rushed pass down the floor that the Rockets picked off, and then Robert Horry buried a three. The Suns ultimately lost by ten, 104-94, but they were merely down by five with under thirty seconds to play, with the ball, only for Majerle to air-ball an open three-pointer. But in that series, too, Barkley’s play had become very up-and-down and disappointing before he came up lame, probably for the same reasons as I indicated earlier. Before Game Three, for example, with the Suns up 2-0, Barkley was in the locker room talking about his plans to run for governor of Alabama and his belief that installing lights at Wrigley Field represented a waste of taxpayer money. Those topics would have been good for a “Larry King Live” interview during the summer, but not right before a big playoff game. In Game Three, Barkley scored 16 points in the first half, but then collapsed in the second half, scoring 2.

    Anyway, by Game Seven, the groin that he’d hurt in the third quarter of Game Five had become pretty bad. At one point in the second quarter of Game Seven, Houston’s Sam Cassell and Barkley collided and fell to the floor together, and Cassell protested the call while inadvertently rolling around on Sir Charles’ groin or upper leg area, as Barkley writhed in pain. After slamming a dunk and drawing a foul in the third quarter, Barkley rested for a few seconds by holding onto Kevin Johnson from behind, while K.J. grabbed Barkley’s shorts.

    I don’t think that Barkley was ever hobbled against the Spurs in the playoffs, but you may have been thinking of something else. Barkley faced San Antonio in two postseasons, 1993 and 1996, both with Phoenix. In 1993, he played inconsistently (as he did throughout that postseason, really), but he exploded for games of 35 and 36 points, respectively. In short, he definitely wasn’t hobbled then. In 1996, he wasn’t hobbled, but he wasn’t as explosive as usual. He missed the final four regular season games, with a strained calf ranking foremost among some other minor ailments (ankle, knees, shoulder, hip), and he wasn’t in prime form for the First Round versus the Spurs. I just watched Game Two again, and Barkley posted 30 points and 20 rebounds, doing a good job of playing off Kevin Johnson in the pick-and-roll/pop to receive easier baskets. But he shot 0-4 on threes in a game where the Suns trailed by just three points with under ten seconds to play.

    One series where Barkley was definitely hobbled was the 1998 First Round versus Utah. He’d actually suffered a sports hernia on March 1, 1997, on the infamous play (I’m sure that you’ve seen it) where Shawn Bradley, of all people, took him out. But the Rockets did not diagnose the hernia (a tear in the abdominal wall) until after the ’97-’98 season was already under way, and since surgery would have cost Barkley six-to-eight weeks, he played through the injury. Then in Game Four of the Utah series, he tore his right triceps muscle after playing only nine minutes, and he did not play in the winner-take-all Game Five. For the series, Barkley averaged only 9.0 points and 5.3 rebounds while coming off the bench.

    (By the way, Kevin Johnson played with an undiagnosed sports hernia throughout his four seasons with Barkley in Phoenix, and by the middle of the 1996 season, K.J. was playing with two undiagnosed hernias. Remarkably, despite playing with two hernias, he probably constituted the second-best guard in the second half of that season, after Michael Jordan.)

    Incidentally, following the 1998 season, Barkley privately and publicly lobbied Kevin Johnson, a free agent, to join him in Houston and fill the Rockets’ hole at point guard. (Late that spring, after their teams had been eliminated, both K.J. and Barkley mused that since they were both free agents, they might both join the Bulls the next year, teaming with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Toni Kukoc.) After the ’98-’99 lockout, Barkley continued to lobby for K.J. behind the scenes, but Houston opted for Pippen, the ‘point forward,’ instead. The pairing failed to work on or off the court, with Pippen trashing Barkley’s work ethic on his way out the door in 1999, and then a few months later, Sir Charles was done.

  3. jpalumbo Says:

    I remember that well. I was a very big Pippen fan who was very disappointed in the way he played in Houston. In hindsight, I’m not sure how healthy he was in ’99, but you could tell that Barkley and Hakeem, both well past their primes at that point, were looking for Scottie to be the #1 guy, and he wanted to play the support-star role he always had. KJ would have probably worked a lot better on that team, though an overall lack of depth and Barkley’s inability to stay healthy would have doomed them anyway. Chuck did have one huge game against the Lakers in the playoffs. In that series, I actually thought Rudy T, who was a star player coach, should have leaned more on Charles than Hakeem who was getting his jump hook blocked by O’Neal while Charles had Horry basically at his mercy.

    It’s too bad Barkley didn’t get to Phoenix a couple years earlier, because he was a better player, particularly on defense and in transition, when he was in Phili. That team would have been so deep, fast, and versatile if Chuck had still been at his best. The only year he was really close, 1993, KJ was hurt, and they still won the most games in the league and made it to a close game 6 in the Finals.

    Didn’t realize KJ was playing with an undiagnosed hernia all that time. KJ is #1 on my list of “If he had played in the no-handcheck era, he might have been considered a top 5 ever point guards.” KJ was already very efficient, and he had a higher FT rate than any other ’90s guard, but if defenders had to play off him…

    I got to hand it to you and other Suns fans, you know your stuff. I’ve encountered the most devoted KJ fans in the past. As much as Nash was loved and embraced, I think for the diehard Phoenix guys, KJ is still the face of the franchise (and he ought to be the face of the Kings now too).

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