October 17, 2018

 

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While Stephen Curry’s development into a well-rounded contributor fueled his rise to the league’s Most Valuable Player and linchpin of the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors, truly elite shooting provides the foundation of his remarkable success.

Some may argue about the bigger superlatives so we can start with a smaller one: Stephen Curry is the best off the dribble shooter in NBA history. Unsurprisingly, players are much more successful on catch and shoot threes than off the dribble attempts since they are generally cleaner looks with greater odds of set feet and workable angles.

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Last season, the difference between catch and shoot threes and threes after two or more dribbles was about 5.5 percent, similar to the margin that separated Klay Thompson and Jared Dudley in 2014-15.

Despite taking more off the dribble threes than anyone in the league, Stephen Curry made an insanely high 43.8 percent of them, better than all but 13 NBA players made on catch and shoot attempts. That means Stephen Curry shoots tough threes better than almost anyone shoots comparatively easy ones, despite taking them at the league’s highest volume. Oh yeah, and he makes the “easy” ones too–Curry’s 48.6 percent on catch and shoot threes was fourth best in the NBA.

A few other insane stats about Stephen Curry’s shooting:

  • He made 239 above the break three-pointers last season. The Memphis Grizzlies’ entire team made 294. In the playoffs, he made 77 above the break threes, more than 10 teams.
  • Combining his regular season and playoffs, Stephen Curry made more above the break threes than the Timberwolves and Kings in 16,000 fewer minutes.
  • He made 91.4 percent of his free throws, best in the league among qualified players. He fell only three FTM short of Blake Griffin in 90 fewer attempts.
  • Despite breaking the all-time three-point makes record in 2012-13, Curry’s three-point attempt rate (the portion of his shot attempts that come from long distance) rose each of the subsequent two seasons and has increased every season since his sophomore campaign.
  • In 2010-11, Curry made 44.2 percent of his threes, which put him third in the league behind Matt Bonner and Ray Allen. In each of the three seasons since, he led the league in three-point attempts and still made a higher percentage of them in all three seasons than in 2010-11.

In prior seasons, teams like the San Antonio Spurs stopped the Warriors by pressuring Curry in an attempt to take his shooting out of the equation. Early in the 2014-15 campaign, Curry talked about how playoff struggles against the Spurs and Clippers forced him to grow his game in order to turn those defensive schemes against opponents.

Improving the way he handled additional pressure and putting more trust in teammates (along with a system that properly utilized Golden State’s talent) helped transform Curry’s role from propelling an unimaginative offense to driving a truly elite scoring team. In doing so, the Baby-Faced Assassin pulled a genuinely rare feat for a player who had already started an All-Star Game: Curry had his most efficient season while also using the highest portion of offensive possessions in his career. Even more amazingly, Curry has increased his PER each of his seven seasons in the league.

While the glamour stats and elite shooting propelled Curry to the Most Valuable Player award last season, he contributes in other ways as well. An underrated rebounder his entire career, Curry grabbed almost as many boards per game as John Wall with a better Defensive Rebound Rate than Jimmy Butler, Andre Iguodala and Andrew Wiggins. Defensive impact can be hard to quantify for point guards, but Curry finished second among his peers in defensive RPM. While acknowledging plenty of other noise in the data, the Warriors allowed 3.2 points more per 100 possessions with Curry off the floor (and scored 14 fewer points per 100 possessions, for those interested).

After years of being the NBA’s best shooter, Stephen Curry has become a transformational offensive force and the most important player on NBA’s best regular season team this decade. At just 27 years old, his best season could still be on the way.

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Danny Leroux

Danny Leroux has covered the NBA since 2009, hosts the weekly RealGM Radio podcast and regularly co-hosts the Dunc'd On Basketball Podcast.

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