Comparing Stephen Curry to the All-Time Fantasy Basketball Greats
We abuse the word “great,” and I mean abuse in a manner not seen since the Stalin Purges in Russia in the 1930s. Anytime our short-term memory addled brains experience an event that moderately chills us, we’re as fast as John Wall in the open court to let our friends and admirers on social media partake in this feast while not allowing ourselves to appreciate the moment.
” Oh, what a great first date,” while not adding the fact she/he scurried out of the car immediately after the lame attempt for a goodnight kiss.
” Dinner was fantastic,” you say as you look at the half-filled plate, knowing that her reign of terror in the kitchen will later extend to some unsuspecting alley cat whose digestive system is about to endure torture.
” (Fill in the blank) is the greatest (choose genre of music) of all time,” a subject of heated debate that anyone who spends time with kids can attest to. An unholy war nearly began this past holiday season when my oldest nephew tried to convince his father about Drake’s standing among the rap elite.
Yet for the manner we’ve used the word, Stephen Curry has spent this season actually making us put “great” in the context it is supposed to be used. With each 3-pointer that feels as if he shot from the Golden Gate Bridge, and every WTF moment that seemingly comes with every fourth possession, Curry is forcing us to ask if we are truly watching the greatest single season in Fantasy Basketball history.
[caption id="attachment_104780" align="alignright" width="300"] There is no stopping Steph Curry, who is in the midst of the greatest Fantasy season ever. Photo Credit: Keith Allison/Flickr[/caption]
Quick time out here: Fantasy Basketball wasn’t en vogue in the 1960s or 70s, so Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson and Elgin Baylor are off-limits, as is Tiny Archibald’s 1972-73 season in which he led the NBA in scoring and assists. At the same breath, we’ll shut the door on the period of 1980-86, which shuts out some nifty seasons from Moses Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, yet still keeps Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in play.
Are we truly seeing the greatest Fantasy season ever? Yes, and no. It just depends on how you look at it. Curry entered Sunday’s game at the Lakers averaging 30.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 6.6 assists while shooting 51.4 percent from the field, 90.6 percent from the free throw line and 46.5 percent from beyond the arc. The numbers, while impressive, put Curry in the conversation among the most dominant Fantasy hoops seasons ever. Yet, if you use the FPG format used by DraftKings.com, the anointing of Lord Steph is quickly quashed by a palace coup storming in from the Midwest.
As much as we are gushing about Curry and his 53.1 FPG, you might want to take a gander at Russell Westbrook is doing. Westbrook entered Sunday averaging 53.9 FPG, which, if we follow the math, is just that much better than Curry. The Thunder guard is averaging “just” 24.3 points per game, but is pulling down 7.5 rebounds and distributes dimes at a 10.3 per game clip. These totals are superior to his production from last season, when there was a minor uprising about who among Westbrook, Curry or James Harden was the worthier Most Valuable Player candidate. Even with his impressive totals this year, let’s not go mad and launch a #Westbrook4MVP campaign on Twitter, because that race ended sometime in early December. Curry could miss the rest of the season and still run away with the award; but I digress.
Curry’s FPG is behind the 51.4 that Harden puts up each night as he single-handedly keeps the Rockets from plummeting further in the Western Conference race, while Kevin Durant accounts for 50.1 FPG while sharing time with Westbrook. That should make you wonder just how much more Fantasy-prolific would Durant/Westbrook be if they didn’t have a top-shelf Alpha Dog to play “sharing is caring.”
While his FPG trails Westbrook and Harden, Curry has become a sheer beast in his last ten games entering Sunday’s play, as he has averaged 64.6 FPG. That tends to happen when you’re shooting treys (56.9 percent) almost as well as your overall field goal percentage (57.1 percent). Curry had 76.25 points against the Magic on February 25 and had a “low” of 46.25 against the Clippers on February 20, totals that make paying the $10.600 for him at DraftKings feel like a bargain.
(Moment of pause: If Curry is $10,600, just what on earth would Chamberlain have cost in 1961-62, when he averaged 50.4 points, 25.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists? Keep in mind that blocked shots were not tallied back, so to answer that question, I simmed his season thru GreyDog Software’s Fast Break Pro Basketball computer sim, which gave Wilt 4.2 blocks per night, second only to Bill Russell’s 4.7 redirects per game. Put that all together and you’d be looking at, oh, say $14.000?).
Let’s play with next level stats, where the answer becomes more clear. To bolster this debate, we’ll go to the one state I feel strongly about, Player Efficiency Rating. Curry’s PER is at 32.8. The number of players to eclipse that total can be found by what you see when you tightly shut your eyes. So while Curry’s FPG may not hold up as being ahead of the pack, PER loudly announces that what we’re seeing is indeed great; the kind of great that will hold up years from now if the kids in your life are in awe about the 2028-29 season LeBron James’ son is having. Every time we watch the Warriors, we are witnessing history. Those in DFS formats who have made down payments on a home or bought a new car thanks to Curry will be more than happy to offer personal endorsements.
When using PER to compare Curry’s season against his contemporaries over the last 30 years, the only players to eclipse 30.0 PER are:
*Michael Jordan (four times)
*LeBron James (four times)
*Shaquille O’Neal (three times)
*Anthony Davis, Tracy McGrady, David Robinson and Dwayne Wade (once each)
Rarified air, folks, which doesn't include the likes of Bird, Kobe Bryant and Hakeem Olajuwon. We’re talking three players who are among the greatest 10-12 players ever; a Hall of Famer in Robinson, while Wade belongs in the discussion among greatest 25-30 of all time and Davis, who is off to a start that may one day give him a hall pass to join the elite.
If you want to single out Curry’s shooting, his greatness develops some traction, as we are looking at one of the best seasons of raining hell from above. Curry’s 68.3 True Shooting Percentage currently stands as the tenth-best performance in NBA history. Considering that TSP strongly favors big men of the “see ball, dunk ball” variety, Curry’s season would be the fourth-best for a non-center/power forward, trailing only Kyle Korver’s 2014-15, Dave Twardizk’s 1976-77 and Tim Legler’s 1995-96.
When you throw in the percentage of usage among this final four, then Curry destroys them all. Whereas Korver’s usage rate was 14.1 percent and Legler was at 14.7 (Twardzik’s usage numbers from 76-77 were not available), Curry’s usage is 32.7 percent, which would make this season truly dominant, and makes whatever else you get from him as sour cream on an overstuffed baked potato.
The sun will rise and set as we will continue to use the word “great” with reckless abandon. I’m sure I’ll use it the next time I eat homemade tacos from the taco truck that’s a mile or so from my home court and the same way WWE will claim this upcoming Wrestlemania will be the greatest of all time despite the fact that injuries and bad booking will make it obvious it won’t. Yet, when it comes to Steph Curry’s 2015-16 season, “great” may not begin to describe it, for he is truly in the midst of a Fantasy basketball season.
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