Stephen Curry Is Even More Clutch Than You Think
Stephen Curry is the talk of the sports world right now because of something I'd like to callÂ the shot heard 'round the world 2.0:
Yet that shot is butÂ a symbol of Curry's ridiculous 2015-16 season.
The soon-to-be two-time MVP has been having a season for the ages, a historicÂ seasonÂ that no one saw coming and one in which we're not quite sure where it's going, or even where it will end.
One thing that's apparent though is that, even if he comes from a different world, Stephen Curry is the best basketballÂ player on planet Earth.
Not surprisingly, in the language of advanced metricsÂ Curry is having one of the best, most efficient seasons of all-time.
Since we started recordingÂ nERD (our in-house ranking that acts asÂ an estimate of how many games above or below .500 a league-average team would be with that player as one of their starters) in 2000, Curry's scoreÂ of 26.7 is the third-highest among all players. He comes inÂ second only to LeBron James inÂ his 2008-09 and 2012-13Â MVP seasons.
In those two MVP campaigns, JamesÂ earned Player Efficiency Ratings of 31.7 and 31.6, respectively. Those are eye-popping numbers but pale in comparison to Curry's league-leading and best ever (of qualifying players)Â PER of 32.9.Â
In doing so, Curry's best friend has been, of course, the three-point shot.Â With one of the best shooting strokes the basketball world has ever seenÂ Curry has not only been super efficient but he's alsoÂ been doing so with record-breaking volume.
With his 32-foot game winner Saturday night,Â Curry tallied his 288th three-pointer on the season, breaking his own record of 286 set a year ago in his MVP season. He has 109 more makes than his teammate Klay Thompson, who's second in the league in three-point conversions, and 145 more three-pointÂ attempts than the next closest player,Â James Harden.Â
In fact, Curry has taken 410 -- just 60 fewerÂ Harden's total this season -- attempts alone from a foot or moreÂ past the three-point arc this season. As ridiculous as it sounds, he's shooting 46.3% on those shots. But what Curry did Saturday night was just flat outÂ absurd!
After accounting for the many factors surrounding Curry's shot -- including but not limited to Curry's distance from the hoop --Â MIT physicistÂ Brian Skinner (with some help fromÂ Nylon Calculus) determined that the shot Curry took isÂ expected to drop roughly 17% of the time.
Don't tell Chef Curry that though.Â He's shooting 63.6% (7 of 11) from 30 to 34 feet on the season --Â trailing only DeAndre Jordan and his league-leading 69% from the field.
As great as that is, maybe Curry's masterful game-winnerÂ wasn't a matter of odds, percentage or distance -- rather it was one determined by the very ice in his veins.
With so many blowout victories over the last two seasons,Â it's been hard for us to gauge Curry's ability to hit clutch shots.
What the numbers are telling us now is that Curry is one the most clutch players in the NBA this season -- if not the clutchest.
The image above is Curry's shot chart in the last two minutes of games with a differential of five or fewerÂ points. He's been lights out when it really matters -- especially from three-point range, where he's shooting a combined 8 of 12 from beyond the arc.
His historical shooting has putÂ him in a tie with teammate Draymond Green for theÂ highestÂ plus-minus (+53) in those clutch situations. With 62 points, he's also third inÂ those game situationsÂ behind two players with at least nine more opportunities to do so.
He's also money from the foul line with the game on the line, hitting 24 of 25 attempts in the clutch.
I'm not saying that his Thunder-killingÂ game winner was just another day at the office, but I am saying that, nowadays, it really shouldn't come as a surprise.
After all, have we really seen anything Stephen CurryÂ can't do?