Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry chews on his mouthguard in the course of the second half of a sport in opposition to the Los Angeles Clippers.(Photo: Ryan Kang, AP)

Editor’s notice: Welcome to Jumping to Conclusions, the bonus version.

All NBA season lengthy, USA TODAY Sports Insiders Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgitt shall be badyzing the motion each week and making daring proclamations all alongside the best way. And on occasion, as is the case with Sam’s declare this week that the Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry is destined to shoot extra free throws than ever earlier than whereas re-entering the MVP dialog, a prediction shall be worthy of a narrative of its personal. Alas, here’s a nearer have a look at how one of many sport’s most completed gamers is by some means getting higher – once more.

When you’re a four-time All-Star and two-time MVP who has received two NBA titles prior to now three seasons like Steph Curry, it’s exhausting to think about how this basketball life may get a lot better.

But certain sufficient, as his Golden State Warriors have stumbled by way of this early stretch, it has grow to be clear that Curry is probably not performed bettering at this sport in spite of everything. And free throws, it seems, could now play an even bigger half than ever in his famous person method.

By attending to the free throw line at a private document price thus far – 7.6 makes an attempt per sport, up from four.6 final season and higher than his career-high of 5.1 from the 2015-16 marketing campaign – the 29-year-old is exhibiting a degree of late growth that ought to make opponents concern him much more. As if the limitless vary wasn’t sufficient to fret about, or that ballhandling capability that enables him to get by way of the lane for all these simple layups, right here comes Curry making main strides with regards to the best shot of all of them. The free one.

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Curry, whose profession free-throw proportion of 90.2 trails solely Steve Nash and Mark Price within the league’s all-time annals, has already tallied double digits in free throw makes an attempt 3 times this season (he did so simply 4 occasions final season). For somebody with this type of ability set, who does so many issues so effectively however ranked simply 11th amongst level guards in free throw makes an attempt final season, that is like discovering Benjamins within the sofa cushions. And based on his longtime private coach, Brandon Payne of Accelerate Basketball, that is no blissful accident.

“It’s something that we talked about for several years now,” Payne, who has labored with Curry since 2011, instructed USA TODAY Sports by cellphone. “As he has continued to develop and mature physically, he has a little more speed and burst that might not have been there a couple years ago. Now when he goes into the paint, instead of absorbing contact, he’s looking to initiate the contact. He’s driving with a purpose. He’s driving looking to finish and initiate the contact, and I think that’s what’s led to this spike in free throws. And I don’t think it’s going to slow down anytime soon.”

When evaluating Curry to his level guard friends, this was all the time the one space the place he fell brief. Last season, for instance, his charity stripe tempo was lower than half of reigning MVP Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder (10.9 makes an attempt per) and that of the No. 2 vote-getter, the Houston Rockets’ James Harden (10.four). And whereas Curry’s penchant for three-pointers and working off perimeter screens meant he spent much less time within the lane than the probing Chris Paul-types, it was nonetheless one thing of a thriller why he couldn’t draw extra fouls.

The distinction now could be a mixture of psyche and physicality. Because Curry has constantly added muscle to his once-frail body in the course of the offseason, he can deal with the type of abuse from defenders that may have leveled him throughout his school days at Davidson. And due to his taking pictures prowess and what it does to all these panicky defenses, Curry can higher exploit the intense ways in which groups attempt to shut down his shot.

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“Teams are going to come out and they’re going to push up on him and they’re going to try to take away space from him out on the perimeter and it leaves driving lanes,” Payne stated of Curry, who now has 4 of the highest 5 single-season information for three-pointers made in league historical past. “And now, he actually has the flexibility to get in there, and he will get in there in a short time, and he will get in there not solely seeking to rating however to get to the free throw line as effectively.

“When you drive aggressively, you’re always placing the officers able the place they must decide. You’re not giving them the out by attempting to get round contact … I believe he’s beginning to get extra calls merely due to the posture and type of the aggression that he’s going to the basket with now. I believe as soon as the officers have began to appreciate that he’s beginning to do this, then they’re going to look to make that decision.”

The scariest a part of all for Warriors opponents? They have extra elite taking pictures than most groups even with out Curry, teammates like Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson who make it simple for him to both drive and rating or drive and kick. And at current, he’s main the workforce in scoring (28 factors per) even supposing his long-range sport has been under his norm (38.6% from past the arc thus far, effectively under his profession mark of 43.7%).

“I think he’s a threat at every spot on the floor now, and that certainly poses a lot of problems for defenses, especially when you’ve got teammates like he has who are so talented and you really can’t help off of anybody,” Payne stated. “I think it really adds a new dimension when he gets to the free throw line like that, and I think it’s going to be reflected in his scoring average at the end of the season.”

Translation: Warriors foes would be the ones paying mbadive for all these free throws.

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick on Twitter @Sam_Amick

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