NBA Mailbag: How long will Stephen Curry reign supreme as the 3-point king?
Answering your questions about Stephen Curry’s legacy, Zion Williamson’s health, the Lakers’ future, and other topics.
Hello and welcome to the first instalment of the NBA Mailbag! In this weekly post, I plan to respond to a few of your topical questions from my inbox and Twitter account, as well as present a variety of other interactive items.
Let’s get right to the questions for this week:
Steph has accomplished so much in his career. All of the attention on Steph’s accomplishment has made me wonder if there are any active players who have a chance to pass him on the all-time 3-pointers list someday.
Steph is going to keep this record for a long time for a variety of reasons. Steph is still in his prime and doesn’t appear to be slowing down. Steph’s contemporaries, such as James Harden (No. 4), Damian Lillard (No. 10), LeBron James (No. 11), Paul George (No. 20), and Klay Thompson (No. 21), are also in their primes — or past their primes — with little room to catch up. Trae Young of Atlanta appears to be the most likely active player with a chance to surpass Curry. But what’s my guess? Curry drops to No. 2 as a result of a star basketball player who has yet to be born. Meanwhile, Curry will continue to make 3s and enjoy his position as the all-time leading 3-point shooter until his grandchildren are fully grown.
Mark, Nobody would argue that Steph Curry is the best shooter in the NBA right now. My question is, who is the game’s second-best shooter right now?
Curry only needs to look across the court to find the answer. Klay Thompson, who regularly held friendly shooting competitions with Steph during their first eight NBA seasons together, is the answer. For all that Curry has accomplished, Thompson has set NBA records for most 3-pointers made in a game (14 vs. Chicago in 2018-19) and points scored in a single quarter (37 in the third quarter vs. Sacramento in 2014-15). While Curry has more range and scores more frequently, Thompson’s shooting bursts are more intense, and he only needs a few dribbles before firing away.
Granted, Thompson must prove he is the same player he was after missing the previous two seasons due to season-ending injuries to his left knee (2019-20) and right Achilles tendon (2018-19). (2020-21). Even if they expect rust in Thompson’s conditioning, timing, and defence, Warriors players and outside medical experts have all told me that he won’t miss a beat with his shooting touch.
Hello, Mark. I’m a Lakers fan. I’ve been following you for years. What do you think would be the best Christmas present for the Lakers? This season has gotten off to a rocky start. Could you see any trades taking place at some point?
— Marcus (Los Angeles)
Thank you so much for sticking with me over the years! I’m both honoured and flattered. The Lakers’ best Christmas present: improved health and chemistry. Their veteran-laden squad has spent more time in the locker room than on the field. Despite having four players on the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team, the Lakers are more likely to make the Play-In Tournament than compete for an NBA title. At least for the time being.
I wouldn’t rule out Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka looking into possible trades in the run-up to the Feb. 10 trade deadline. But don’t expect the Lakers to trade Russell Westbrook. One, it would be an admission that they put together a faulty roster last summer. Two, the Lakers believe that with more time together, Westbrook (and the team) will improve. Third, Westbrook is difficult to trade due to his large contract and the necessary pieces to make a deal work.
The Lakers did this last summer, and it drew more criticism than praise. After seeing Westbrook’s performance, no team will even consider doing so. So, for better or worse, the Lakers’ ability to improve will require them to make the best of what they have. Hello, Mark. As a Rockets fan, I’ve been impressed by the team’s recent winning streak, but I know it won’t last. Still, do you see any teams that could turn things around and make a playoff run like the Hawks did last season?
— Pete in Houston
The Hawks’ fortunes did not change overnight. It began with the Hawks hiring Travis Schlenk as general manager and progressed to stripping their roster and collecting draught picks that resulted in the acquisition of top-tier players, most notably Trae Young. It was then followed by strong player development and a sudden coaching change from Lloyd Pierce to Nate McMillan.
Next season, I see the Timberwolves going in that direction. They have a second-year forward on the rise (Anthony Edwards), a versatile centre in Karl-Anthony Towns, and a dynamic playmaker in D’Angelo Russell. Despite all of the changes to their coaching staffs and front offices over the last year, the Timberwolves appear to have the right people in place right now. Of course, there are concerns about Towns’ ability to become a true franchise cornerstone, Russell’s consistency, and Edwards’ long-term trajectory. They do, however, have young assets, which allows them to develop from within or use in future transactions.
Mark, I was saddened to hear the latest Zion Williamson news. I’m a big fan of Zion. How concerned should I be about his overall health after this latest setback? Is he going to be able to play in the NBA? Or will this foot injury derail any chances of that?
–Sam Stewart, Rockwell, North Carolina
You should be extremely concerned. Williamson has already suffered two setbacks this season, both involving his surgically repaired right foot, after spending the previous two weeks completing contact drills and full-team activities. According to the Pelicans, “the volume and intensity of his training will be reduced for an extended period of time to help allow for further bone healing.” And Williamson already missed the first 44 games of his rookie season due to a surgically repaired right knee before being limited in minutes when he returned.
But he still has time to make a comeback this season. Prior to Williamson’s latest setback, Pelicans teammate Brandon Ingram told me two weeks ago that despite any presumed frustration with his health, Williamson has maintained sharp work habits. And the Pelicans have handled Williamson with caution so that he does not become prone to injuries.
But there’s no getting around it. Despite his intriguing potential as a bruising playmaker, Williamson has failed to live up to the old adage that availability is the most important quality. It’s unclear whether he’ll ever be able to consistently fulfil that job description.
With All-Star weekend quickly approaching, who do you think will be named to the All-Star team for the first time this season?
Feysal Ali from Columbus, Ohio
Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant and Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball are my picks.
Even if Morant has missed some games due to a sprained left knee (six) and entering the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols (four), his All-Star candidacy should not be jeopardised. Morant has already established himself as the best player in his rookie class in only his third season. He is fourth in the NBA in terms of points scored in the paint (14.1). And he has an indelible chip on his shoulder, which both fuels his growth and appeals to Memphis’s grind-it-out mentality.
What about Ball? The Hornets believe he has already improved on his Kia Rookie of the Year performance. Ball ranks seventh in the NBA in assists (7.3), second only to Atlanta’s Trae Young among Eastern Conference guards (9.4). Ball is also on pace to improve his scoring totals from his rookie season (15.7) to his sophomore season (15.8). (20). The Hornets would prefer that Ball focus more on hitting singles and less on always making the home run play. Nonetheless, Ball already possesses the style and substance to be an All-Star.
Who would you put on a list of active NBA players who, based on their track record, deserve to be champions? In my opinion:
Chris Paul is the first.
Jimmy Butler, No. 2
four. The Beard
Russell Westbrook is ranked fifth.
What are your thoughts?
–David Zabala of Milledgeville, Georgia
That’s a great list. I believe Carmelo Anthony and Blake Griffin should be added to that list as well. However, Chris Paul is the clear favourite. Prior to reaching his first NBA Finals with the Phoenix Suns last season, Paul had five first-round exits and two second-round exits (four). Many of his brief playoff appearances were due to an injury to him or a key teammate. Had Paul not injured his hamstring in the 2018 Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, the Houston Rockets would have had a legitimate chance to upset the defending champions.
Because of his injuries, Paul isn’t the leading active NBA player most deserving of a league title. Despite mixed reactions to his demanding leadership style, Paul has a proven track record of lifting each franchise he’s played for: New Orleans (2005-2011), the Los Angeles Clippers (2011-2017), Houston (2017-19), Oklahoma City (2019-20), and Phoenix (2020-21). Some of the players on your list, without a doubt, have Hall-of-Fame resumes. But Paul has suffered the most heartbreak due to circumstances beyond his control. He “deserves” to be the first player to win an NBA championship before any of the other players.
Do you think Garrison Matthews’ incredible play will continue now that Jalen Green is back? Is it even feasible until then? I’m not even asking because I found him on Fantasy…
–Gideon from Colorado Springs, Colorado
I’m not sure how long Matthews’ MVP chants will last. Or how long the nickname “Garry Bird” will stick. Or how valuable Matthews would be to your fantasy basketball team.
Expecting a player who was cut from the Boston Celtics’ roster and spent time in the NBA G League to maintain the same numbers he posted during the Rockets’ recent seven-game winning streak appears to be a tall order (16.1 points on 52.2 percent shooting, zero turnovers). But, in my opinion, Matthews has demonstrated that he will remain a reliable rotation player even when Jalen Green returns to the lineup. Matthews’ numbers are likely to fall as teams pay more attention to him in scouting reports. Matthews, on the other hand, will continue to be a viable scoring threat and an energy player. These are two essential qualities for a young team eager to advance.
Basketball Around the World
We are all aware that the NBA has evolved into a global brand, and that basketball has evolved into a global sport. But what drives your basketball passion?
We’d love to see a photo of the hoop you play on, whether it’s in your local gym, your backyard, or your driveway. Do you have a good image? Send it to me so that I can use it in this feature.
We’d also like to know how you became a basketball fan. Have a good basketball storey to share? Write it down and send it to me. The best essays will be featured in this section for the duration of the season.