Philadelphia 76ers: Seth Curry needs more minutes at point guard

Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /

Once upon a time, point guards weren’t really expected to be scorers.

If you look back at the top points per game performers of all time, only five of the top 25 played the point, with three of those players still active in the NBA today.

The 2021-22 iteration of the Philadelphia 76ers are not bereft of scorers at the point guard position, as both Tyrese Maxey and Shake Milton average double-digit points per game, but what those two guards do lack, however, are reliable shots from beyond the arc.

Now sure, Maxey and Milton combine for 2.2 made 3s per game on 6.2 attempts, with the former connecting on a very solid 37.1 percent of his shots from deep, but opposing teams don’t really respect them enough to play them cleanly, with their defenders doubling down on Joel Embiid in the paint almost as often as those tasked with guarding Matisse Thybulle.

Is there a solution to this issue? Well, maybe one day Shake Milton’s shots will start to fall more than 32 percent of the time, and Tyrese Maxey will hit enough 3s to keep opposing defenders honest but until then, maybe give Seth Curry some run at point guard too, as he looked darn good versus the Boston Celtics and presents a run look if deployed correctly.

The Philadelphia 76ers should give Curry more run at the one.

If there’s one thing Doc Rivers likes to do, it’s run plays for Seth Curry.

I know, I know, call it a lucky break of being married to the coach’s daughter, but a big reason for Curry’s massive jump in usage under his father-in-law is because he’s largely risen to the occasion when his number gets called.

On the season, Curry is hitting 62.3 percent of his shots from 2 – including a league-high 60.8 percent from the midrange –  52.4 percent of his shots from the field, and is the only player on the Philadelphia 76ers with a 3 point shooting percentage over 40 percent. Curry is good in catch-and-shoot opportunities, moves well without the ball in his hands, and has developed his game enough to pass up a contested 3 for an open midrange J.

While Curry may never become a star by NBA standards, he’s unquestionably one of the best specialists in the association and undeniably makes the Sixers better when he steps on the court.

However, there is one issue when Curry is on the court: Spacing.

I know; seems rather counterintuitive, right? How does the team’s spacing get worse when their best shooter is on the court?

Well, allow me to elaborate; when Curry is in the game, he and Joel Embiid are often operating in a two-man game, with the former serving as the team’s primary ball-handler. While this can generate good looks for Curry and Embiid, it forced either Tyrese Maxey or Shake Milton into the corner, where they become floor spacers, which neither player is particularly good at doing.

Even if Maxey or Milton drains an open 3 on a catch and shoot dime from either Embiid or Curry, their defender will still inch into the paint when 21 is cooking and cause more trouble than they help to alleviate, especially when in the court with a player like Tobias Harris, who routinely passes up catch-and-shoot 3s for contested Js, and Matisse Thybulle, who is effectively halfcourt off-ball Ben Simmons on offense.

The solution? Play Curry at point guard, a position he only plays 10 percent of the time, with another shooter like Danny Green or Isaiah Joe in the backcourt and play four-out around Embiid.

Such a look, with players like Joe, Green, and Georges Niang filling out the lineup, would allow opposing coaches to double Embiid at their own risk and allow the supremely talented center more opportunities to showcase his new passing abilities from inside the arc. Would playmaking be a bit of an issue? Sure, but do you know what? Curry is averaging 3.1 assists per game and has an assist percentage of 14.4 despite being mostly asked to shoot.

When actually asked to facilitate shots for others versus Boston, Curry looked comfortable and finished out the game with seven dimes versus four turnovers. Once a shooters-plus-Embiid look becomes available, I think Curry at the point could be a very useful look both situationally and as a regular plus-offense look.

Next. Aaron Henry might just be a player for the Philadelphia 76ers. dark

What makes Steph Curry so great isn’t his shooting. Okay, his shooting certainly helps, but plenty of people can shoot the ball well. No, what really elevates the elder Curry brother above others is that he can shoot better than darn near anyone else in NBA history and facilitate an offense as its lead guard. Seth has always been a capable floor spacer and fills that role exceptionally well when any other player has the ball in their hands, but to truly take a step forward as a player, he’d be incredibly well served to take a step from his brother as a passer and take on reserve point guard duties with three other shooters plus Joel Embiid on the court. If that can happen, the Philadelphia 76ers’ offensive potential could take a serious step forward both now and in the playoffs.