Scottie Pippen was on ESPN’s The Jump on Tuesday and offered a critique of Steph Curry during one of the segments. Within the segment Pip said a lot of interesting things, but the one that’s grabbing everyone’s attention is Pip’s comment that Steph is not a dominant player. What?! That’s blasphemy. How could a 2x MVP and the first ever unanimous MVP not be a dominant player?! As per usual we need some nuance and perspective when dissecting what Pip said. Looking at his entire statement and using proper context he’s both right and wrong.
Pip’s full quote is here:
I think we have to also look at it now that he’s not the best player on either team. Even though he’s a two-time MVP, a unanimous MVP, right now, he’s not the best player on his team, and he’s not a dominant player. He’s a great player, and the things that he does out on the basketball court force Cleveland to have to do things to get the ball out of his hands, but in terms of what LeBron and KD can do, those guys can dominate you in all areas of the game, from rebounding, to blocking shots, to defending, to scoring. They beat you all across the board.
Let’s start with where Pip is wrong, and this is more a case of semantics than anything. Steph is most certainly a dominant player, on the offensive end. His shooting range begins the minute he gets to the arena. The greatest shooter the game has ever seen. His ability to handle and split traps and finish at the rim are among the best in the league. Those factors in and of themselves make him dominant. He is capable of dropping 40+ on any given night.
But Pip is also right with his overall critique of Steph and it is a factor that many fans and even some media members haven’t quite accepted. Steph is NOT the best player on his own team. That honor goes to 7 foot small forward Kevin Durant. KD has 30 foot range, can score in the post, can handle, and on the other end can rebound and rim protect. All of that plus the fact that he is 7 freaking feet tall. There are things he can do that Curry just can’t because of the size discrepancy.
Basketball is, and always will be, a “big man’s game.” Use whatever metric you want and list the 5 best basketball players of all time, you would be hard pressed to have any player in your top 5 that is under 6’6″. The history of the league and it’s dominant players are always bigger wing players, power forwards and centers. Yes, Steve Nash (another 2x MVP), A.I., and Detroit Pistons Isaiah Thomas and Tiny Archibald all had their runs. But to quote the late great Biggie Smalls “their reign on the top was short like leprechauns.” It is very hard for “small” players to dominate for prolonged stretches in a league full of giants.
The NBA Finals tip off tomorrow night at Oracle Arena and the two best players in the world will battle for the championship. Yes, LeBron James and Kevin Durant. But Steph Curry will have his opportunities to turn in dominant performances for the Warriors.