Every serious championship contender has “that guy.” The guy the offense runs through, and the guy that will ultimately decide who is going to get the team’s last shot on the final possession. Even if the game hasn’t gone quite his way, he’ll get to hold the ball in those closing seconds, glancing up at the clock then back down at the defender, making the final play that will determine whether or not his team wins.
The big-name teams have them: the Heat (LeBron), the Thunder (Durant), the Lakers (Kobe), the Clippers (CP3). There are a few others who have some combination of players (the Spurs; Duncan/Parker/maybe Ginobli) or go with whoever might be hot that night (the Nuggets). However, as characteristic of the most recent championship team, there is one person that the rest of the guys trust, the one that eases the fans just a bit more than the others when their team is down by two with nine seconds left. So who is the guy for the team from the Bay?
Well, Duncan has had quite some success as a big man being the primary guy, but this is a distinction that usually goes to a player who can play the perimeter — someone who can create off the dribble, make an outside shot, or stand at the top as the seconds wane down. (Also, Duncan is one of the best eight players in the history of the game, so he’s a slight exception.)
With Mark Jackson taking this Warriors team and stretching its potential far beyond what recent regimes have been able to accomplish, there is a glimmer coming from one of the guys. And, as an added benefit, he is a product of a Warriors’ draft, not a trade or free agency. His name?
I think many of you saw his name coming, but he is the perfect candidate. Now, he isn’t without his flaws (defense), and he won’t be able to take this team to the elite level without a big man who can not only score but also compensate for his flaws (Tyson Chandler would’ve been perfect for this team). But, he is undoubtedly the guy who should be holding the ball in any crucial moment.
First, he can shoot lights out. Anyone who has that natural shooting stroke automatically qualifies. If they can shoot with one of the quickest releases in the NBA and have unlimited range, there’s a strong chance you’ve found your guy. Add on someone who can run the pick and roll beautifully, make the correct decision a good chunk of the time, and get the ball in the hands of the right player (not necessarily his own), that is almost definitely your guy.
Since he’s already a guard who can play at either spot, he’s at a natural advantage. Already used to taking the ball up, he’s always found himself with the ball in his hands. When he led Davidson to the Elite Eight, he was not only the guy, but he was the only guy. He knows how to handle the load, and the pressure, and every time you watch him, he seems more open to the challenge.
Though it was unpopular at the time, we are starting to clearly see why he was the choice over Monta Ellis as the organization was moving forward. This season he’s taken his game to a different level, scoring a career-high 54 points in a loss to the Knicks. Perhaps the best part of this performance was its location: Madison Square Garden. On one of basketball’s biggest stage, he shined as bright as he ever has before.
As many skills as you may have, being the guy requires that extra quality that you can’t really see, but you can certainly sense.
Stephen Curry is the guy, because he has it. And I think Warriors’ fans are starting to sense it too.