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Markus Howard isn’t Steph Curry and that’s OK

Howard

(Photo by Ryan Messier/Paint Touches)

Sports Illustrated named Markus Howard as a possible contender for National Player of the Year for this upcoming season, saying that although he may be a longshot, “Howard is the closest thing college basketball has to Steph Curry now that Young is gone.”

When I read that last week, I giggled a bit at the hyperbole but moved on without giving it much though. But Monday morning, Anonymous Eagle brought that phrase up again

It got me thinking about it a bit more so I went digging to see what some numbers might be able to tell us.

For starters, Steph Curry’s assist numbers his sophomore year were very comparable to Howard’s. Curry assisted on 19.3% of possessions he was involved in his second season at Davidson, while Howard assisted on 18.4%. So if we limit the comparison to like years, there is more than a bit of similarity.

In fact, there’s more to it than just generic assist rates. Markus was one of only 8 players the last 10 seasons to take over 200 2-pointers in a season and making 50%+ of them while also taking over 250 3-pointers and making 40%+ of them. And you guessed it, Steph Curry’s sophomore year was also included in that list of 8.

Capture

Chart via BartTorvik.com

So my first response to AE was that while I don’t think Markus is particularly close to college Steph Curry at the moment, it’s not a stretch to say he is the “closest” thing to it. But the more I thought about it, the more I started to converge with AE’s overall point that they shouldn’t be in the same sentence.

What Steph Curry did in college on a mid/low-major team with very little help around him was one of the greatest feats we’ve ever seen. After breaking out with his shooting his sophomore year and earning nightly double and triple teams the next season, he increased his usage to 38%, and more than doubled his assist rate to an incredible 40.2% while barely seeing his TO Rate budge. It was truly a season for the ages.

To pit Markus Howard against that is a disservice to both players. It diminishes Steph’s legacy to constantly have players pitted against him, players that have only vague similarities. It also diminishes Markus’ accomplishments to date. He’s the only sub-6 foot player on that list above.

You may roll your eyes any time someone brings up his (lack of) height, but a few inches makes a world of a difference in getting a shot off in traffic or behind the arc. The level of difficulty he works with makes all his records to date even more impressive than they already are.

And the level of competition in the Big East isn’t remotely comparable to that of the Southern Conference in the late aughts. That’s not to say Steph couldn’t do that against the current Big East, he’s a 2-time MVP, I’m pretty sure he could handle Providence or DePaul with ease in any decade. But at their respective development curves, it’s a fact that Markus has worked his magic on a different 2K level.

Marquette fans are blessed to be able to watch the phenom that is Markus night in and night out. Seeing him drop 52 at the Dunk, on a night where I Tweeted this midway through the first half left me feasting on crow for life.

I have said over and over again Howard’s freshman campaign was the best single season shooting performance of all time and I have not been convinced otherwise. He’s broken school and conference records each of his first two seasons. It really is a privilege to witness.

And I do get why a national publication would try and use the Steph comp. They aren’t even saying Howard is as good. But everyone knows Steph and that’s an easy way to get people who aren’t familiar with Howard’s game to understand what kind of gunner he is.

All I’m saying is comparing the two players without clearly identifying the limitations of the comparison is setting up Markus for failure. Not everyone has to be the next Jordan, or Kobe, or LeBron.

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