The defending champion Golden State Warriors got off to a disappointing 7-9 start this season, putting them currently out of even the play-in in a packed Western Conference. More worryingly, they’re under .500 despite Steph Curry’s truly brilliant play.
In 15 games, Curry is averaging 32.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game while shooting 52.8% from the field, 44.3% from three-point range and 90.9% from the free throw line. He ranks third in the league in scoring, leads the league by a wide margin in 3-pointers made (77 compared to 55 for Buddy Heald, who is in second place), and approaches Larry Bird and Steve Nash as the only players with multiple seasons. 50/40/90.
As usual, much of Curry’s dominance came from outside the arc. Even closer than base stats, he is shooting an absurd 46.8% of his shots without dribbling this season. To put this into perspective, of the players who hit at least five triples without a dribble in a game, Donovan Mitchell is the only one to throw more than 40 percent on those attempts. However, you can go on and on about his shooting and this topic has been covered in detail over the years.
Instead, take a closer look at how Curry scored closer to the basket, which was an underestimated aspect of his hot start. Overall, his 5.7 two-point shots per game and 63.7 percent of field goals inside the arc are career highs, which helped boost his effectiveness. However, his driving and paint finish stand out.
Within three feet, he hits an amazing 79.1 percent of his attempts, according to the Basketball-Reference, which is also a career best. On shooting, defined by Synergy Sports as “under the basket”, he is averaging 1,522 points per possession, which puts him on the same level of efficiency as big men like Nikola Jokic and Karl-Anthony Towns. The NBA stats website lists him as having a 76.4 percent in the restricted area, and among players with at least the same number of attempts as Curry’s 55, he ranks 12th in efficiency; among those 12 players, only Donovan Mitchell is below him.
As much as you want to break it down, Curry was special in a basket.
“Obviously knowing that I can throw the ball and put a lot of pressure on the defense, you should be able to change clothes to get to the paint and find creative ways to finish.” curry said following the Warriors’ victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on November 11. “I don’t play above the hoop, so I just play in the corners and touch there. I was able to do it. Even breaking away from great screens from guys without fear of contact. I don’t get to the foul line that often, but I’m still just trying to figure out how to get my lane, get my angle, defend the ball, put it on the hoop and hope it hits.”
Curry, of course, received a few passing glances and caught the defenders cheating with backdoor shots. However, the vast majority of his images in paint have been challenging, which makes what he does even more impressive. Here’s a closer look at some of the specific aspects of his attack that stand out.
As he mentioned, just because he doesn’t play above the rim – he has no dunks this season – doesn’t mean he should be afraid of contact. He will never jump over opponents, but he can still use physical strength to his advantage. One way to do this as a guard is to jump first and initiate contact.
Watch as Curry rides, gets in front of Julius Randle and smashes right into his chest. This keeps Randle on the ground and prevents him from truly challenging the downtime.
In the Detroit Pistons game, we saw an edge case where Curry went downhill in a pick and roll and left his feet near the dotted circle long before Isaiah Stewart was ready. Curry leans over to hold Stuart on his hip and slides unhindered towards the basket.
In order to finish in the paint, you first need to get there, and Curry was a brilliant player. Despite always having one of the best hands in the league, he has been known to be careless with the ball. This season, he only flips it 2.7 times per game, the second lowest of his career; he had the ball on the rope and used that control to fry the defenders on the perimeter. One of his favorite tricks this season was a right hand from behind the back.
Some of his finishes have been so outrageous that it’s fair to wonder if he can continue to convert at such a high clip level. At the same time, after all that he has achieved in his career, you usually do not want to get involved in the game of Steph Curry’s doubts.
“You’re running out of adjectives to describe Steph’s game. He’s just amazing night after night,” said Steve Kerr. “He is in such great shape. If there’s one thing he’s significantly better now than when I first got here, it’s his strength and fitness. basketball throughout the game. And just knocking down blows from all sides and ending with a ring. He’s incredible.”