Advertisement


NBA

NBA Saturday: Stephen Curry Struggling to Find MVP Form

on

Please enable Javascript to watch this video

Stephen Curry Struggling to Find MVP Form

It’s a common practice to look for silver linings or potential positive outcomes from a bad situation. Injuries to star players in the NBA are no exception to this. For example, it was reported in December that Blake Griffin needed knee surgery. The positive viewpoint: At least it happened early enough for him to fully recover for the postseason and maybe playing fewer regular season games would keep him fresher for the playoffs. Another example, Chris Paul underwent surgery in January to repair a torn ligament in his shooting hand. The positive outlook: He’ll be back in time for the postseason and in the meantime, Austin Rivers can take on a bigger role, gain experience running the team’s offense and can build up his confidence while Paul is sidelined.

On February 28, when Zaza Pachulia was tossed to the ground by Marcin Gortat and bumped into Kevin Durant’s knee, the entire basketball world wondered whether Durant had suffered a season-ending injury, such as a torn ACL. The Golden State Warriors later announced that Durant suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain and a tibial bone bruise. The Warriors have not set a firm timeline on when Durant may return, but there is a possibility that he will be back before the start of the postseason.

While losing Durant is a significant blow to the Warriors, many people saw it as a potential opportunity for Stephen Curry to step back into the lead role for the team and rediscover his superstar level of play that earned him two MVP awards over the last two seasons.

Last season, Curry averaged 30.1 points, 6.7 assists, 5.4 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game while shooting 50.4 percent from the field and 45.4 percent from three-point range (on 11.2 attempts per game). Steph had a historically great regular season and was an unstoppable force.

When Durant signed with Golden State, it was known that Curry would have to take a step back and give up some parts of his game to accommodate his new superstar teammate. Curry did so and the Warriors were, for the better part of this season, a dominant squad that few teams could hope to contend with. Curry’s numbers haven’t been as great this season but no one really paid much attention to this since the team was so good. Now that Durant is sidelined and it’s not clear that he’ll be 100 percent healthy for the playoffs, it’s imperative for Curry to reclaim his MVP form.

Unfortunately, the early returns have not been great for Curry. While Curry is averaging 25.4 points, 6.6 assists, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game since Durant suffered his knee injury, he is shooting just 41.2 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from three-point range (on 11.2 attempts). What made Curry so dynamic last season wasn’t just his per game stats, but his overall efficiency. So far this season, Curry simply has been unable to mimic that efficient level of play. The likelihood is that Curry will break out of this slump at some point this season, but for those that thought he would find his old form once Durant got hurt, these early returns have to be concerning. To his credit, Curry is maintaining a positive attitude.

“I don’t ever lose confidence,” Curry said after hitting five of his 13 three-point field goals against the New York Knicks. “My assistant coach Q [Bruce Weber] was telling me to think about nothing. Which I was trying to do — like, don’t worry about mechanics, don’t worry about what’s gone on the last two or three games. Just shoot.”

The Warriors lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night – their fourth loss in their last six games. This is the first time the Warriors have lost four out of six games in the regular season since Steve Kerr took over as head coach in 2014.

Against the Timberwolves, Curry shot 10-27 from the field and 1-8 from beyond the arc. He did hit a floater with just under 20 seconds left in the game to put the Warriors ahead 102-101. However, after Andrew Wiggins hit two free throws to put the Timberwolves back on top, Curry missed a go-ahead jumper with three seconds left on the clock. Minnesota pulled out the win, continuing Golden State’s struggle to win close games this season.

The Warriors still have the best collection of talent in the league and a top-notch coach in Steve Kerr, but it appears as though this recent slump is starting to take a toll on the team. After last night’s loss to Minnesota, several players provided frustrated and eyebrow-raising responses to questions from the media.

Kerr announced after the game that he would rest Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala in their Saturday matchup against the San Antonio Spurs. This is an interesting decision considering that the Spurs trail the Warriors by only 1.5 games in the standings. However, Golden State may still have a shot against San Antonio considering that Kawhi Leonard is currently sidelined with a concussion and it was announced earlier today that LaMarcus Aldridge is out indefinitely with a minor heart arrhythmia.

The Warriors have too much talent for this recent slump to continue indefinitely, but their championship hopes will be determined in large part by Durant’s health and by whether Curry can get closer to his MVP form from last season. Through this early stretch without Durant, the results have not been promising for Curry and the Warriors.

LaMarcus Aldridge Out Indefinitely

Earlier today, the San Antonio Spurs announced that LaMarcus Aldridge is out indefinitely with a minor heart arrhythmia. This unfortunate news comes as the Spurs are closing in on the No. 1 seed Golden State Warriors.

Aldridge has averaged 17.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, two assists and 1.1 blocks in 58 games this season. He has been particularly effective scoring around the basket while relying less on his perimeter shooting.

If any team can manage the loss of a key player like Aldridge, it’s the Spurs. However, if Aldridge is unable to return for the postseason (a question which is impossible to determine at this point), it will be difficult for the Spurs to overcome some of the other talented Western Conference contenders.

Hopefully Aldridge makes a speedy and complete recovery.

Make sure to follow Basketball Insiders on Twitter at @BBallInsiders.

About Jesse Blancarte

Jesse Blancarte

Jesse Blancarte is a Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders. He is also an Attorney and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.