The Hidden Value of Stephen Curry

Centuries from now, as our descendants laugh at the misguided politicians denying the presence of a global cooling epidemic, the preachers will tell tales of the legend that was Stephen Curry, he of the golden jump shot, flames spewing from his fingertips. No spot on the court was free of his fury, no shot too far, no lane too tight.  However, for all the glorious parts to his game, one significant facet often goes unmentioned.

Watch the Thunder defend Curry on this possession:

The Warriors set a basic down screen for Curry. Typically, a player would run outside the screen closer to the sideline.  Russell Westbrook knows this, and, wanting to deny the jump shot, tries to fight over Bogut’s screen rather than sliding under.  Curry recognizes Westbrook’s strategy, and cuts back on the other side of the screen.  Steven Adams, Oklahoma City’s rookie center, steps towards Curry to delay his catch and give Westbrook time to recover. This action gives Bogut an easy lane to the hope, and, more importantly, Adams almost definitely knows this.

A huge portion of the value of Curry’s shooting is not the shooting itself, but the threat.  Players know that the expected value of a Curry three is very high. Per Vantage Sports, Curry shoots 55 percent on three point attempts after using an off ball screen. To put that in perspective, a Curry three point attempt off a screen is worth 165 points per 100 possessions. The Miami Heat, the league’s best offense, score 111.5 points per 100 possessions.

Against nearly every other player in the league, Adams would simply allow the player to receive the ball a bit more open than usual, trusting Westbrook to recover.  Against Curry, Adams takes two steps to hedge, hoping that Serge Ibaka can rotate to Bogut with minimal time.

Stephen Curry is already considered one of the most productive offensive players in the league.  His passing creates a variety of opportunities for teammates, while few parallel his scoring prowess. However, the attention Curry draw’s off the ball is itself incredibly valuable.  While many factors have contributed to his success, Andre Iguodala is having the best season of his career in part because of the space he receives playing alongside Curry.

Offensive creation is often discussed, and, with the emergence of SportsVu and similar technologies, we will soon be able to quantify what was once an ephemeral description.  Stephen Curry’s mere presence shapes the movements of everyone on the court, and, while the magnitude of this effect remains unknown to the common observer, NBA teams can make much more concrete judgements, measuring the deviance from expected location of defenders in Curry’s presence, or similar actions.

Denver Avoids Elimination, Sends Series Back to Oakland

(Written for Blue Man Hoop)

Facing elimination, the Denver Nuggets jumped to an early lead in the first quarter, and dominated throughout the first half.  Denver held on to a 20-point halftime lead, beating the Golden State Warriors 107-to-100.

Denver’s renewed aggressiveness may have manifested itself in more than just their play.  In his post game press conference, Warriors’ coach Mark Jackson accused the Nuggets of trying to intentionally harm Stephen Curry.  “(Denver) tried to send hit men on Steph,” said Jackson, who claimed to have been warned by members of the Nugget’s organization about Denver’s plans.

The Nuggets were physical with Curry all night, but a few plays stood out as especially rough.  In the first quarter, Kenneth Faried elbowed Stephen Curry as he was coming off a screen, and appeared to try and trip him.  No foul was called, and Jackson erupted at the sideline official.

Denver’s physicality and the Warriors’ complaints may be the dominant post-game story, but there were many other factors that contributed to Golden State’s comeback and Denver’s eventual victory, including Curry’s abnormal ineffectiveness from three-point range.  Curry, 1-of-7, shot a lower percentage from behind the arc in only four games all season.

Why the Warriors Lost

The Warriors mounted an impressive comeback, outscoring Denver 31-21 in the fourth quarter, but could not overcome their struggles earlier in the game.  The first quarter was a microcosm of what could have been for the Denver Nuggets.  The Warriors struggled to score against Denver’s aggressive perimeter defenders, while the hyper-athletic Nuggets attacked the Warriors in transition, and pounded them in the half-court.  The Nuggets out rebounded Golden State 46-33, and held the Warriors to 35-of-81 shooting and a 50 percent adjusted field goal percentage.  Denver closed the game without a center, but did play Kosta Koufos and Javale McGee for a combined 35 minutes, contributing to the Warriors inability to convert opportunities near the basket.

This Golden-State shot chart reveals their struggles in the paint:

Picture 3

Key Stretch

With two minutes left in the game, the Warriors had eroded Denver’s 20 point halftime lead down to five, when Jarret Jack rebounded a missed three-point jumper by Wilson Chandler.  The Warriors hurried in transition, opening Stephen Curry for a three pointer.  Curry, missed, and Klay Thompson got the offensive rebound.  Thompson passed out, the hustled to the right corner.  Denver botched their matchups after the offensive rebounding, leaving Thompson open from the corner, but Thompson rimmed out the jump shot.  Andre Igoudala rebounded, and the Nuggets eventually found Wilson Chandler for an open corner three, which he made.  After two relatively open attempts by their two best three-point shooters gave them hope of a two-point deficit, the Warriors found themselves down eight with 1:25 remaining.

Notable Performances

Kenneth Faried had his first impressive performance of the postseason.  Faried scored 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting, grabbed 10 rebounds, and finished a clutch alley-oop off a beautiful pass from Andre Miller.

Harrison Barnes continued his streak of strong games.  Barnes was only 7-of-17, and experienced unexpected difficulties finishing around the rim, but made 5-of-10 attempts from behind the arc, a shooting performance that kept the Warriors within striking distance in the first half, and helped them close the gap in the second.


Andre Iguodala did his best LeBron James impersonation, carrying the Nuggets to victory with efficient scoring, lockdown defense, and creative passing.  Iguodala scored 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting, recorded seven assists and twelve rebounds, and controlled the Nuggets offense through its best stretches of the game.