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Warriors’ guard play elevates team to new heights

Kevin Lucena

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Assistant sports editor Kevin Lucena.

The NBA is in a golden age of guard play.

Most nights, having the best player at that position determines the outcome of the game. From the old guards like the Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul and the San Antonio Spurs’ Tony Parker, to the new kids on the block like Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving.

So far this year, no point guard has been better than Golden State’s Stephen Curry. This season Curry has been the best player and leader of the best team in the league. Those credentials are enough to get Curry into the MVP discussions.

He ranks eighth in scoring with 22.8 per game, fifth in assists with 8.2 and first in the NBA in steals with 2.12, showing growth on both ends of the floor.

Curry is also shooting 49.9 percent from the floor, 39.9 percent on 3-pointers and 91.8 percent from the line.

The last three guys who shot 50-40-90 for a full season were: Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks, Steve Nash and Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant. All three of these players won the MVP award.

Joining Curry in making up what has been called the best backcourt in the game today and possibly the best shooting backcourt of all time, is fourth-year guard Klay Thompson.

I can remember thinking that when the Warriors drafted Thompson in the first round out of Washington State in 2011, it marked the end of the Monta Ellis era for Golden State.

While Ellis has been enjoying a successful campaign in Dallas, Thompson has done more than an adequate job replacing him. Last week against the Kings, Thompson broke the NBA record for points in a quarter, putting up 37 in just 12 minutes. He was a perfect 13-of-13 from the field, including nine field goals from beyond the arc.

Thompson is averaging career highs of 23 points, three assists and just under one block a game. He ranks third in the league in 3-point field goals.

All these impressive stats led to Thompson recently being named to his first All-Star game.

Both Curry and Thompson are also are entering the 3-point shooting competition.

The Warriors hold a 36-6 record through their first 42 games, becoming just the ninth team to start that well. Of the previous nine, six of those teams went on to win the NBA championship.

Through Curry and Thompson, Golden State is proving that developing team leaders rather than forming a supposed “dream team” can still win a championship.

Kevin Lucena can be reached at [email protected] or @klucena824 on Twitter.

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Warriors’ guard play elevates team to new heights