Sunday, September 24, 2023

NBA Star Power Index: Stephen Curry slowly heating up; Anthony Edwards putting together total scoring package

Welcome back to NBA Star Power Index: A weekly gauge of the players getting the most buzz around the league. Inclusion on this list isn’t necessarily a good thing — it simply means you’re capturing the NBA world’s attention. This is also not a ranking. The players listed are in no particular order. This column will run every week throughout the regular season. 

Cross your fingers, but Curry might be breaking out of his career-worst shooting slump. Having missed 95 of his previous 135 3-point attempts, Curry knocked down 7-of-14 triples in a 40-point showing against the Rockets on Monday. He scored 21 of those points in the fourth quarter. It marked the highest scoring fourth quarter of Curry’s career and the 37th time he has scored at least 20 points in any single quarter, passing Kobe Bryant for the NBA record

These Curry flurries in which he turns scorching hot with the proverbial flip of a switch, which used to be a fairly regular occurrence, have become all-too scarce, but he hit four straight shots to start the game against Dallas last Tuesday and had another stretch of four straight makes against the Timberwolves last Thursday. On Monday, Curry hit five straight fourth-quarter jumpers in what was the first real stretch of shooting that felt like the old human torch. 

This isn’t enough evidence that Curry is out of his slump. One game before the 40-point outbreak he went 3 for 10 from deep against the Nets. We’ll need to see this consistently for at least a few more games. But there’s no doubt he looks confident again, while the Warriors have won eight of their last 10 and continue to own the league’s second-best record. 

Edwards is putting it all together from a scoring standpoint, his five-point showing on 2-of-8 shooting on Tuesday notwithstanding. The Timberwolves dominated the Nuggets from start to finish and Edwards only played 26 minutes. There was no real reason to put his foot on the gas and the game turned lopsided quickly. 

We know Edwards’ powerful athleticism. He’ll dunk on anyone. He has an explosive first step, which makes his step-back 3s even more impossible to guard as defenders brace for his downhill attack. He can create his own shot, spot up and shoot on the move. For the month of January, Edwards averaged 23.5 points on better than 46 percent shooting, including 38 percent from 3. Take a look at the progression of his true-shooting percentages by month this season:









A scout who spoke with CBS Sports for another story in the works told me to take a look at Edwards’ finishing footwork, in particular the way he slows down with long strides or Euro-steps near the rim to throw off defenders’ timing or weave through and around them like traffic cones. Here’s a look at what he’s talking about. 

Edwards is already one of the league’s most fun players to watch, and he is not a good-stat-bad-team jacker as some of his critics would’ve had you believe when he was coming out of college. The Wolves are currently the No. 7 seed in the West (the top play-in team), three games in the loss column behind Denver for an unqualified playoff spot. 

Among all lineups that have logged at least 400 possessions together this season, Minnesota’s five-man unit of Edwards, D’Angelo Russell, Patrick Beverley, Jared Vanderbilt and Karl-Anthony Towns comfortably boasts the league’s best net rating at plus-32.5 per 100 possessions, according to Cleaning the Glass. As long as Edwards is on the court, the Wolves entered Tuesday as a healthy plus-5.3 per 100 for the season, per CTG. 

Antetokounmpo went for 33 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists in Milwaukee’s win over the Wizards on Tuesday. It marked the 29th triple-double of his career, one more than Michael Jordan and good enough for 18th on the all-time list. Dating back to Dec. 13, Giannis has now scored at least 25 points in 16 consecutive games. 

Entering Wednesday, the Bucks are fifth in the East, but they’re only game back in the loss column of the No. 3 seed and three back of the top seed. Milwaukee is 20-5 when Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton all play. 

ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne put out a wide-ranging report on Tuesday detailing the many layers of the Ben Simmons-76ers standoff, which doesn’t appear to be making any headway. In the meantime, Simmons has already forfeited $19 million by sitting out to this point, and it he doesn’t play for the remainder of the season, as the game fines continue accruing, he will lose $32 million in total. That’s over 50 percent of Simmons’ career earnings to date. Yikes. 

Jokic, for my money, continues to be the MVP leader, though Joel Embiid and Antetokounmpo are right on his heels. Jokic put up 18 points, 15 assists and nine rebounds on the Bucks on Sunday, needing just nine shots to lead the Nuggets to a 36-point rout of the defending champs, who were playing with the aforementioned 20-5 triumvirate of Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday. 

Despite being without Jamal Murray for the entire season and Michael Porter Jr. for most of it, Jokic has the Nuggets just one game back in the loss column of the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference. 

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