How the Warriors’ Stephen Curry found a new way to dominate with elite finishers around the basket

The defending champion Warriors of the Golden State have enjoyed a frustrating 7-9 start this season that currently has them even outside of the play-in picture in the crowded Western Conference. Even more worryingly, they’re under .500 despite a truly brilliant play from Steph Curry.

In 15 games, Curry averaged 32.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game while shooting 52.8 percent from field, 44.3 percent from 3-point land and 90.9 percent from the free throw line lap. He is third in the league, leads the league by a wide margin on 3 points scored (77, compared to 55 for Buddy Hield who is in second place) and is on track to lone Larry Bird and Steve Nash join players with multiple 50/40/90 seasons.

As usual, much of Curry’s dominance has come from outside the arc. If you look even deeper than the base stats, he’s shooting an absurd 46.8 percent on 3-pointers outside of dribbling this season. To put that in perspective, of those players who hit at least five threes from dribbles per game, Donovan Mitchell is the only other who shoots over 40 percent on those attempts. However, you could go on and on about his filming, and this topic has been covered in depth over the years.

Instead, it’s worth taking a closer look at Curry’s strike closer to the basket, which was an underestimated aspect of his hot start. Overall, his 5.7 two-pointers per game and 63.7 field goal percentage within the arc are both career highs, which have helped increase his efficiency. However, its driving and finishing in the paint is what stands out.

He makes a staggering 79.1 percent of his attempts within three feet, according to the basketball reference, which is also a career best. On shots defined as “on the edge” by Synergy Sports, he scores 1,522 points per possession, putting him in the same efficiency class as big men like Nikola Jokic and Karl-Anthony Towns. He’s in the restricted range on the NBA’s stats page at 76.4 percent, and of players with at least as many tries as Curry’s 55, he was 12th most efficient; Among those 12 players, only Donovan Mitchell is shorter than him.

However you want to break it down, curry was special in the basket.

“Obviously, knowing I can shoot the ball and put a lot of pressure on defence, you have to be able to make a change to get the color and find creative ways to finish.” said Curry after the Warriors’ victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers at the 11th of November. “I don’t play over the edge so it’s just playing angles and having some touch there. I have to use your shot as a threat to open lanes and I was able to. Even I come from great screens of boys, also have no fear of contact. I don’t get to the foul line that often but I’m still trying to figure out how to get your lane, get your driving angle, protect the ball, get it on the rim and hope it goes in.”

Curry, of course, got some transition looks and caught defenders cheating with backdoor cuts. However, the vast majority of his looks in color have not been easy, which makes what he does even more impressive. Here’s a closer look at some specific aspects of his attack that stood out.

As he said, just because he’s not playing over the edge — he has zero dunks this season — doesn’t mean he has to be shy. He will never jump over opponents, but he can still use his physicality to his advantage. One way to do this as a Guardian is to jump first and initiate contact.

Here, see Curry driving, dismounting in front of Julius Randle and going straight for his chest. This keeps Randle grounded and prevents him from really challenging the layup.

Against the Detroit piston We saw an extreme example when Curry came down the mountain in the pick-and-roll and left his feet near the dotted circle long before Isaiah Stewart was ready. Curry leans on Stewart to hold him on his waist and slides unhindered to the basket.

To finish in the paint you have to get there first and Curry was brilliant as a ballhander. Despite always having one of the best grips in the league, he’s known for getting sloppy on possession. He’s turned over just 2.7 times per game this season, the second-lowest mark of his career; He had the ball on a string and used that control to cook defenders on the rim. One of his favorite tricks this season was a move behind his back to his right hand.

Some of his finishes were so outrageous that you have to wonder if he can keep converting on a clip like this. At the same time, after everything he’s accomplished in his career, you wouldn’t normally want to get into the game of doubting Steph Curry.

“You’ve run out of adjectives to describe Steph’s game. He’s amazing night after night,” said Steve Kerr. “He’s in such great shape. If there’s one area where he’s dramatically better now than when I got here, it’s his strength and conditioning. He’s a lot bigger and stronger, a lot more capable of defending at a really high level and going both ways in basketball for a full game. And just knock down shots from anywhere and finish on the edge. He is unbelievable.

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