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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Does Curry’s Recent Play Mean He’s Turned the Corner?

The short answer is, “I don’t know and neither does anyone else, probably not even Curry.” But, since we here at KB don’t specialize in short answers I figured I’d dig a little deeper. I wanted to see how many times Curry has sustained a similar level of play for eight games. [Note: I finished a draft of this post just before tip vs. Milwaukee. I updated following Curry's performance after the game. Curry came into the Milwaukee game with eight consecutive 20+ point performances, and three consecutive games with 10+ rebounds.]

I went over to Curry’s page at basketball-reference.com to check the game logs. I looked through each season’s logs for eight or more consecutive double-figure scoring games in order to isolate sustained good play from Curry, hoping to compare his current hot streak against those others using simple box score stats. So this analysis certainly falls into the “quick and dirty” category.

What becomes immediately obvious from game logs is Curry’s maddening inconsistency. He’s had numerous stretches of five or six decent games, sometimes seven, but then he throws in a stinker. Including this current streak, Curry only 10 has double-digit scoring streaks of at least eight games. His longest such streak is 24 games, during the 2004-2005 season with the Bulls. Curry played quite well, averaging 17.5 points on 59% shooting, 5.7 rebounds (2.1 offensive), and just under a block per game. Not bad. I should also note that the Bulls were 3-11 when he began the streak and improved to 21 and 16. So, he has in fact played some of his best ball when it has mattered.

Yet Curry’s best extended period of production probably came during a lost season–a 17 game stretch in the spring of 2003. He averaged 20.1 points on a sizzling 64% shooting, 7.5 rebounds (1.9 offensive), 1.3 blocks, and half a steal in 32 minutes on a Bulls team in the midst of crashing and burning.

So how does his current streak compare? Over the past nine games (November 22 – December 9) Curry has averaged 23.8 points on 60.8% shooting, 8.8 rebounds (3 offensive), almost a full assist (0.9), half a block (0.8), and just over half a steal (0.7). (Although the blocks and steals are in line with his other stretches of good play Curry is challenging and altering shots in a way he hasn’t since coming to NY.) His 9.5 FTAs and 5.2 makes are well above his production during other hot streaks. Isiah Thomas will suggest (of course) that we are now seeing what he envisioned all along for Eddy Curry. (Please let’s not get into what what Curry cost. We’ve already been down that road.)

The question lingering in the thought bubble poised above my head is, are we really seeing Eddy Curry finally start to blossom, or are we being teased yet again? I suppose only time will tell for sure but discriminating Knicks should look for a couple of tried and true indicators to shed some light on whether this is real or fool’s gold. One issue Brian raised is the dearth of quality big men these days. Curry pretty much had his head handed to him earlier in the season vs. Yao Ming and Tim Duncan. Curry is undoubtedly playing well but right now he’s playing against teams where he can physically dominate. I think that is a point that cannot be ignored. Nonetheless, one of the advantages of looking at long streaks is that it allows you to look at periods of play sufficiently long for the league to make adjustments against a given player.

The most telling indicators with Curry, as with any big man, are usually rebounding and free throw attempts. Rebounds and free throw attempts are thought to be “hustle” stats–a direct function of effort. That can be a bit of an oversimplification at times, particularly when they are compiled from box scores rather than rate stats. Still, rebounds and free throws are reasonable indicators of activity under the direct control of the player.

Curry is rebounding at an impressive clip for him right now. He’s pulling in 9.6 boards per 40 over the last nine games. Interestingly, this is not altogether new. Just last season Curry had stretches where he was getting 11.5 rebounds/40 (eight games in early November) and 9.9/40 (15 games in late December/early January). He ended last season at 9.2/40, well above his career average of 8.6. Perhaps the real key to Curry’s recent play has been getting to the free throw line. His FT attempts took a significant leap forward last season. He averaged 6.8 FTA/G last season, which was an improvement of 1.8 attempts from the 2004-2005 season. Up until the 2004-2005 season he averaged a mere 3.9 FTA/G. Including Saturday night’s game against Milwaukee, he is averaging 9.5 attempts during the streak. Only against Milwaukee and Minnesota has he gone to the line fewer than 8 times.

Knick fans and Knick management certainly hope this is the beginning of Curry’s ascendancy into the league’s elite young big men. Only time will tell. He’s had stretches where he’s played well, but few where he’s “put it all together.” If Curry has indeed made a permanent step forward in his career it will be due to his improved rebounding, defense, and ability to get to the line. That should leave Knick fans hopeful.

36 comments on “Does Curry’s Recent Play Mean He’s Turned the Corner?

  1. Technomaster

    Obviously, the Knicks would have made an all-out effort to sign & trade for Curry in the first place had he never performed at a high level before. Those planted the seeds.

    The issues really have been based on his potential risk (of death or having to retire prematurely!) and conditioning. It seemed like in every season with the Bulls, he’d show up to camp out of shape and spent a month (or two) getting into shape. Coming into his first season w/ the Knicks, he hadn’t played in a long, long time, waiting to secure a contract before putting in any contact drills.

    The free throw numbers have been promising— and he seems to be playing with such confidence that if he isn’t fouled, he’ll score.

    What we may be seeing, though, is a backlash against the current trend in the NBA to put an undersized player in the game at center, vs the traditional defensive big man. With the aging Shaq/Mourning/Mutombo, and the retirement of the big 3 (Hakeem/Ewing/Robinson), the only young true center to emerge has been Yao Ming… so against only 1 team, you need to send out your brutes. Make that 2, now.

  2. nykat

    I think the media in general is jumping the gun with Curry, (build him up to bring him down) I think he needs at least another full season b4 we can expect any kind of consistency from him.

    That said, he’s definitely improving and we gotta ride his hot streak out

  3. Dave

    Curry has looked good. What I liked about the last game was his D. He has been soft there. He had a couple nice blocks.

    The Knicks are looking good in the paint. They keep feeding the big guys inside, and good things happen. Even Starbury had a good game with 9 assists before he went down with injury.

    Hey one more victory and a Net loss and the Knicks are in 1st place. I know they are not a good team, but every one else stinks also.

  4. Dan Panorama

    What was most striking about that last game was how the Knicks looked WITHOUT Curry. The second he was benched in the third and James went in everything started collapsing for them. At the start of the season I’d often think “thank god, Curry’s on the bench…” but the Knicks look visibly better in general with him on the court now. Does anyone know what the team’s on-court/off-court numbers are with him right now compared to before?

  5. dave crockett

    Technomaster – you raise an interesting point about the league’s turn toward little guys at center. I think the notion that the league is trending small is a tad overstated. It also seems most prevalent in the West.

    In the East it’s harder to see any “gotta be like Phoenix” trend. The current starters have been starters for a while. I may be wrong on a few of these but they are: Atlantic: Collins-NJ, Curry-NY, Perkins-Bos, Dalembert-Phi, Tor-Nesterovic; Southeast: Okafur-Cha, Howard-Orl, Thomas-Was, Pachulia-Atl, S. O’Neal-Mia; Central: B. Wallace-Chi, Ilgauskus-Cle, Mohammed-Det, J. Foster-Ind, Bogut-Mil. Though many of these guys may be a bit undersized at center they really don’t project to any other position.

    Curry’s recent stretch, granted, may have come largely against players whom he can physically dominate. However, it doesn’t appear to have come against forwards playing small ball. Beginning with the Minnesota game Curry has faced Mark Blount, Kendrick Perkins, Ben Wallace (2xs), Ilgauskas, Mohammed, Nesterovic, Gasol (?), and Etan Thomas. That’s a fair representation of what’s out there in the league outside the small group of elite bigs.

    I can’t wait to see two things:

    1. Will we still get the hustle plays on nights when he’s not scoring (particularly the blocks, where he has shown timing I never thought he had)?

    2. Will he be able to handle the inevitable double teams? That is, will he make the right pass decisively when guys are cutting?

  6. Dan Panorama

    You’re definitely right about those last two questions. The Knicks have been severely moody teams the last few years – when they face adversity or cool down for a game or two its easy to slide back into depression and chaos (hence two straight years of total midseason collapses). Their abysmal home record is yet more evidence of this – they took boos really personally. Inevitably Curry will have a bad game sooner or later and a good coach like Poppovich or Sloan will try to force him to pass out of a double team since anyone who’s seen him play knows this is his weakest area. I’m just scared that suddenly when a bunch of catty NY Post columnists start talking about Curry’s worthlessness again and salivating over minor improvement from Tyrus Thomas or something, Curry will lose hope and move backwards rather than look to complete his game and learn to pass to Crawford or Lee for the open basket.

  7. George Tulevski

    I think the real difference between this current streaks and his play in Chicago is that the Knicks are making it there number one priority to run the offense through him. I can’t say that was the case in Chicago. His confidance grows each game and he seems really hungry for the ball now. If he can get position in the post, there are only a few guys in the league who can guard him. The double-team issue will be interesting, I don’t think he has the basketball awareness to effectively pass out yet. Once the double-team start coming, he should go up strong for shots anyhow…he is so wide he will probably draw fouls anyhow.

  8. Alex

    Dave Crockett…I think he is definately learning to pass out of the double team. He’s been doing it. Not only has he been passing out of the double team, he’s been ‘creating’ the double team so he can hit the open guy. Case in point… I don’t remember which game this happened. I got back from Aruba on Sunday and watched the Milwaukee and the Memphis game on DVR and I think it was the fourth quarter of one of those games. Q passed the ball to Eddy on the high post. His body language clearly showed he had no intention of shooting. He backs the defender down to draw the double away from Q who was standing at the 3 point line and didn’t even look at the basket. As soon as the defender came, he passed out. Open 3. Swish. I think he’s getting it.

    I really think this isn’t just a streak. I think he’s reached the point in his maturing process where he realizes he has to take instruction from his coaches to be successful. The other thing that makes me think he’s going to be more consistent is the ‘way’ he’s putting up the numbers. Anybody can get on a hot streak and score a lot, or rebound a lot. But he’s not making those stupid plays too much anymore. He’s not lowering the shoulder as much (or at all). Do you think now he’s learned not to lower the shoulder he’s all of the sudden going to go back to doing that? Probably not. That little jump hook is looking solid. He’s ‘shooting’ it instead of tossing it towards the basket.

    I must reiterate my defense of Curry from the bashing he took on this site a few weeks ago. He’s only 23, turning 24 and he needs time to grow. I think that growth is happening now…

    I’m DYING to see what knickerblogger has to say about his recent consistent success. :)

    Eeeeddy Cuuuurrrrry
    Clap…Clap…CLAPCLAPCLAP
    Eeeeddy Cuuuurrrrry
    Clap…Clap…CLAPCLAPCLAP

  9. Brian Cronin

    I think the Knicks also looked lost once Marbury was out of the game.

    It’s stunning how much better Marbury is as a playmaker than the fellows behind him on the depth chart.

  10. Dan Panorama

    It’s true, he’s the only one now that doesn’t dribble 15 seconds of the shot clock away and he’s the most comfortable with Isiah’s pass-first offense.

  11. thepalerider

    From ESPn on Iverson Trade “Another team that can’t be totally dismissed is the New York Knicks, who are in the unique position of being able to take back both Iverson and Chris Webber in a trade. Because the salaries of Iverson and Webber add up to nearly $38 million, the Knicks would have to offer at least $30.4 million worth of contracts back — a total that could be reached with a package of Steve Francis, Quentin Richardson, Malik Rose and Channing Frye”

    Just Shoot me right now.

  12. Hudson River

    If the knicks were to trade francis, marbury and some other half decent player for iverson and webber i wouldn’t be so upset because it would add iverson to the team and webber’s contract runs out a year before marbury’s or francis’s. A little bit of cap space would be amazing

  13. KnickerBlogger

    First off I just want to say that I’ve had a rough last few days. Let’s just say that I missed the end of the Bucks-Knicks game to head over to my local emergency room & leave it at that. It’s nothing too serious, but would explain my absense here & CTN over the last few days.

    As for Curry, his major improvement is cutting down on his turnovers. I’m not sure what prompted the change. Was Curry just not prepared at the start of the season? Is he just a slow starter? Is he just maddeningly inconsistent?

    But the Knicks offense seem to be focusing more often. I’m not sure if that’s the mandate from the coach or the team has gotten more comfortable with Eddy (maybe a little bit of both). I know I’ve said it before, but if Eddy Curry is in the game he should be one of the main focal points on offense. Otherwise the Knicks are wasting their time having him on the court.

    Getting back to Dave’s points, Curry’s scoring will probably remain fairly consistent. That’s his strength and I don’t imagine that going away. He does look more active on the offensive boards, and his getting to the line is simply a part of his offensive game.

    Unfortunately, I’m not sold on his defense or defensive rebounding staying at a higher level. His man defense looks better, but his help defense still seems poor. It was nice to see him block some shots, but he still has lapses on defense. This was written at halftime of the Celtics game – and if you’re watching the game, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

  14. Matthew

    I never understand why Curry got the blunt of the ridicule when Chandler and Brown were taken ahead of him. The only reason people don’t give them (as much) grief is because Curry has shown something since he’s been in the league where those two have shown next to nothing (Chandler’s a good rebounder, but that’s all).

  15. cwod

    The Knicks did a good job storming back, if coming up short. I really don’t mind them losing too much, since each loss means Isiah’s time gets shorter (hopefully).

    Why has Curry been awful at the line all year? He’s pretty far off his career mark of 65%.

  16. Dan Panorama

    Watching the Celtics game, it seems his offense has taken on a full-game consistency. Defense on the other hand – he started really slow than out of nowhere started blocking shots again and altering others. His rebounding, however, was strong the whole time.

    How many rallies have we pulled using the zone defense? It makes me wonder why we don’t lead with it more often.

  17. DMull

    The only problem I have with Eddy offensively is that he needs to become a better passer…we have to go to him as he is our best option, but as he starts getting doubled more and more he is going to need to start making good passes out of it (this is when our offense could really take off).

    You have to wonder how we’re losing so many games with Eddy playing this well…are we really that bad at the other positions? (I guess 4-6 is slightly better than the 4-9 we were at before this…but it doesn’t seem as significant as it should be? And to be honest it’s also come against worse teams so you would expect a really big improvement in the W/L column.)

  18. Ralow

    Its interesting that no one has mentioned that maybe Curry is playing a bit more consistently because he’s been staying out of foul trouble which has lead to significantly more minutes (especially during this 10 game stretch). I think that is a huge improvement over years past since it shows that he is playing smarter and at least attempting to play better defense. Once he gets a full season of playing the way he is now, he can work on improving his passing and free throw shooting…his next biggest weaknesses once the “basketball IQ” thing is taken care of. I think we’ve seen this 24 year old finally “get it” and will only improve from here. Lets just hope he doesn’t get injured or start making stupid fouls again and go back to the inconsistent play.

  19. Peter H

    He’s gone through some similar periods before albeit mostly with the Bulls….

    The offense is nice but the improvement on the boards and the blocks are going to be key in having this improved play resulting in wins….

  20. mase

    quick question, why are we so against acquiring AI?
    answer..because Boykins(whose on the block) would be better…discuss.

  21. Hudson River

    Boykins is a much more controled point guard than Nate, but has even more defensive issues due to his size. He also sometimes over dribbles and the knicks guards dribble on average 12 seconds off the shot clock. I am scared we will trade Steph or Steve Francis for k-mart and Boykins and plunge ourselves into salary cap purgatory. (Jamal is haveing a night of purgatory here tonight folks.)

  22. DMull

    No to Boykins. Yes to AI (but it wont happen obviously).

    And Curry continues his play albeit against the lowly Hawks. I’ll leave it at that for now.

  23. Ammad

    Since Francis and Marbury are not contracts that can be moved. Why wouldn’t we want to trade Crawford. More due to the fact that it is addition by subtraction to Seattle for someone like Earl Watson who is in the dog house of Seattle.

  24. Count Zero

    Ammad — valid question. Although, as long as Marbury remains a Knick, no one else is going to get significant minutes at PG no matter how well they play. Watson would be no exception.

    Let me also say that I would be the first to admit, Curry is making me eat crow right now. I never said we should write him off at age 23, but I did say (quite frequently) that he wasn’t showing me any reason to hope he would get better. He has been very impressive over the last 10 — almost All-Star impressive over an albeit limited run. It would be nice to see him keep it up.

    No to AI — especially since I deem it unlikely he goes without C-Webb…and C-Webb is a dog contract of epic proportions. That would in fact be the reason they are being bundled — to get AI, you have to take the dog C-Webb contract.

  25. Dan Panorama

    Here’s the crazy thing – C-Webb’s contract with two years left is shorter than Marbury or Francis, making us about the only team in the league that wouldn’t lose much cap space on it. Ridiculous, I know. I still wouldn’t want him but AI…it’s tough to say no to that.

  26. Count Zero

    That makes a perverted sort of sense Dan, gotta admit. :-)

    So you’re saying you would definitely give up Francis, Q, Frye and Rose (granted only Q and Frye matter) for AI? Because in essence, that’s what you’re doing — since I think we can all agree that C-Webb is a below average PF at this point and we already have Jeffries and Lee.

    My bigger questions would be:
    a) Could Marbury deal (I think AI could) with AI?
    b) Would AI being on the floor kill the surging Curry’s game?

  27. Dan Panorama

    Francis is addition by subtraction, Q is at a good point to sell high, Frye hurts but Lee, Jeffries, and Curry look like the future, and Rose is a throw in. C-Webb has more left in him than you think – ironically we’ll never see it because his biggest problem is being stuck with Iverson. That would be some cruel irony to be trade WITH the guy he hates so much and wants to see gone. I’d think there’d be a significant chance of Dolan buying out C-Webb after a season or so since he’s proven he really doesn’t mind doing it.

    As for the rest
    A) Marbury looks like he wants someone else to be the star right now. Look at him during Curry’s streak – does he appear to be sulking about Curry taking all the heat off him and becoming the face of the team? Quite the opposite – his game has improved as well as his demeanor and several posters here have mentioned how the Knicks suddenly look best with him on the court running the offense.

    B) AI would become the instant first option instead of Curry, but he has literally never, not once in his entire 10 year career had an offensive minded big man to play the inside-out game with. I think Curry and AI could in theory make a killer duo ala Shaq and Kobe, with Curry drawing doubles and kicking it to AI, the two running pick and rolls, and AI drawing doubles and triples in the lane to throw it to Curry in the paint. The point is there’s no precedent for AI and a good scoring big man. Mutombo was a defender first and foremost and scored on garbage baskets, Dalembert is a big guy with minimal offense as well, and that’s pretty much the history of the Sixers centers aside from eh players like Todd Maculloch and Nazr Mohammed. How’d AI do with the bigs on the international squads?

  28. Dan Panorama

    Also can you imagine Iverson mentoring Nate, one of the most Iverson-esque players in the league and a huge fan of his game? It would be like Obi Wan and Luke, or Yoda and a tinier Yoda.

  29. thepalerider

    “or Yoda and a tinier Yoda. ”

    That’s great. AI would bring a much needed element of intensity. No matter what people say about him everyone agrees he plays hard.

  30. DaBullz

    Eddy Curry is one of the most uniquely talented players in the NBA. His hands are unbelievably soft, he has great touch, and is literally unstoppable in the low block.

    I have watched him since his Thornwood High days, and certainly saw a majority of his games as a Bulls fan.

    Eddy will never be a force. He has never had to work and he simply refuses to do so now. The Knicks run their offense through him? Good luck. His numbers, mostly when it doesn’t count, will rise a bit.

    Those who know around the Bulls knew these things not just about Eddy, but Tyson and Jamal as well. Very talented, very lazy, and in Jamals case, very self-centered. I waited for years for Jamal to start winnig games for the Bulls and now I have the pleasure of watching it happen everytime the Bulls play the Knicks.

    Thanks for Tyrus – and a lottery pick in the decades’ deepest draft!

  31. mase

    DaBullz,
    …your welcome.
    and thx. for the best scoring low post big man in the east for Tyrus. Hows he working out for you guys(get back to us in a few years, no prob)?Also I almost forgot, thx. for your first round pick in this years draft too!

  32. DaBullz

    Enjoy Eddy – you got him for awhile. Eddy is a good guy, very likable, a gentle giant if you will.

    We get to exchange picks this year – enjoy your pick in the twenties. I am a bit worried as you might sneak in the playoffs this year. That would be a bummer for us.

    BTW, Wallace had 15 pts, 20 boards, and 5 blocks last night. Tyrus isn’t playing much, but when he does, he makes himself known. Refreshingly, he actually works at his craft. Couple of years, 20 pounds, and tutelage from one of the best in the business, Ben Wallace, and you are looking at a straight up bitch.

    Again, enjoy Jamal and Eddy – the best $120,000,000 we never spent!

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