There’s no definitive line for determining when a shooting slump has crossed over into something more, but it sure feels like Stephen Curry is approaching some kind of new normal. For the last seven-plus weeks, Curry has shot 34.4 percent from 3 and 38.4 percent overall, and even those numbers are inflated by few big games.
Since the turn of the calendar to 2022, Curry is under 30 percent from 3 and 36 percent from the field. On Sunday, he went 1 for 13 from deep for 13 points against Utah. He had 12 points against Milwaukee a few weeks back, and nine points against Miami a few weeks before that. Just about every shooting percentage you look at — 3-point, midrange, short midrange, effective field goal, true-shooting — is a career low or at least his worst mark since before he became an All-Star.
Gary Payton II now has a better 3-point percentage than Curry.
I don’t care about volume or difficulty; that is positively bonkers.
Theories abound as to what the heck is happening. He’s tired from all the off-ball movement and defensive effort. He’s had to take tougher shots without Klay Thompson distracting defenders for much of the season. The chase for the 3-point record took it out of him emotionally. He’s human again, plain and simple, and finds himself at the start of an inevitable decline. Nobody talks about the new ball and how that might be affecting him, but I often wonder about that myself. Perhaps there’s an injury we don’t know about.
Whatever the root of these struggles, Curry is going to get every benefit of the doubt. Every night everyone expects him to snap out of it. But it’s just not happening. Some of these misses aren’t even close. You almost never see those circus makes that used to be routine for Curry, and even the easy ones are bricking.
Since Dec. 1, he’s making just 36.7 percent of his wide-open 3-pointers (defined by NBA.com as the closest defender being at least six feet away). Since Jan. 1, that conversion rate slips to 31 percent. These are unfathomable numbers for the greatest shooter to ever live, and though it’s tough to read too much into a small sample of practice clips, this does not look like a guy that is close to finding his stroke.
This is a guy we all watched shoot 3s for five straight minutes without a miss a little more than a year ago. Something is up. “Just keep shooting,” Jordan Poole told reporters on Sunday when he was asked for his take on Curry’s struggles, and surely Curry will continue to do that. But in the event that these shots don’t start falling again at an elite rate, might the Warriors have to think a bit differently as the trade deadline approaches?
After the Warriors got out to such a hot start this season, it seems we all forgot about the idea of them possibly needing one more piece to win a championship with this particular roster. All offseason, one of the league’s hottest topics was Golden State’s assets and all the different ways it could use them. James Wiseman. Jonathan Kuminga. Moses Moody. Those guys are all still there, and Kuminga, in particular, has looked like a future stud. Poole and Wiseman would presumably have real value on the market, as well.
The Warriors are not going to want to give up Andrew Wiggins, who has become too valuable to what they do on both ends of the floor. Just for argument’s sake, a package of Wiseman, Kevon Looney and either Juan Toscano-Anderson or Damion Lee works for both Jerami Grant and Domantas Sabonis from a salary-matching standpoint. Just Looney and Wiseman works for Myles Turner. Golden State can sweeten deals with its 2022 or 2028 first-round pick.
They could still throw all their assets together and go true big-game hunting.
We know they don’t want to do that. They’re trying to compete for a title now while also preserving the core of a future contender. Even with Curry operating at top level, there’s an argument to be made that Golden State is still short of top-tier contention. They don’t have another reliable creator and collectively they don’t put really any pressure on the rim that isn’t created by a back cut of some kind.
We hear all the time about the need for individual creation in the playoffs when systems, particularly the later you go in a series, tend to become increasingly stunted by specifically designed and properly executed scouting plans, but it bears repeating here. If Curry is going to be a relatively regular shooter (we’re not talking gravity here; just raw percentages and pure scoring), with Thompson a wild card and everyone else a byproduct of those two, the Warriors are far from their 2015 version that everyone was so quick to compare this current team to.
The similarities between this team and that first pre-Durant title team are on defense, where Golden State continues to be elite. That might be enough to keep them in a series against an elite opponent, but is that something the front office really wants to bank on? In the end, what everyone is hoping is that Curry will soon catch fire and never cool off again. But again, how long does a slump have to go before you start entertaining the idea of a new normal?
Curry could get better and still not be the shooter and scorer he was even last season. And in that case, do the Warriors want to fall one piece short of competing for one more title in the dwindling prime of the Curry-Thompson-Draymond Green era?
If not, then Curry is starting to look like a player that might need a bit more help to go all the way. We’ll see if the Warriors decide to mortgage a part of their future to give it to him.
A month ago I would’ve said no way. The Warriors were too happy having their cake and eating it too, hanging on to all their future assets while shooting up to the top of the contention conversation at the same time. But a month ago, if you would’ve asked me if Curry would still be shooting like this heading into February, I also would’ve said no way. Yet here we are. The NBA moves fast, and the trade deadline is less than three weeks away.