As the reigning two-time MVP on the best team in basketball, Steph Curry’s got things pretty good right now. He’s a champion, fan favourite, and, at 28, still has plenty of time to add to his legacy as the greatest shooter of all time. He’s accomplished more in his eight-year NBA career than most players can even dream of, a tremendous achievement given his humble beginnings as an overlooked recruit for tiny Davidson College. After making the kind of leap he has from then to now, you might think Curry has nothing left to prove.
Or does he? Last year’s fairytale 73-win season for Curry’s Golden State Warriors came crashing down in the fraction of a second it took for LeBron James to unleash his now-iconic chasedown rejection. Instead of being a back-to-back champion and best player on the greatest team of all time, Curry saw his indomitable rise to king of the league falter. Now with revenge on his mind and a fellow superstar to share the spotlight with in Kevin Durant, it seems Curry has a lot riding on this season. An inspired performance this postseason could net him another title and that elusive Finals MVP, which would all but erase the sting of last year’s heartbreak.
On the other hand, things could get very interesting should the Warriors suffer yet another demoralizing defeat. Looking beyond the playoffs, Curry’s contract is expiring, making him a free agent this summer. A win would all but guarantee he stays in Golden State, but a loss would make his future considerably murkier. We need only revisit the shocking exits Kevin Durant and LeBron James (twice) undertook in their quest for rings to be reminded that loyalty may be strong, but winning is everything. Curry might see the writing on the wall, and take the opportunity to jump ship while he’s still in his prime. So where might he end up? Logic dictates he’ll want an immediate championship contender, but there are some dark-horse teams in the mix as well as some that make sense on paper that won’t happen for other reasons. To narrow things down, let’s get a better sense of the type of teams Curry WILL want to play for, as well as those he definitely WON’T want any part of.
15. Want: Minnesota Timberwolves
Many picked the young Wolves to have a breakout year this season, but so far it looks like those predictions were premature. Zach LaVine’s season-ending knee injury all but ensures another trip to the lottery, but that could actually be a blessing in disguise, with this draft’s crop of incoming talent looking among the best there’s been in years. With a well-respected, experienced coach in Tom Thibodeau, and the young talent already on the team like Towns, Wiggins, LaVine, and last year’s lottery pick Kris Dunn, Minnesota could be truly scary if they manage to add a talent like Arizona star Lauri Markkanen, or Cal big man Ivan Rabb. That kind of promising nucleus would be very tempting for a more mature superstar like Curry to take over and mold in his image.
14. Won’t: Washington Wizards
This one’s really simple: The Wizards have zero cap space. Zilch. Nada. Creating enough room to be able to sign Curry would take the kind of trade gymnastics that would make the team completely unrecognizable. Though they seem to be hitting their stride now, they’ve also underachieved the past couple of years despite an abundance of talent and a good balance of youth and maturity. Not to mention, their best player, John Wall, plays the same position as Curry, so they’d presumably have to trade away their most valuable asset just to accommodate Curry. The rest of the core, like Brad Beal, Otto Porter, and Marcin Gortat, just don’t have the star power or potential to be enticing. Throw in Curry’s recently expressed disdain for the new president, and the nation’s capital is looking like a big no-no for Curry.
13. Want: Philadelphia 76ers
Similar to Minnesota, Philly has an incredible collection of young talent, which will only be added to in this year’s draft with another likely top-10 pick. They’ve also got oodles of cap space and assets, meaning they’ll be able to be very aggressive pursuing other free agents and trades to make themselves a more attractive destination. Curry would fill an immediate positional need too, as point guard is arguably the 76ers’ weakest position and they’re in desperate need of shooting on the whole, something Curry can probably help with just a little bit.
One big advantage Philadelphia has over Minnesota? It’s in the Eastern Conference, which has gotten stronger but is still comparatively weak. The road map to the Finals would be considerably less challenging, and a core of Curry, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid could become the league’s newest “Big Three”.
12. Won’t: Portland Trail Blazers
Portland finds themselves in kind of a worst case scenario right now: not good enough to be a threat in the West, but not terrible enough to to be rewarded with a high lottery pick. They’re stuck in mediocrity, and with no cap space, it looks like they’ll remain that way for a while. Like the Wizards, the Trail Blazers only valuable assets are their guards (Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum), so there’d be no strong supporting cast in place for an incoming Curry, only competition.
Barring a blockbuster trade, the pieces just aren’t there, and what’s worse, Portland plays in the cutthroat Western Conference. Overall, it’s tough to see a path forward for Portland to make themselves an attractive landing spot for Curry.
11. Want: Toronto Raptors
The Raptors might seem like an unconventional choice, but there’s a lot to like about them. They’re one of the best teams in the East, pushing Cleveland to six games in last year’s Conference Finals, and right back in the mix for the second seed. One more major piece could be all they need to put them over the top. Toronto itself is also a great basketball city despite being north of the border. It’s the third largest NBA market behind New York and L.A., and players like Paul Pierce have praised the Air Canada Centre for its electric atmosphere.
One edge Toronto may also have is that Steph Curry spent some of his youth growing up there, where his father Dell finished up his own NBA career. That familiarity could be a real advantage for the Raptors when it comes to winning the Steph Curry sweepstakes.