Despite tearing up the D-League in his two season career, to the tune of 21.5 points and 4.9 assists per game on 45.8% shooting from the floor (42.8% from three point range), Seth Curry has had trouble finding a ticket to the NBA. He has played just 13 total NBA minutes, all coming in 2013-14 split between the Memphis Grizzlies and Cleveland Cavaliers.
Curry’s production hasn’t faltered this season for the Erie BayHawks, as he is currently averaging 23.5 points per game and 3.9 assists per game on 48% from the floor and 48.2% on 7.7 three point attempts per game, leading to an effective field goal percentage of 59.2%. While he is most known for being Steph Curry’s younger brother, Seth is making his own name in the D-League, which earlier today resulted in a 10-day contract with the Phoenix Suns.
Curry has one clear NBA skill in his three point shooting, and he has arguably been the best shooter in the D-League. His 48% ranks third amongst players with at least twenty attempts, but his 276 attempts blows away the other leaders percentage wise. Curry is also a deadly midrange shooter, as evidenced by his shot chart below. If he gets a clean look at a jump shot from any spot on the floor, it has a great chance of going in the basket.
Beyond the percentages, Curry has shown a strong ability to get open off screens through crisp cuts, and his quick release allows him to shoot before defenders close out. He is capable of consistently hitting threes out of both catch-and-shoot opportunities and off the dribble if a defender runs him off his initial spot.
One of the reasons Curry may have trouble sticking in the NBA is the concern about his ability to get clean looks at the next level. His listed 6’1″ frame with just a 6’4″ wingspan may find it difficult for him to shoot over taller defenders consistently, and so while he can beat D-League to open spots on the floor, he may not find the same success against NBA defenders. Curry also has a lean frame, listed at only 180 pounds, which may cause him to get bodied off his path toward the ball as he attempts to navigate around screens at the NBA level. Once he is open, of course, there is little doubt about his ability to make shots, but getting regular open looks with his lack of size and strength against bigger defenders will be an issue.
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Curry’s ability to shoot is the least of his worries, though, as he will have to provide more than just floor spacing. He hasn’t been great creating with the ball in his hands, which is probably one of the reasons his NBA career has thus far been on hold. This is evidenced by his 3.8 assists per 36 minutes (with an 18.2% assist rate) despite having the ball in his a large portion of the time. In particular, Curry has struggled out of the pick-and-roll, both to create his own offense and when finding open teammates. He isn’t proficient in penetrating to the rim unless he can straight-line drive, and ball screen defenders can deter him from attacking rather easily by cutting off his path to the rim. Curry doesn’t have enough confidence in his dribbling skills to weave through traffic which forces him to string his drives ou,t and he also cannot consistently dribble past the ball screen defender as he lacks the strength to fight through to the rim.
Nevertheless, Curry has shown flashes of creativity off the dribble and NBA level playmaking. At times, he shows potential to draw defenders toward him and find the open man cutting into the open spots on the floor or spotting up on the weakside. Ball screens have been his most used offensive possession in the D-League, so he seemingly has used the minor league time to try to show he is capable of replicating this at the next level. However, he still has some improvements to be made to before executives begin to buy that he can do so in the NBA.
While his three point shooting is one of the highest marks in the league, conversely, his finishing around the rim is one of the lowest marks. Curry has converted just 50.5% of shots within five feet of the rim, another indicator of his athletic deficiency, and if teams can run him off the three point line, he may struggle to score.
Curry shoots just 4.3 free throws per 36 minutes and doesn’t look to initiate contact, especially around the rim. He avoids contact close in, putting up soft attempts instead of going up strong to finish or draw contact, and is little of a factor in this area. Adding strength is still possible for the 24 year old, which would help him feel more confident in drawing contact as well as prevent him from getting out-muscled by other guards on a regular basis.
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Defensively, Curry will always be at a disadvantage due to his physical tools. He does possess decent foot speed, but not hugely so for the NBA level, causing him to get beat off the dribble by players with longer strides. He also has a tendency to have trouble getting around screens, as big men can bump him off course, freeing his opponent. Curry doesn’t have a natural defensive role, as point guards will be quicker than him and shooting guards will be bigger than him. He is a hard worker on this end, but ultimately, he will have trouble slowing down offensive players in any capacity.
While Seth could become a lights out NBA shooter just like his brother, then, he may struggle to stick in the NBA due to his lack of a second translatable skill. It will be interesting to see how the Suns use him in his tryout. Curry currently projects best as a primary ball handler and the Suns could use some point guard depth behind Brandon Knight after trading away Isaiah Thomas and Goran Dragic. But as of yet, he doesn’t create enough for his teammates, especially out of the pick-and-roll, which could limit his ceiling as a point guard.
Nevertheless, there is precedent. Similar guards have had success in the NBA, including Damon Jones and Jannero Pargo, and after playing in just two NBA games last season, Curry has another shot in the NBA with the Suns. Curry could be a poster child for demonstrating that it takes more than one elite skill to stick in the NBA if he struggles again in his NBA minutes. However, if he plays well and demonstrates enough beyond his jumpshot, he would become a nice success story for the D-League.
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