Are the Warriors Better off With Stephen Curry in an off-ball roll?

(Written for Blue Man Hoop)

Early in Stephen Curry’s career, there was uncertainty as to whether he should play shooting guard or point guard.  Some thought Curry lacked the ball handling and court awareness to run the point.  Curry has put these concerns to rest, but there is still some public doubt as to which role maximizes Curry’s talents and the Warriors’ efficiency.

However, the Warriors still often use Curry in an off ball roll.  Throughout the games, the Warriors run series of screens designed to free Curry for a shot while another player, typically Jarrett Jack, runs the offense. These plays typically come in the form of a “floppy” set, in which Curry takes a series of staggered screens, generally looking for a corner three point attempt, while allowing structured reads and general improvisation through the play, or more simple pin-downs, which can result in a spot up look, but often lead into a pick and roll.

Along with their more basic sets, the Warriors have developed unique play designs, including the “Figure 8” set:

and the “Elevator Play”:

Curry is one of the league’s most effective off-ball shooters.  According to, Curry scores 1.35 points per play in spot-up situations, 5th in the league, and 1.07 points per play off screens, 20th in the league.

The Warriors use Curry off-ball throughout games, but much of his off ball play comes in the fourth quarter, when Jarrett Jack often runs the offense, with Curry spacing the floor.

Even off-ball, Curry demands the constant attention of the defense.  Curry’s defender often needs to chase him through screens and around the court, and the rest of the defense must hedge, trap, and deny screens to give Curry’s defender time to recover.  This often draws defensive help from the ball handler, allowing Jarrett Jack, Klay Thompson, and the other Warriors to attack with decreased defensive pressure.

However, the defensive attention drawn by Curry off ball does far less to benefit the Warriors than Curry’s on ball creation.  Curry scores effectively on-ball.  He is the league’s 27th best pick and roll ball handler and 32nd best isolation scorer in terms of points per play, and had an impressive assist percentage of 29.8 percent during the regular season.

Curry is able to create scoring opportunities for both himself and for teammates, and his teammates are much more efficient at converting the looks Curry generates for them than they are at attacking when Curry is playing an off-ball roll.  With David Lee no longer available to take advantage of defensive attention on Curry off-ball, Curry’s creation becomes even more necessary to the Warriors’ offense.

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