By Ben Golliver
The NBA is a point guard's league, and it's most certainly a place where young point guards can get paid.
Stephen Curry and the the Warriors agreed to a four-year contract extension worth $44 million on Wednesday, the deadline for reaching such an agreement, according to the San Jose Mercury News. The deal reportedly does not include bonuses or incentives. Had the two sides not settled on a contract, Curry would have headed on the path toward restricted free agency next summer.
The agreement comes 24 hours after the Denver Nuggets locked up point guard Ty Lawson to a four-year deal worth $48 million. While the Lawson signing was a matter of keeping a good thing going, this Curry deal more closely resembles a franchise taking the plunge.
Curry, 24, is two ankles away from being everything you would want in your franchise guy. An intelligent, media-friendly fan favorite, Curry holds career averages of 17.5 points, 5.8 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 1.7 steals over his three-year career. Blessed with one of the league's best shooting strokes, Curry shot an eye-popping 45.5 percent from the three-point line last season, and is a career 44.1 percent three-point shooter. He entered the league as a combo guard and has made the transition well enough to offense-initiating point man (who still shoots it a ton). His handle is such that he can create his own shot and his halfcourt decision-making has improved markedly since his rookie season, although there's still room to grow. He's a work in progress defensively, but he's enough of a weapon that his limitations there can be worked around. Although he doesn't get to the free-throw line as often as many elite guards, Curry doesn't miss once he's there, connecting on 90.1 percent of his foul shots during his career. Thanks in large part to his overall shooting numbers, Curry has ranked among the Player Efficiency Rating leaders at his position over the last two years.
The ankles. The timing on his injuries couldn't be worse. During his first two NBA seasons, Curry only missed a combined 10 games. For a fairly skinny point guard made a starter from Day One, that's not bad. The 2011-12 season saw sprain after sprain force Curry to miss 40 of his team's 66 games. He underwent surgery on his right ankle in the spring. All of this occurred after he had spent the lockout rehabilitating from previous surgery on the same ankle.
"My ankle was a big factor with the number [on the contract]. They had to protect themselves a little bit," Curry told Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports.
Curry was off and running during this preseason, until a fluke play in a game against the Trail Blazers caused Warriors coach Mark Jackson to shut him down for the final two exhibition games. Fans fretted, and rightfully so, but the Warriors have indicated he should be alright.
Given this new commitment, the Warriors have a lot riding on those ankles. $11 million per year for a starting point guard who ranks among the league's most efficient weapons is totally reasonable and borders on a steal. With perfect health, or even a monster fourth season, it's not inconceivable that a player with Curry's overall skill set, elite shooting ability and personality would have commanded a near-max offer in restricted free agency. The bigger concern than being stuck with a massive offer sheet next summer, though, was being stuck without an above-average point guard who is capable of leading a playoff push. The Warriors did well to hedge against Curry's ankles, acquiring veteran stand-in Jarrett Jack, but Curry is the guy who will butter this team's bread. The Warriors acknowledged that when they hired a former point guard, Jackson, to coach the team and again when they shipped out scoring guard Monta Ellis last season, paving the way for Curry's takeover. Curry, despite his wobbly base, is difficult to replace by trade and the Warriors, who already have large salary commitments on the books for this year and next, want to win now, rather than take a step back and hope to find their next floor general toward the top of the draft board. The clearest, quickest path to winning now involves a healthy Curry being the guy.