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.