Saturday, March 29, 2008

The 2008 Most Outstanding Player

Stephen Curry is putting on quite a show this March and I hope it doesn't end until April 7.

He and his fellow Davidson Wildcats have stunned everyone and advanced to the Elite 8. Going into the Tourney, I thought of picking them to beat Georgetown. I had followed Davidson all year and I knew they had played UCLA, Duke, and UNC tough. But, they had lost all 3 games and I couldn't see them getting past G'Town's size in the frontcourt.

Boy, was I wrong. Roy Hibbert played about 16 minutes and was never a factor. Curry, along with Jason Richards and Andrew Lovedale picked apart the vaunted Hoya defense with ease.

Then, with everyone hyping the Wisconsin defense, especially Michael Flowers, Davidson was once again expected to lose. Yet, here was Curry once more, pouring in 33 points. I see no reason now to pick against the Wildcats. Kansas is also renowned for its defense, ranking second behind Memphis nationally (But, remember what conference each plays in -- Kansas is the true #1). The Badgers were third and look what Davidson did. Seventy-three points and a seventeen point victory.

It seems those close, early-season losses to the big boys helped prepare Davidson for this tournament. Even if Davidson can't be considered a Cinderella, they certainly fit the profile. They have an excellent superstar, a great point guard, tremendous three-point ability, and a solid inside scorer. They rarely turn the ball over, having only 5 miscues against the Badgers, making it hard for the supposed favorite to make any extended runs. In fact, the 3-point ability allows Davidson to make the long runs. A 50% mark from long-range is unbelievable, but the Wildcats did just that Friday night. Curry now has 108 points in 3 games, but he also benefited from the heady play of point guard Jason Richards. The nation's leading assist man, Richards has put on his show this tournament with 27 dimes. He always seems to know right where Curry will be. Richards also has the speed and driving ability to keep defenses on their toes. They can't double off Richards because he can score plenty of points as well. Andrew Lovedale has upped his game recently as well. After averaging just seven points a game during the season, Lovedale has tallied 12 ppg in the tournament. His inside scoring and defense has been better than supposedly superior players like Josh Heytvelt, Brian Butch, and Roy Hibbert.

A big question to arise out of this run is whether Curry is an NBA player. His size had turned off many scouts. Listed at 6'3" 185, Curry looks about 20 pounds less. And, I thought I couldn't grow facial hair. But, man, look at his face. Curry has the face of a twelve-year-old. Nevertheless, he has proven in the past three games that he can play with the big boys. There's no doubt about his ability to score in college. He's shown over the past two years that he's a offensive machine. In the NBA though, he'll be matched up with much bigger 2-guards and will find his shot harder to come by. I think he'll have to show point guard skills to be effective at the next level. Unless he bulks up big-time in the offseason, there's really no other way. As a combo guard, Curry can become something along the lines of Bobby Jackson with a better outside shot or a smaller Eddie House. That's nothing to be ashamed of, but Curry is simply too small to be an NBA starter. He will get exploited on defense with extended playing time.

An interesting comparison would be JJ Redick. They are about the same size, play at Carolina schools, and are lights-out from long range. But, that's really where the comparison ends. At Duke, Redick had superficially similar stats to Curry. In his senior year, Redick put up 26.8 ppg, 2 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1.4 spg, 47% FG, and 42% 3FG. Curry, in his sophomore year, is averaging 25.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.9 apg, 2.1 spg, 49% FG, and 45% 3FG. Here's the kicker, though. Curry does his damage in four less minutes per game. Before you start complaining about the difference in conferences, take one glance at what Curry has done in the tournament and the early games against UCLA, Duke, and UNC. He had 24 against UNC, 20 against Duke, 15 against UCLA, 32 against Charlotte, and 29 versus NC State. Curry is a better player than Redick. He has more athleticism, better ball-handling, and from what I've seen, superior defense. Because of his one-dimensional skillset, Redick has struggled in Orlando. I believe Curry, with his more rounded game, will ultimately be a solid pro. But, for now, let's enjoy Curry and his fellow Wildcats in the tournament. I know I won't be betting against him tomorrow night.

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