What Curry’s Absence Means
Stephen Curry has missed the last two games against Miami and at San Antonio, and the Warriors have lost both contests. Granted, the team was already in a little funk before he went down, so one cannot pin the losses on Steph’s absence; but the way the Dubs have played is certainly indicative of the team missing something.
Consider that Golden State is scoring 99 points per game this season on 45.6 percent field goal shooting and routinely hit the century mark prior to this last week, and then have a look at the last two games with the Davidson product sitting on the bench in street clothes: 81.5 points per game on 39.6 percent field goal shooting.
The Golden State Warriors just haven’t been able to score without their starting point guard, and quite frankly it’s not a huge surprise. NBA.com’s advanced stats tool tells us that the six most used Warriors five-man lineups so far this season all feature Stephen Curry. Of those six groups, two of them score north of 110 points per 48 minutes on 50 percent or more field goal shooting.
Other than David Lee, he is probably the most indispensable player on the team and that may be putting it lightly.
Keep in mind, Jarrett Jack has been fabulous this year as the team’s backup point guard and de facto crunch time floor general, but elevating him to the starting lineup poses a huge problem: who backs him up?
Because Curry’s minutes have to go to Jack, the times that JJ rests elevates a bench player — in this case Charles Jenkins — to relieve the former Georgia Tech product. Jenkins may well in fact be the team’s best mid-range shooter, but a playmaker he is not.
This forces the likes of Klay Thompson, David Lee and even Draymond Green to some extent to shoulder a bigger load in terms of creating shots for themselves and others; which isn’t something they can do a consistent basis.
The end result is turnovers, low percentage shots and some rushed possessions. Heck, even when they execute properly and generate open shots, they end up with players missing them for whatever reason.
Curry helps on both fronts because he is a terrific ball handler and elite shooter. MySynergySports tells us that Steph converts a sizzling 56.5 percent of his spot up 3-pointers. Thus, when Jack runs a pick-and-roll with him on the floor and the ball invariably swings to him as a result of rotating defenses, one can expect him to make defenders pay for leaving him open.
The same is true if opponents decide to commit an extra defender to Lee on the low block or to Klay Thompson curling off screens, it affords the Warriors’ leading scorer with open looks from long-range that just consistently hurt defenses.
His ball handling is obviously a huge benefit against pressure, but his pick-and-roll game has simply been impressive this season because he’s made defenses pay in their various schemes. Whether it’s hedging, trapping or blitzing him, Curry has always figured out how to take advantage of the strategies employed by the opposing team. According MySynergySports, Curry is hitting 43.9 percent of his field goals from 3-point range in the pick-and-roll, and that obviously scares teams.
The best strategy against the point guard has simply been to blitz him or hedge hard on him to force him to dribble and shoot from mid-range where he is only converting 41 percent of his shots per StatsCube. Nonetheless, he still gives the team a multitude of options offensively that allow them to put up points on the board.
His wizardry with the basketball coupled with his shooting undoubtedly make the Dubs a fearful offense for opponents given the multitude of open looks that he helps create. Indeed, with Curry on the floor, the Warriors convert 40.4 percent of their shots from 3-point range, whereas when he rides the pine that figure dips to 31.4 percent per NBA.com’s advanced stats tool. For the sake of perspective, the first figure would be the best in the entire league — better than OKC — whereas the second one would be next to last in the NBA.
It goes without saying that the Golden State Warriors need Stephen Curry, because truthfully, without him, they look very ordinary.
Statistical support provided by NBA.com.
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