Philadelphia 76ers: Let’s finally talk about Seth Curry’s defense

Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports /

When a player is on your favorite team, one tends to overlook some of the bad in favor of the good.

Now granted, Philly fans are a special breed in this regard, as no one hates (some of) their own players more than fans who reside in the City of Brotherly Love and its surrounding counties, but hey, that’s just part of the culture around this part of the country. When a player, regardless of the sport, gives it their all and leaves it all on the field/ice/court, fans will love them with all of their heart, but when a player just doesn’t add up, usually fans will let them know.

Seth Curry, to his credit, rapidly became a fan favorite among fans of the Philadelphia 76ers because he could do one thing and one thing really, really well: Shoot 3s.

Seems simple, right? You would think so, but ever since Elton Brand let J.J. Redick walk in free agency, the Sixers struggled mightily to find an elite marksman to play off of Joel Embiid and company, with only external additions, Trey Burke and Alec Burks, shooting better than 40 percent from beyond the arc during the 2019-20 season. In Curry, the Sixers had an all-time shooter who could drain a tré from anywhere, dribble a bit, and even play some two-man action alongside Embiid. Did Curry often give them right back? Most definitely, but hey, for a team who just can’t seem to get consistent production from beyond the arc, most were willing to overlook that.

But now that Seth Curry is a member of the Brooklyn Nets? Well, I think it’s finally time to talk about just how bad the former Dukie was on defense, Philadelphia 76ers fans.

Seth Curry’s one-way game hurt the Philadelphia 76ers.

Seth Curry finished his most recent game, a 126-120 loss to the Boston Celtics, with eight points, an assist, two rebounds, and a plus-minus of +1.

That’s… underwhelming, but far from catastrophic. Curry was the only player in the Nets’ starting lineup with a positive plus-minus, and his eight points, though down from his Brooklyn average of 16.6, still ranked fifth on the team behind Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Bruce Brown, and LeMarcus Aldridge. But as folks will often tell you, stats don’t always tell the complete story. No, if you actually tuned into the game, you surely saw the Celtics go after Curry on defense over, and over, and over again, with Boston able to eke out a W in no small part due to Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown fishing a matchup against the former number 31.

Watching this game – as recognizance, of course – I was taken back to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals last summer; a game that will live in infamy for years, if not decades to come. Sure, that game will probably forever be remembered for a certain dunk that a former player didn’t make, but do you recall the second-leading storyline from the game? Yeah, that would be Kevin Huerter scoring at will any time he matched up with Curry one-on-one.

Once again, Curry found himself with a decent plus-minus, this time a -2, but of Huerter’s team-leading 27 points, 22 of them came with Curry also on the court, which, *spoiler alert* isn’t very good.

Now granted, could these two games be an aberration? Sure, that’s possible. Maybe I randomly selected two of the worst games of Curry’s career, and he’s actually a pretty good defender. Well, according to FiveThirtyEight, that would appear not to be the case. No, when you look at Curry’s Defensive Raptor ratings, you’re left with two positive (full) seasons versus three with a negative rating.

Fun fact: Once again, according to FiveThirtyEight, Curry had the 27th worst Defensive Raptor rating in the NBA last season, which isn’t very good.

But why? Why is Curry such an underwhelming defender? Well, for one thing, he’s slow. Curry isn’t an uber athlete and can’t keep up to guards like Tyrese Maxey, who win the burst. He’s also one of the smaller guards in the NBA, who, at 6-foot-2, 185, is almost always the shortest shooting guard on the court. Factor in Curry frequently having to guard out of position due to the odd roster compositions of the Sixers and now the Nets, and you’re left with a player who can frequently get exposed by opposing scorers who are almost always bigger, faster, or stronger.

Fortunately, on March 10th, those scorers will be members of the Sixers, not the Nets.

Next. The Philadelphia 76ers can’t get into the zone without James Harden. dark

Would fans in Philadelphia accept Seth Curry back with open arms? You bet, having Doc Rivers’ son-in-law coming off the bench would certainly be better than the current crop of backcourt shooters the Philadelphia 76ers have at their disposal, but hey, what’s done is done. Curry is under contract with the Brooklyn Nets through the 2022-23 season and might just re-sign with the team if he feels so inclined. But hey, now that he’s done, we can at least look forward to watching Tyrese Maxey and/or James Harden cook the former fan favorite instead of worrying how he will be able to hold up against Kyrie Irving and “The Beard” in a seven-game playoff series.