Philadelphia 76ers: It’s time to put some respect on Seth Curry’s name

(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

And just like that, the season is saved… for now.

Despite starting things out on a slow, uninspired foot, falling behind by double-digits early, and sitting down four at the half, the Philadelphia 76ers rode a strong performance by Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris, and Joel Embiid to a “lights out” win over the Atlanta Hawks on their home court, bringing the series back to the Wells Fargo Center for a pivotal, winner-takes-all showdown for a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Surely it was a game filled with interesting storylines, from Ben Simmons’ foul-fueled benching to Shake Milton’s return to earth, but no one, not Maxey, Harris, or even Embiid, played as big a role in the Sixers’ win than a player they initially acquired for the low, low price of Josh Richardson, and a 2020 second-round pick eventually used to select Tyler Bey.

That’s right, folks, we’re talking about Seth Curry.

From freeing himself up on off-ball screens a la J.J. Redick, to draining video game daggers, and driving to the basket for some Maxey-esque floaters, Curry led the Sixers in points and 3 pointers while near-singlehandedly running the offense for stretches of the game.

And yet, on a national level, the narrative remained fixated on Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and Trae Young, almost completely ignoring just how impactful the Philadelphia 76ers’ sharp shooting extraordinaire was down the stretch. Between you and me, that needs to change.

Seth Curry has become the Philadelphia 76ers’ offensive 1B.

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In the regular season, Seth Curry had a usage rating of 17.1, good for the 14th best mark on the Philadelphia 76ers behind everyone not named George Hill, Danny Green, Mike Scott, Anthony Tolliver, Matisse Thybulle, and Gary Clark.

What exactly does that mean? Well, allow me to explain.

According to Basketball-Reference, usage percentage is an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor. So naturally, when a player like Embiid ranks first overall league-wide in usage percentage among players who recorded at least one start, it signifies just how much of a focal point the MVP runner-up is to Doc Rivers‘ offense.

So, by contrast, what does that say about Curry’s relatively low usage rate, sandwiched between former 24/7 champion Enes Kanter and Disney aficionado Robin Lopez? Well, it says that Doc Rivers has been far less focused on running plays to explicitly get Curry the ball.

Now, in theory, that makes sense, right? Curry was at best the Sixers’ fourth offensive option during the slower pace of the regular season and often fed off of open looks generated by Embiid in the paint. Why would he have the offense run through him when he’s such an effective weapon as a spot-up shooter?

Considering Curry takes an average of 5.2 of his 9.7 field goals per game off of one dribble or fewer, it’s hard to see a world where calling plays to get him going is particularly necessary.

But in the Sixers’ last two contests versus the Atlanta Hawks, that started to change.

Tasked with helping to shoulder more of the offensive responsibility from Embiid, Curry’s averaged points per game have jumped from 19.1 over the entire playoff run to an even 30 while draining 61.9(!) percent of his 21 3 point attempts. Curry has further fortified his two-man game with Embiid to a frightening degree, driven to the basket far more often, and watched his usage percentage rise as a result, going from 17.7 over the first nine games of the playoffs to 20.7 over the past two.

Outside of Embiid, no one has been used more than Curry, not even Tyrese Maxey.

While some will fault Curry for his inability to shut down guards like Trae Young and Lou Williams on the defensive end of the court – which, admittedly, is a pretty tough ask for anyone – his offense has been so impactful that you’ll forgive his average on-ball coverage. No player has recorded an average offensive rating higher than Curry over the past few games, and for a team that’s been looking for offense the hard way since Embiid re-aggravated his knee, that’s worth his weight in gold.

Fun fact: Seth Curry weighs 185 pounds, which is worth approximately $4,126,336 in gold, or roughly 52.6 percent of his contractural hit in 2020-21. A value at double the price… literally.

Next. Matisse Thybulle earns All-Defense honors after all. dark

Moving forward, the Sixers can’t fall back into the same mistakes that took this series to seven games. They can’t rely too heavily on bench-only lineups, force minutes to players who aren’t having a good game, or pull out bench performers in order to stick to a minutes schedule. If Nate McMillin decides to go “Hack-a-Ben” midway through the fourth, Rivers has to have the courage to pull his starting point guard in favor of a better free throw shooter like Tyrese Maxey. If Joel Embiid is struggling with triple-coverage in the paint with 45 seconds left to play, don’t be afraid to pull the ball out to the wings and drive a guard to the basket. And for crying out loud, call more flippin’ plays for Seth Curry, as he’s putting up Steph numbers on a Dwight Howard usage percentage. If that doesn’t put some respect on #31’s name, I don’t know what will.