Fantasy NBA: How Good is Stephen Curry?

Welcome to Fantasy Basketball Roundtable #2 for the 2010-2011 season. Since I was able to recruit a few new Knights to this Round Table, I earned the honor of being The Questioner for this week’s Roundtable. If you look at the number of responses below you might not think that assembling all of them was really an honor. (We still have a ways to go to get up to the number of the real Knights of the Round Table)

I must have had a super awesome question to generate such well though-out, lengthy responses… And that question was:
What do you think of Stephen Curry going at an average of 7.9 in Yahoo drafts? That’s above Danny Granger, Deron Williams, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Amar’e Stoudemire, and David Lee… What do you think of Curry’s prospects compared to those other potential first round picks?

Our very own Patrick:

Color me worried about Stephen Curry. Yes, the kid is the proud owner of one of the sweetest shots this side of Ray Allen and he had the best fantasy season from a rookie since… well, possibly ever. But a player isn’t guaranteed to improve simply because they are entering their second season in the league, especially when their rookie season featured the perfect storm of Don Nelson.

Now a sophomore slide isn’t guaranteed to happen to Curry, but it’s a possibly that everyone seems to be ignoring. And given reports out of Warriors camp, a slide from Curry may be inevitable as he adjusts to life as a more traditional point guard. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Curry is struggling to adjust to Coach Keith Smart’s new offensive system. And by new, I mean that he actually has an offensive system:

“The 14 turnovers in the last two games are part of a training-camp-long problem. Curry has 28 assists to 28 turnovers in the shortened playing time of five preseason games. That equates to 9.1 turnovers per 48 minutes. New coach Keith Smart is running more half-court sets, with a motion offense subbed for the pick-and-roll game. As Curry learns the new offense, he also is learning the tendencies of an overhauled roster. With less spacing on the floor and the necessity of precise timing to connect with cutting teammates, Curry has looked out of sorts at time.”

Curry will eventually learn the new offense and he is too good a player to let slide past the second round in most drafts, but am I drafting him in the mid-first round? Hell no. Instead, I’ll sit back and wait for the “Stephen Curry is off to a slow start” articles to start popping up in mid-November.

Erik referencing this podcast:

I pretty much stand pat on our view, when Patrick and I discussed Curry in GMTR’s podcast. Curry was the beneficiary of an extremely ideal situation back in 2009. The often times, six or seven man rotation, the Nellie-ball, the injuries to his teammates. What we saw last season is a sneak peak of his upper ranges as far as fantasy value goes. I predict that Steph will end the season as a Top 25 player, but not necessarily a Top 12 one. He’ll still be a rock-solid source of PTS, 3’s, some AST, some STL’s. He will take a step back, statistically, in 2010-11 but only slightly.

Ryan Lester of Lester’s Legends:

That seems a bit high for my tastes. If Don Nelson was returning I could maybe stomach taking him that high, but I can’t imagine Keith Smart will run an offense that is quite as high-tempo.

I expect his scoring to increase in his second season to around the 22 ppg mark to go along with 7 assists a night. He’ll get a decent rebound total for a PG, shoot at a solid clip from the field, knock down a bunch of treys, rarely miss from the line, and pick up a couple of steals per game. He will also turn the ball over a bit.

One of the reasons for the bloated stats at the end of the year was Golden State’s injury situation. It would hard for them to not be healthier this season, and the increased depth will keep him from putting up the April numbers that are worthy of a top seven pick.

Would I take him over Granger? Possibly because of health issues the past couple of seasons. However, I would rather get the likes of Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, and Amar’e Stoudemire to start my foundation. Maybe grab a Jrue Holiday, Rajon Rondo, Steve Nash, Tyreke Evans, etc. on the way back. The big men that will be available if you take Curry that early won’t be nearly as talented.

Jason Hahn of Fantasy Basketball Blog:

You’ve got to figure that a major factor that’s built into that 7.9 number is the fact that a good number of casual fantasy basketball owners probably don’t know about coach Don Nelson’s departure or what that really means for Curry’s fantasy production. That said, 7.9 is a bit bullish for Curry, mostly because of the uncertainty that coach Keith Smart brings to that team. I don’t doubt that the Warriors will continue to be a prolific team, but will they repeat as the No. 2 scoring team in the league? Maybe not.

However, with so many offensive weapons now gone from Oakland and with Jeremy Lin currently the only backup point guard on that squad, it’s clear that Curry will have no problem matching or even exceeding the 36:12 he played last season and expanding his prominent role in that team’s offense. Also, don’t underestimate the impact of: 1) Monta Ellis’ apparent peace with his situation on the Warriors, 2) coach Smart’s goal of cutting down Ellis’ minutes this season and 3) the pressure taken off the backcourt with David Lee in the frontcourt.

All that said, I don’t have a problem taking Curry over Granger, Howard, Stoudemire and Lee. But I can’t justify taking him over Williams and Gasol. Curry at the end of the first round makes sense to me.

Henry Sherrell of Weakside Help:

I’ll say this right at the top, I’m a big believer in Stephen Curry. He is more than just a special talent. His squad will continue to play Nellie-ball (albeit at a slightly reduced rate), he will improve with increased experience, he has better teammates surrounding him (mainly David Lee in the middle who was a pick n’ roll monster at New York) and he does everything you could ask for and more.

I love his potential to build on all the right point guard categories (points, assists, 3ptm, FT%, steals). You just cannot just the type of numbers he put up last season anywhere else. I know it’s only 8 games with a depleted roster, but check out his April 2010 stats: 26 points, 8 assists, 6 boards, 3.1 3ptm, 47%-89%, 2.6 steals and even 0.4 blocks (3.1 turnovers). This isn’t just a very good collection of numbers… it ranked as the number 1 option for the entire league in that period (and for the final 4 weeks of the season) despite Durant averaging about 33/10. It’s just sick.

But more than any other reason, I think Curry’s prospects are so high because of the general unknown factor regarding nearly everyone else. After one of the most active off-seasons in recent memory for player movement and squad upheaval, it’s no wonder people are unsure of certain players. Granger has a new point guard and is already injured. Williams has lost his most potent offensive friend (Boozer) who was replaced by someone who commands the ball to be effective (Jefferson). Stoudemire and David Lee are both in new environments. Dwight Howard still can’t hit free throws (but a caveat here, in H2H leagues you should take him above Curry) and Pau Gasol has never been a fantasy favorite.

In any other season, Curry doesn’t deserve to go so high. But the combination of his almost unlimited potential, his recent production history at the end of last season and the shaky ground which many other top fantasy players find themselves in leads to a fairly high average draft position. I can safely say if I have any pick from 5 through to 12 and he is still on the board, I will be taking him over some of his more esteemed colleagues.

Adam from Razzball:

I’m in one league where we draft according to how hypnotizing a player’s eyes are, so in that league, Curry’s 7.9 ADP actually seems a tad low. In other, less homoerotic leagues, grabbing Curry anywhere between picks five and 14 seem rational. The top tier of picks should always go to the largest talent and the safest play. Save the upside for later. But this year, there’s a surprising dearth of safe top-tier picks and Curry’s upside is too compelling (… As are his eyes! Sorry. I’ll calm down). Yeah he’s being picked above guys like Granger and Amar’e, but one’s got a ton of health concerns heaped on him and the other plays for the Knicks! I’ve seen Curry picked over Kobe (knees?) and ‘Melo (effort?) and Pau (Bynum?) and Wade (LeBron?) and I can’t really blame the thought process behind any of them. I don’t think he’ll improve on his stats from last year, nor do I believe he’ll dip far below them. Whatever Curry loses from playing in an organized Warrior offense instead of the bonkers pop-a-shot program Don Nelson installed, he’ll make up in natural development and defensive and efficiency stats. Despite Curry only being a sophomore, he’s as good of a bet as anyone after Durant and LeBron. Honestly, the first tier hasn’t been this wide open since fantasy owners wrestled endlessly with having to choose between Nate Thurmond and Billy Cunningham with the fifth pick back in ‘69! Remember that!? Of course you do. Why wouldn’t you? I wouldn’t go for Curry until sometime after the 10th pick, but I understand why others would.

Allen from Fantasy Basketball Daily:

I’m probably going to be the most negative response on the entire roundtable, but I don’t think you can gamble with your first round draft pick in this situation. I like Stephen Curry, but I also like having an experienced and dependable option that I can plug in and know for certain what I’m getting. Let’s face it, Curry is a gamble, and there are several things that could blow up in your face here. Why gamble on Curry just to find out that he’s basically on the same level as Nash, Rose, Williams and Rondo? Those guys offer the same production without the downside risk of Curry. Play it safe.

So what could go wrong with Curry? First, the Warriors have a new head coach who will struggle this season to develop his own style. We have all read how he wants to improve the defense and improve the half-court offense. The Warriors ran at the fastest pace in the league last season and any reduction in that pace is definitely going to hurt Curry’s fantasy production. If the offense moves from transition oriented to more half-court oriented, then you could be looking at a large number of touches for David Lee, and I think those touches come at the expense of Curry and not Ellis. Ellis doesn’t care, he’s still going to get his, which leaves Curry as the only distributor. More distributing means less shooting.

Another factor that many people are overlooking is the fact that Curry played huge minutes last season because the Warriors simply ran out of players due to injury. I believe Curry even fouled out of one game but was allowed to keep playing because Golden State didn’t have anyone left on the bench. Lee is now an option, Biedrins seems healthy and even Dorell Wright has the ability to contribute heavily on offense, all of which will take opportunity away from Curry. It’s easy to pile up gaudy stats like Curry did last season when there aren’t any other offensive options available. Let’s face it, Curry got a lot of last season’s stats by default because the Warriors just had nothing else to offer. Much has changed in the offseason and I think drafters would be wise to figure that into their evaluation of Curry.

Curry is priced to perfection in the first round and I think there is more downside risk than upside reward in that draft position. There are many things that could go wrong here which could leave gambling fantasy owners looking up in the standings at wise owners who took the sure thing rather than the wild gamble. In my opinion, the gamble just isn’t worth it.

Jeff Andriesse from Damn Lies and Statistics:

I’m a fan of Curry’s. He kills it in three categories (threes, steals, FT%), is very solid in two others (points, assists) and will have a full season coming up of http://lifeisfantasybasketball.blogspot.com/playing close to 40 minutes a game for the Warriors. Don Nelson leaving gives me a little pause, but I’m willing to pull the trigger on Curry ahead of all the players mentioned in the question. Now, there are some caveats. In a head-to-head league, I consider Howard the No. 4 overall pick and will take him over Curry, but not in a roto league. Granger’s numbers are better than Curry’s, but I’m reluctant to spend a first-round pick on someone who is hurt as often as Granger is. While it is true that Curry’s assists aren’t what they should be for a first-round point guard, he trumps Deron Williams in almost every other category. I also think Curry will average around 20 points per game this year, an improvement on last season’s numbers. All he has to do is get along well with Monta Ellis and the two of them can form one of the most explosive offensive backcourts in the league. Keith Smart might play a more structured style of ball, but that doesn’t mean the Warriors will be much better defensively. They will have to push the pace and give Curry and Ellis free reign most nights to attack and attack as they will play from behind often. All of this adds up to a middle of the first round type of selection, and 7th or 8th seems about right. Match Curry with an efficient shot-blocking big in the second round (Brook Lopez?) and you have nearly every category covered right away. Curry’s a solid building block if you miss out on one of the few elite superstars early in drafts.

Justin from Life is Just A Fantasy Basketball Blog:

Nellieball is dead, but Stephen Curry’s first-round fantasy value is very much alive. Steph is worth a middle first-round pick, and I would have even considered drafting him with the fourth pick had Don Nelson not been given a permanent Hawaiian vacation. Yahoo’s 7.9 rating feels right to me, and I won’t hesitate to grab him before Deron Williams, Pau Gasol, David Lee and Amar’e Stoudemire. No question I’d take him before the perpetually injured Danny Granger, even before Granger’s sprained his ankle. Curry or Dwight Howard is a tough call in head-to-head leagues, but I’d end up taking Curry because I don’t want to work around Howard’s well-noted weaknesses. Steph is going to be the least affected by the coaching change. I’m still expecting big, across-the-board numbers from Curry — unless he chokes on his mouth guard. Safety first, Steph.

Dennis Velasco from Fanway:

If Stephen Curry were any candy, he’d be like Reese’s Pieces when the movie E.T. came out. Despite being a less-than-awesome NBA team in regards to Ws, the Golden State Warriors are a pretty good source in the fantasy basketball sense. And, yes, I still believe that even though Don Nelson was given the boot like a “lady of the night” after one’s two minutes of pleasure, the team is still brimming with fantasy potential.

Basically, we’re like E.T. searching for plant life to study, following a trail of Reese’s Pieces to achieve our goal. Except the goal for us is winning a fantasy basketball league and Curry is an integral piece to getting it done. Oh, also we don’t have glowing hearts that shine through our chests, extendable giraffe-like necks, and fingers that light up. Although I wouldn’t mind having some Drew Barrymore… to be clear, adult Drew Barrymore!

Curry with an Average Draft Position (ADP) of 7.9 in Yahoo! leagues isn’t surprising or too early. In fact, I bet that since this question has been asked to the Roundtable, his ADP has risen. Curry’s ability to snap nets, convert at the stripe, hit from deep, rip rocks, and drop dimes at a significant rate makes him an attractive player to draft.

There were many doubters that wondered if Curry and Monta Ellis could co-exist on the court at the same time and the answer was a resounding “you bet your ass.” The dynamic duo played 60+ games together and neither’s fantasy value suffered. In fact, Curry and Ellis had a sort of symbiotic relationship where defenders had to sweat Curry on the perimeter and Ellis taking it to the rack and chucking jumpers.

At the heart of it all, the reason Curry is getting mad love from fantasy basketball managers are his Post All-Star stats last season:

29 games; 39.2 MPG; 22.1 PPG; 5.5 RPG; 7.7 APG; 2.7 3PTM; 46.8 FG%; 90.6 FT%; 2.0 SPG

Can Curry sustain those numbers over a full season? Well, let’s look at the total season numbers for more context:

80 games; 36.2 MPG; 17.5 PPG; 4.5 RPG; 5.9 APG; 2.1 3PTM; 46.2 FG%; 88.5 FT%; 1.9 SPG

Other than discernible differences in points and assists, things are pretty much close. So, considering Curry’s youth (not only does he look like he’s twelve-years-old, but last season was only his rookie campaign), lack of depth at the point guard position, the synergy he has with Ellis, and seemingly “figuring it out” proven by his Post All-Star numbers, Curry could very well repeat those numbers. There’s still the ubiquitous upside with him.

In comparison to the aforementioned Danny Granger, Deron Williams, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Amar’e Stoudemire, and David Lee, Curry is a better overall package. Granger has played 67 and 62 games, respectively, in the past two seasons, so durability is a question. Williams is only better in the assists category. Howard dominates three categories (FG%, rebounds, blocks), but is infamously known as a FT% terror and adds nothing more in categories in comparison to Curry. Gasol is a solid draft pick, but his numbers aren’t outstanding enough to consider in the top six picks, whereas Curry’s value from the point guard position is higher. Stoudemire’s overall numbers aren’t better than Gasol’s and therefore not better than Curry’s. Lee should continue to be a double-double machine, but will probably score less as Curry and Ellis will dominate the ball for the Warriors. Across the board, Curry contributes to a noticeable degree in every category other than in blocks, and doesn’t hurt you anywhere else.

So, if you’re drafting and picking in the middle of the first round of a standard-sized league, waddle slow, eat some candy, choose Curry, and phone home letting your peeps know your first pick.

William from Roto Professor:

I can absolutely see why Curry is being taken at this point in the draft, the potential is absolutely through the roof and it’s exciting to think about just what Curry could do. I’m getting sucked into the mania like everyone else, I have him ranked number 9 in my recent Top 200. That puts him in the first round for me and it puts him above all the big men mentioned above. The reason for this is that in my opinion all those big men are real close together and you should be able to land one of them on the turn, whereas if you miss out on Curry I think there is a bit more of a drop off to the next point guard.

That said, I do think there is a risk involved in drafting Curry, especially as your first pick. While he looked awfully good last year in his time as a starter, there are still question marks. He’s still relatively unproven, and he’s being asked to change his game somewhat dramatically this year. He’s no longer in a free to run offense like he was with Don Nelson. This year he’s going to be in a more halfcourt offense under Keith Smart and we are already seeing signs of an adjustment problem. So far this preseason he has 28 assists, and 28 turnovers. That’s not the kind of Assist to Turnover rate you want from your first round point guard. I think it’s only a matter of time before he corrects these mistakes and turns the corner, but it’s still a red flag.

He is also playing with nearly a whole new team, including David Lee and a healthy Andris Biedrins. The presence of those two should dramatically reduce the number of rebounds Curry gets from the 4.5 he averaged as a rookie. And while he should up the number of assists from last season’s 5.9 per game, don’t expect it to be a huge jump because Monta Ellis is still in town and he’s really like a second point guard on the court and he’ll spend plenty of time with the ball in his hands.

Those are a few question marks to go with Curry’s inexperience, and while I think the potential reward outweighs the risk as far as drafting Curry in the first round, I still wouldn’t take him above a sure thing like Deron Williams. He’s almost the safest guy in the first round because you know what you’re going to get and he hasn’t really had many issues with durability either. I also rank Granger higher, but if you want a point guard I can see taking Curry over him, especially considering the risks he presents as well concerning his health. But I just can’t pull the trigger on Steph over Curry for the number two point guard, at least not this year.

William’s co-author at Roto Professor, Daniel:

Stephen Curry is undoubtedly the biggest up-and-comer in the NBA when it comes to fantasy production. His numbers as a rookie were good for any point guard; they were great for a rookie. That said, let’s not go overboard on the guy. You don’t get extra points for drafting the hot up-and-comer. Fantasy basketball remains a science based on numbers. With the numbers in mind, owners should only be focused on how a player can help them for the coming season. That’s it. It doesn’t matter what team your players play on, how many games they win, or how old they are. Things change slightly if you’re in a keeper league, but not enough to adopt an entirely new draft strategy. Obviously, I don’t agree with the high average draft position Curry has seen thus far. Especially when you look at some of the guys who are being taken after him.

Deron Williams
No one can convince me that Stephen Curry should be averaging a higher draft position than Deron Williams. Curry will easily win the 3-pointers made category, but I think that’s the only place you see a clear advantage for him. Williams will have significantly more assists/game than Curry. The departure of Carlos Boozer will put pressure on Williams to score more points, which he is certainly capable of doing.

Danny Granger
Another unexplainable pick here. Curry has the advantage as far as assists go, but that’s about the only place I see him clearly winning out. Granger is the only top 10 player that could have more success in 3-pointers made than Curry. I’d be my house that Granger scores significantly more points, and he’s better physically equipped to help out on the boards than Curry.

Dwight Howard
Of those being passed up for Curry, Dwight Howard might be the hardest to compare to the Golden State guard. The differences in statistics are obvious due to their positions and styles of play. The issue here is quality at position. There are a number of guards on the rise in the NBA right now. Sure, Curry is among the cream of the crop, but he is not in the very top echelon for his position. It’s a completely different story for Howard. The lack of dominant centers has been covered ad nauseum. On top of that, Howard is easily the most valuable fantasy option at his position. Positional scarcity shouldn’t always be used to compare different players, but I think a first round pick should give you a clear advantage at a specific position.

Pau Gasol/Amar’e Stoudemire/David Lee
This is where things start to get a little muddled. One owner might apply the same logic as was just discussed in relation to Dwight Howard. The only difference is that none of these guys will put up quite as gaudy numbers as Howard. This would be where one would have to look at what kind of team you are trying to build. If you’re looking to be competitive in all categories Curry is the answer. On the other hand, if you want a dominant center you may not get the chance again.

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