Cornerstone players will be a recurring theme on Second Look Sports where I look at each position in a certain sport and I choose a cornerstone player to build my franchise around. I will have a couple of parameters for this selection though I will factor in age, potential, injury history, experience, reputation and production. I think it should be a fun and interesting topic to discuss on here. I hope that you guys agree.
I thought I would start first with the NBA. This is one of the smaller size professional teams as far as American sports go. So without further ado, let’s get going with this one.
The selection: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Honorable mentions: Derrick Rose, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, and Russell Westbrook
This took a little bit of thinking. Curry still has probably another five or six years of his prime left in him. The longevity factor is there, which makes Curry a logical choice. Outside of the 2011 lockout year, the former Davidson guard has played in at least 74 games every season. That is not perfect but I will take that over the uncertainty of Rose. Curry also has the potential to still improve a little bit in his career. His potential to improve his passing is there. He has been a good distributor already but he has the potential to grow into a great one. His defensive presence is lacking as well and could definitely use a boost.
Now, Paul is a better passer. He fills the role of pure point guard a bit better than Curry does. However, the Clippers guard does not score anywhere close to as much as Curry does. Curry also finds a way to do it at an efficient level. The 26-year old has shot 47 percent from the field over his 6-year NBA career. That is much better than Westbrook or Lillard, who both sit around 43% for their career. He is also a deadeye from beyond the arc. If the 2015 season ended today, it would be the first time Curry ever finished below 40 percent shooting from 3-point territory. Even still, it would only be at 39.9 percent. He has also been solid from the line over his 6 years as well shooting a shade under 90 percent. Shooting wise, Curry might be the best guard in the NBA (maybe other than Kyle Korver). He is a marksman on the court and efficiently destroys teams.
With his shooting abilities, Golden State’s leading scorer is also eighth in scoring for the league this year. The only other point guard in the top 20 is Lillard, but he ranks eleventh. Westbrook does not qualify yet because he has not played enough games in 2015 due to injury. Since 2012, Curry has scored more than 22 points per game in every season. His career average at this point is now up to over 20 a game. Curry also has hit the most three pointers of any point guard so far this season, again slightly ahead of Lillard. The man can score and likely will continue to do so at a high rate.
Curry also has proven he can develop into a floor general. He is not as good as Paul is in this respect but well above average. Curry has averaged about 6.8 assists per night throughout his career and he is improving, as that number for each of the last two years was 8.5 and 8.1 respectively. He has some better pieces around him in California now so we should see Curry posting between 8 and 9 assist per night. Those are not eye-popping numbers but they are very good for a player regarded more as a shoot first point guard. The 2015 All Star also has some very talented dribbling abilities. He can break down players in the open court and will occasionally break a player’s ankles. Curry has also averaged just over three turnovers per game for his career, which is a solid number for a player with a usage rating of over 25 percent.
I think overall Curry is probably one of the top three point guards in the NBA. The other two are probably Paul and Westbrook. Paul is a better passer and scores efficiently but he is not a dominant scorer. Westbrook is an athletic playmaker who has an uncanny ability to get to the basket, he also can put up a lot of assists playing for the Thunder but he is a streaky and overall average at best shooter. Curry is a combination of the two. He has the athletic ability to give slower guards some problems and he is an incredible shooter who will make contested baskets. Curry does have some shortcomings with his defensive game needing a little bit of work. It is beginning to improve but overall it is fairly weak. Westbrook, Paul and Rose all play much better defense. He also lacks experience when it comes to playing deep into the playoffs. Only Westbrook and Rose really have that experience. So, while the pick isn’t perfect, I am sticking to it. My first NBA cornerstone player has to be Steph Curry.