To call Golden State Warriors superstar and reigning MVP Stephen Curry underrated would be misguided at this point, but there are certainly underrated aspects of his game.
Lost in the madness of his 3-point bombs, scoring outbursts and ankle-breaking handles is the fact that Curry is a terrific passer.
His assist numbers this season (6.6 per game) are the lowest they’ve been in three seasons, but that has more to do with the way defenses are playing him — constantly trapping and doubling him near the 3-point line and forcing the ball out of his hands — than it does Curry’s court vision or passing ability or selfishness.
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Against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday, Curry’s passing skills were on display. On one possession, he drove left toward the baseline, spun into the paint and pump-faked, getting Hawks center Al Horford to jump into the air. He had a sliver of space to get a shot off, but saw a better look in the corner as the Hawks’ D collapsed and flung a left-handed bullet to Harrison Barnes for a 3:
That is simply beautiful basketball, and part of what makes the Warriors the most fun to team in basketball by a mile.
Curry is the ultimate triple-threat on offense: He can launch 3s from beyond 30 feet, attack defenses off the dribble, and find his teammates among all the chaos his presence creates. If Curry wasn’t an elite passer, defenses could play him even more aggressively, and force him to make the easy or obvious pass.
But Curry can see two or three steps ahead of most defenses, and teams have to respect that when game-planning for him. You can’t just abandon the rest of the Warriors and expect not to get burned, as the Hawks learned (and so many other teams have).
If it sounds like Curry’s impossible to defend, it’s because he basically is.
Jovan Buha covers the NBA for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter: @jovanbuha.