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.

Devising The Warriors’ Offseason Plan

(Written for Blue Man Hoop)

The Golden State Warriors received some bad news last week.  Yes, Stephen Curry’s ankle is still attached to his leg, and no, Andrew Bogut has not lost his affinity for looping behind the back passes, nor has he lost his consistently entertaining Australian accent.  Instead, the NBA reported that expected salary cap for next season is now 58.5 million, only slightly higher than the current cap. Prior estimates expected a salary cap closer to 60 million dollars, which would result in a higher luxury tax line.  With a lower tax level, the Warriors’ salary issues are amplified, leaving even less flexibility in a very important offseason.  Here are four paths the Warriors could take this off-season, each with its own rewards, detriments, and underlying philosophy.

Option One:   Convince Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson to leave the team to pursue careers as comedians, thus voiding their contracts.  As their on court performance shows, Biedrins and Jefferson have already mastered the art of comedy.  While the basketball world appreciates their current comedic endeavors, Biedrins and Jefferson could appeal to a much wider audience.  As neither player learned the playbook, their on-court improvisation would likely translate to the stage.  Removing Biedrins and Jefferson’s contracts would resolve the Warriors binding salary problems with minimal detriment to the two, save for many millions of dollars.  But really, what do ten million dollars matter when you could bring smiles to millions of people?

Option Two:   Last season, the Warriors traded Charles Jenkins and Jeremy Tyler to get below the tax line.  While it saved money during the year, it was a move for the future.  Teams that are in the luxury tax for three straight are subject to a more punitive luxury tax.  By avoiding the luxury tax last year, the Warriors allowed themselves to enter the luxury tax this coming season with a three year barrier prior to repeater tax exposure.  Re-signing Jarrett Jack at anything remotely close to market value would push the Warriors over the luxury tax line.

The Warriors only have 33 million dollars in guaranteed salary in the 2014-2015 season.  Do not confuse this with future flexibility, not including a potential Jack extension.  But future free agent beware, this number will not hold.  Including a hypothetical Jack extension, the Warriors would have around 40 million dollars guaranteed to only six players.  Filling out a roster with anything other than players on rookie or minimum contracts would push the Warriors close to the luxury tax with Klay Thompson and the 2012-13 rookie class’s extensions pending.

For those who believe the Warriors current core can succeed as players develop, re-signing Jack allows the Warriors to maintain current levels of play while still planning for the future.  However, the reliance on Jack may limit the development of the Warriors’ perimeter players.  Stephen Curry was often used in an off-ball role as he shared the court with Jack.  Stephen Curry is already an elite offensive player, but the reliance on Jack, especially at the end of games, could limit his development as a consistent player.  Jack’s presence prevents Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes from taking over as secondary ball handlers.  Though both would likely struggle in that role, Thompson and Barnes’ future dribbling ability will help dictate their future levels of play.  Jack also keeps Kent Bazemore, a potential defensively impactful backup point guard, out of the rotation, limiting his ability to improve.  Jack may raise the Warriors short-term ceiling, but his long term effect is unknown.

Option Three:  Adding a superstar to an already-good team without cap space is very challenging.  Unlikely though it may be, Dwight Howard presents the opportunity for the Warriors to add an all-star level player to the roster.  I already addressed many of the pros and cons of pursuing Howard, one of the few superstars potentially attainable.

The Warriors almost certainly must be willing to surrender a young player to acquire Howard and risk upsetting players if the trade does not go through, but the rewards would be a player who raises the Warriors potential to heights not seen in many, many years.

Option Four:  The philosophical antithesis to option two, the Warriors could let Jack and Landry walk and look to trade David Lee.  The Warriors had success in the playoffs without Lee but this is less about short-term success and more about the future.  Lee is set to receive $44,383 over the next three years, an unjustified burden on the already financially bound Warriors.  Especially given his salary, Lee may limit the Warriors ceiling.

Interior defense and pick and roll coverage are vital to a good defense.  The laterally slow David Lee cowers at the mere mention of a speedy ball handler (or rather, waits five seconds to react and then cowers), and is still confused as to why a disappointed glare is not enough to stop opponents at the rim.

To accommodate for Lee’s defensive shortcomings, the Warriors over-compensate with help defense.  On this Parker-Diaw pick and roll, Klay Thompson comes all the way to the edge of the paint, knowing Lee is likely to be late recovering to Diaw.  The Warriors often help this aggressively on the roll-man side when he is in the pick and roll, often resulting in open corner three point attempts for the opponent. David Lee is one of the worst interior defenders in the NBA.

However, his struggles are not limited to help and pick and roll defense.  In addition to being a very bad defender in two of the most vital aspects of NBA defense, Lee struggles to defend his own man, allowing 0.94 points per play in isolation, 276th in the league, according to

While teams can generally hid poor perimeter defenders, bad interior defenders are often crippling.  Lee’s contract and defense place a potential ceiling on the Warriors.  With increased playing time for Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes, and the potentially trade return at power-forward, the Warriors could replace Lee’s passing and scoring with the valuable spacing he does not provide to keep the Warriors functional offensively. Though letting Lee, Landry, and Jack walk may cause the Warriors to decline next season, they would be in a better position for the future.

As a younger fan, perhaps I do not appreciate the rare success the Warriors had this season.  A step back after the first step forward in a long time may discourage fans who are content with consistent playoff appearances.  It is difficult to envision a championship team built around Lee’s salary and defense, though as Kevin Garnett so eagerly reminds us, “anything is possible.”

Warriors: Pros and Cons of Pursuing Dwight Howard


(Written For Blue Man Hoop)

For the first time in many years, the Warriors are regarded as a future contender.  While Dwight Howard’s opinion has proven to be untrustworthy, the ability to attract top-level free agents is a drastic change for the Golden State Warriors franchise.  Here are some of the pros-and cons the Warriors will consider with regards to pursuing Dwight Howard.


Pro:     When healthy, Dwight Howard is the best center in the league.  Though, likely due to back and shoulder injuries, he struggled this season, Howard has been the league’s premier center for several seasons.  Howard has, or at least recently had, the mobility to cover pick and rolls and rotate on help defense, the strength to defend post ups, the leaping ability to contest shots at the rim, and the positioning to prevent many shots from being attempted.  Offensively, Howard relies on the same mobility and athleticism.  He is stronger than many defenders in the post.  More importantly, he was the single best pick and roll roll-man in the league.  When healthy, he has the mobility to attack the lane, the coordination to catch most passes, and is one of the better finishers at the rim.  With Curry’s shooting and Howard’s finishing, the Warriors’ pick and roll would be a consistent source of efficient offense.  Of course, the same claims were made about the Nash-Howard pick and roll before this season.


Pro:     He has been healthy most of his career.  Despite injuries, Howard played 76 regular season games for the Lakers, 92.6 percent of the possible 82.  In terms of games played, 2011-12 was Howard’s worst season.  He played 54 of 66 regular season games, about 81 percent.  In seven other career seasons, he has played a greater percentage, including a full 82 games five times.  Recent issues included, Howard is far less of a health issue than Andrew Bogut.


Also worth mentioning is that despite health issues, Howard was not as bad this year as many portrayed him to be.  After a discouraging start, he regained something resembling his typical form over the course of the season.


Con:    Chasing Howards restricts off-season mobility.  He is not known for quick decisions (nor good ones).  Though he is likely hesitant to replicate last season’s “Dwight-mare,” Howard’s free agency courting process could easily last weeks.  A dragged out process could prevent the Warriors from making other key moves.


Con:    Giving Dwight Howard the maximum four year contract he demands will restrict future flexibility.  Along with Andris Biedrins’ and Richard Jefferson’s, Bogut’s contract expires after next season.  Currently, the Warriors only have 33 million committed to the 2014-2015 season, per basketball-reference.  Adding Howard’s contract, along with the contracts of players included in the trade or brought in to fill roster spots, the Warriors salary flexibility could be drastically decreased.  The possible Klay Thompson extension would kick in during the 2014-15 season and likely join Howard Curry and Lee in a growing collection of big-money contracts pushing the Warriors up to the salary cap.  Harrison Barnes would be due for an extension the year after Thompson (though one of Barnes or Thompson would almost certainly be surrendered in a trade for Howard).  If Howard plays to his typical standards, this decreased flexibility would be a minor issue but given the variability of human health and the NBA, Howard’s contract is a concern.

Con:    He seems committed to fulfilling the historic role of an offensive center.  Amid the chaos of the Laker’s locker-room, there was one constant clamor.  Dwight Howard wanted more touches.  While he finished with the third lowest usage percentage of his career, he still finished with a 21.3 percent usage rate, not ball-dominant, but still a focus of the offense.  The concerning part of his possession pleas was the demand for more “post-touches.”  According to, he scored 0.74 points per play in post up situations, 121st in the league.  In the pick and roll, where he has excelled his whole career, Howard scored 1.29 points per play, 8th in the league.  Howard draws attention in the post, freeing up shooters, but his desire for more post-touches indicates a misunderstanding of his own strengths and weaknesses not beneficial to the development of an elite team.

How Does Mike Malone’s Departure Affect the Warriors?


(Written For Blue Man Hoop)

Mike Malone, the Golden State Warriors assistant coach, will reportedly become the head coach of the Sacramento Kings next season.  Malone is considered to be the “X’s and O’s” brain that compliments Mark Jackson’s motivational skills.

Though television footage of the Warriors’ often shows Malone diagramming plays, there is little concrete evidence as to the extent of Malone’s influence on the Warriors’ plays, schemes, and system.  The Warriors’ coaching staff expands far beyond Jackson and Malone.  The systemic innovations recently enacted may have been created by Malone, to whom public sentiment attributes them, but was just as likely created through a process of intellectual cooperation.

Even if they cannot be fully attributed to Malone, the creation of several important changes to the Warriors’ defensive and offensive strategies coincided with the beginning of Malone’s tenure.

The job of a coach is to put players in the best possible position to succeed.  This may require players to deviate from their preferred roles or even their personal strengths but, as the San Antonio Spurs have shown, is often designed to limit the weaknesses and accentuate the strengths of players at an individual level to the benefit of the team.

In 2010-11, the season before Malone and Jackson joined Golden State, the Warriors started David Lee and Andris Biedrins at power forward and center.  Neither of these players is even remotely quick, but the Warriors’ required them to hedge hard and recover on the majority of pick and rolls they defended.

Though it may look like a trap, this was the Warriors’ standard pick and roll defense in the 2010-11 season.  Many of the Warriors’ big men, Lee and Biedrins especially, were being forced into a position of weakness by the Warriors’ defensive strategy.  Apart from Ekpe Udoh, the Warriors’ big men were generally unable to recover back to their man off the hard-hedge.  Also, the high-hedge leaves only one big defensive player in help position, forcing the remaining big to defend both his man and any guards that beat the hedge or roll men driving before the hedging big can recover.

Beginning with arrival of Malone and Jackson, the Warriors transitioned to a defensive strategy better adapted to the abilities of their personnel.

Notice how David Lee sags all the way into the paint on this high pick and roll.  Instead of hedging the screen and getting stuck 27 feet from the rim, Lee drops into the key, denying the drive and willingly surrendering a mid-range jump shot.

To limit the damage wrought by their big men’s lack of lateral mobility, the Warriors’ often defend pick and rolls with the “Ice “coverage.   In Ice, the guard attempts to prevent the ball-handler from using the screen, while the big man stays below screen-level on the side to which the ball handler is being forced.  Notice how Stephen Curry has jumped in front of Tony Parker to prevent him form using Tiago Splitter’s screen while Andrew Bogut stays in the paint to contain penetration.  While miscommunication may lead to wide open driving lanes and more defensive pressure is placed on the guards, Ice allows the Warriors’ big men to effectively contain pick and roles.

Another addition to the Warriors’ pick and role defense under Malone’s tenure is increased help from wing defenders.  In the image, Klay Thompson has dropped into the paint, leaving his man in the corner open, in an attempt to contain Splitter’s role.  This strategy has been effective in limiting the productivity of opposing role men.  According to, the Warriors allowed only 0.9 points per play to role men, the second best rate in the league.  The results of this strategy are entirely beneficial.  The commitment to shutting down role men often leaves opposing shooters open in the corners.  Imagine Tony Parker driving a few steps towards the left elbow, forcing Bogut to commit to containing him.  Parker could then pass to a rolling Splitter.  Thompson would attempt to deny Splitter’s path to the basket, and Kawhi Leonard would likely be wide open in the corner.  That and similar scenario’s play out several times per game versus the Warriors, who surrendered the most three point attempts and corner three point attempts per 48 minutes this season.

Injuries, trades, and draft picks have left the Warriors’ roster in constant flux over the last two seasons.  Thus, the direct impact of Malone is difficult to discern.  The removal of Monte Ellis and addition of Andrew Bogut likely had a large impact on the Warriors’ offensive playbook.  However, the extent of this impact may not have been revealed through Bogut injury issues.

From set plays like the one above to entire offensive systems, the Warriors have undergone significant change during the last two seasons.  Sets such as the now-famous elevator play clearly suggest a dedication to taking advantage of the players’ strengths.

It is unlikely that Malone controlled the Warriors X’s and O’s to extent often reported.  Even if that were the case, do not expect a significant decline in the quality of the Warriors offensive and defensive sets, for though Malone may leave, he has already imparted his knowledge upon the rest of the staff, likely filled with equally brilliant basketball minds.

Could The Warriors Have Beaten The Memphis Grizzlies?

(Written for Blue Man Hoop)

Monday night, the San Antonio Spurs completed a sweep of the Memphis Grizzlies, securing a spot in the finals and leaving Memphis to join the 26 other teams watching the conference finals on TV.  Though Games 2 and 3 were decided in overtime, the Spurs appeared to be in control throughout the series.  San Antonio dispatched the Golden State Warriors in the second round, but appeared to struggle in the process, losing two games and overcoming a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter of another.

San Antonio scored 104.4 points per 100 possessions to the Warriors in their second round series, and allowed 99.7, per  In the four games versus Memphis, the Spurs scored 105.3 points per 100 possessions, and allowed 93.4.   During the regular season, the Grizzlies allowed only 100.3 points per 100 possessions, second only to the Indiana Pacers, and scored 104.9.  As was expected, Memphis affected San Antonio’s offensive production.  Memphis had been scoring at a top ten rate after the Rudy Gay trade, and likely needed to maintain at least average offensive production to beat San Antonio.  Instead, San Antonio held Memphis to an offensive rating 6.8 points per 100 possessions worse than the league-worst Washington Wizards’ season production.

Despite the drastic difference in performance versus San Antonio, the Warriors’ success relative to Memphis should not be perceived as superiority.  Though teams work to become versatile, performance in the NBA is often dictated by match-ups, and the Spurs are better equipped to overcome Memphis’ strengths and take advantage of their weaknesses than the Warriors.

Led by Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, Memphis finished 15.7% of their offensive possessions with a post up, according to  The post-up itself is not a very efficient offensive weapon.  The 8th ranked Grizzlies scored 0.86 points per play off post ups and 0.9 points per play overall.  However posting up, especially if it forces the defense to double team, as Randolph and Gasol often do, forces defenses to adjust, drawing help defenders, forcing rotations, and opening other opportunities for the offense.

The removal of David Lee skews the data, but the Warriors allowed 0.85 points per play to post ups this season, 19th in the league.  Andrew Bogut, as he showed against Tim Duncan, is a very good post defender, but the other Warriors defenders lack the size, strength, mobility, or defensive intelligence to be effective versus Randolph and Gasol.  San Antonio, conversely, allowed only 0.76 points per play to post ups, best in the league.

The more significant difference is between the two teams help strategies against post ups.

Here, the Warriors allow San Antonio to make a clean inbounds pass, leaving Tim Duncan isolated in the post against Carl Landry.  Only after Duncan has established deep post position, Klay Thompson leaves Manu Ginobili at the top of the key to help on Duncan.  Thompson’s help defense is not aggressive enough to affect Duncan’s move, but leaves Manu Ginobili wide open for three one pass from the ball.   The Grizzlies spot-up shooters are far less of a concern than San Antonio’s, making this defense still unacceptable defense less damaging. Even against Memphis, surrendering decent spot up opportunities is poor defense.  Though they ranked 28th in the league in spot up points play, the 0.9 points per play scored by Memphis of spot ups is equally efficient to their overall offense and more efficient than a post up field goal attempt.

Tiago Splitter and Tim Duncan give San Antonio the ability to defend post-ups without double-teaming.  Also, San Antonio’s pre-post up defense is generally more effective than the Warriors.  The Spurs’ wing defenders, especially Kawhi Leonard, are very good at harassing in bounds passers and helping on to posting big men prior to an entry pass.  Entry passes are made even more difficult by San Antonio’s commitment to fronting the post.

At 31 percent, the Grizzlies have the second highest offensive rebound percentage in the league. Memphis has the league’s 3rd least efficient offense off offensive rebounds, scoring 1.01 points per play according to  But as with spot ups, Memphis’ inefficiency relative to the rest of the league does not mean plays ending in a shot off an offensive rebound are inefficient relative to Memphis’ own offense.  Of the categories tracked by Synergy, offensive rebounds is the third most efficient source of offense for the Grizzlies, trailing only cut and transition opportunities.

With David Lee off the court, the Warriors allowed a 58.6 percent offensive rebound percentage to shots by the opponent generated off offensive rebounds, compared to only 43.9 percent off a made field goal or free throw (To clarify: after the Warriors made a field goal or free throw, the Warriors allowed their opponents to shoot 43.9 percent adjusted field goal percentage) and 46.8 percent off a defensive rebound (meaning after the Warriors missed a field goal or free throw attempt, and the Warriors’ opponent rebounded, the Warriors opponent shot a 46.8 percent adjusted field goal percentage), according to  The Spurs allowed only 51.0 percent effective field goal percentage shooting after offensive rebounds.

Given the limited sample size of the Warriors’ without David Lee and with a healthy Andrew Bogut, it is difficult to predict the results of a hypothetical Memphis-Golden State series.  Perhaps the injuries to Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut that affected their performance versus San Antonio may not have occurred, but given the injury history of those two players, that cannot be guaranteed.

Mike Conley and Tony Allen are elite on ball perimeter defenders and a threat to the Warriors hypothetical offensive production.  However, despite his on-ball prowess, Allen is not a consistent off ball defender, often straying off his man in misguided attempts to wreak havoc on opposing offenses.  Had Lionel Hollins chosen to defend Stephen Curry with Tony Allen, the Warriors use of Curry off the ball may have had more success than it did against the Spurs.  However, had Curry not injured his ankle he may never have shifted into this off ball role, in which case Allen and Conley may have drastically decreased his offensive efficiency.

While the Warriors would not be guaranteed a loss versus the Grizzlies, they would not be able to target Memphis’ weaknesses and limit their strengths as effectively as the Spurs.

Will Harrison Barnes Develop Behind Curry and Thompson?

(Written for Blue Man Hoop)

With their recent success and wealth of young talent, the Warriors are considered a team on the rise.  But despite Curry’s star-power, how far they rise may be dictated by the development of Harrison Barnes.  Barnes, the karmic reward for Charles Jenkins’ 2011-2012 late season heroics, David Lee’s “unfortunate” injury, and most definitely not shameless, calculated, and committed tanking, has the highest ceiling of any non-Curry player on the roster.



Though he may not realize it, Harrison Barnes is extremely athletic, as Nikola Pekovic can confirm.  While his athleticism may be his greatest asset, Barnes rarely appears to be fully engaging his athletic ability.  Offensively, he will often resort to his nonchalant, rehearsed, and entirely inefficient mid-range jumper over a drive to the rim.  Barnes’ lack of aggression with the ball is further accented off the ball.  He tends to disappear for lengthy stretches, and rarely actively puts himself in position to affect the game.


Barnes’ general lack of aggression is not inexcusable.  While his playoff performance may suggest otherwise, Barnes was often the fourth or fifth scoring option for the Warriors, and rarely was required to create offensively.  However, to maximize both his and the Warriors’ potential, Barnes will likely need to expand his role offensively, and develop the skills that allow him to do so.


The problem facing the Warriors, a problem they likely do not mind having, is that established young talent already occupies much of the role Barnes may seek to grow into. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson appear set to be the Warriors’ primary offensive weapons for years to come, barring any core changing trade.  Barnes’ offensive attack would likely be different from Thompson or Curry’s.  Offensively, the ideal Barnes repeatedly attacks the rim, taking advantage of his athleticism and finishing ability, and draws help defenders, opening Thompson and Curry.


Barnes’ ability to fulfill this role is limited by his currently no better than mediocre dribbling ability.  Barnes often appears very rigid when moving on the court.  He is a capable dribbler, but lacking the ability to quickly react to his defenders movements, he is restricted to committing to a move or destination and picking up or clearing out if he cannot beat his man.


Klay Thompson suffers from the same dribbling deficiencies as Barnes.  Both players’ potential can only be maximized if they develop their dribbling ability, and both will likely spend countless hours attempting to improve their handle during the offseason.  The potential impact of this practice is unknown, and the Warriors may struggle to find sufficient in game situations for each player to develop their abilities.  Now that they expect to contend for a playoff spot, the Warriors will likely not be able to dedicate regular season possessions to Barnes and Thompson’s development.  Though Jarrett Jack may think otherwise, the Warriors are at their best offensively with the ball in Curry’s hand, and the margin for error next season may be smaller than Warriors’ fans expect.


It is difficult to predict Thompson and Curry’s impact on Barnes’ development.  While they may limit his growth, Barnes could also have an experience similar to Kawhi Leonard in San Antonio. With Curry and Thompson as an offensive safety net, Barnes may be able to expand his game without being immediately relied upon to support the team, and can refine his dribbling skills without having to compromise his development for immediate team performance.


The development of Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompson, and the Warriors’ young core is expected, but for the Warriors to approach a high level of contention a core similar to the current one, several players will have to make drastic improvements.

Stephen Curry: How Can He Get Back On Track?

Stephen Curry’s hot hand may be limited to the court, but over the last month he has set the basketball world on fire.  After suffering through the Curry experience in Game 1, the Spurs began experimenting new defensive strategies to be used on Curry.  Amid the cries of “top five point guard!” and “best shooter ever!” Gregg Popovich was focused on slowing the newly anointed star.


Though likely helped by an ankle injury, the Spurs have greatly limited Curry since Game 2.  In three games since the Game 2 victory in San Antonio, Stephen Curry has a true shooting percentage of only 47.9 percent, far below of 58.9 percent true shooting during the regular season and 57.1 percent for the playoffs.  These struggles have not simply been a matter of scoring efficiency.  Curry’s assist percentage (percent of teammates field goals assisted while on court) has dropped from his regular season 31.1 percent to 24.1 percent, and his usage rate has dropped from 26.4 percent to 22.6 percent.  Along with dramatically limiting his efficiency, the Spurs have pressured Curry out of his typical rate of creation.


In Game 1 Tony Parker was Stephen Curry’s primary defender.  Since then, Curry has primarily faced Danny Green, with intermittent spurts versus Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard.  Tony Parker is a match-up liability versus the Warriors’ large wings, but the Spurs are clearly willing to surrender this in exchange for the ability to keep Green consistently matched up with Curry.


In his second year in San Antonio, Danny Green has developed into a very good perimeter defender.  Warriors fans may recognize his ability to use his length to his advantage after recently admiring Klay Thompson’s defense.  Green also has the strength, quickness, defensive instincts, and understanding of help-schemes to be a very good defender both on and off the ball.


Green’s willingness to pick up James Harden so far from the basket does not suggest he would ever give Curry the space to take an uncontested jump shot, as Harden is a far greater threat to attack the rim than Curry.


Green will not willingly surrender an inch of space on the perimeter, and in the pick and roll, the Spurs big men have been more committed to hedging and trapping Curry since Game 2.


Green, assisted by Curry’s shift to an off ball role, has done very well in limiting Curry’s space and denying any shooting opportunities.  Over the course of the series, Curry has shifted towards an off-ball role.  This off-ball role in Game 4 may have been induced by an ankle injury at the end of Game 3, but Curry’s shift began before Game 4, and continued through Game 5, when Curry appeared less hampered by ankle troubles.  This shift to an off-ball role may be due to a belief that Curry puts more pressure on the defense running through off-ball screens, or that Curry needs the structured spacing of these plays to find scoring opportunities, but regardless of the Warriors’ motivation, Danny Green, along with the entire Spurs defense, has been excellent in preventing Curry from performing well offensively in this role.


To get Curry “going” again, the Warriors can wait for some miracle shooting, or proactively create beneficial offensive opportunities.  They have attempted to free Curry for jump shots through off-ball action, but the disciplined Spurs have allowed very little space to Curry, often hedging or not-so-accidentally bumping Curry as he runs through off-ball screens.  Athletic defenders like Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard are able to chase Curry through these patterns without losing any significant ground.


Throughout the seasons, Curry’s primary method of on-ball attack was the pick and roll.  32.2 percent of Curry’s shot attempts, drawn fouls, or turnovers were generated through the pick and roll, far more than any other category tracked by  The Warriors recognize Curry’s proficiency in the pick and roll, and have developed a complex offense around the pick and roll.


Curry’s pick and roll are generally initiated from to locations, the top of key above the three-point line, or slightly above the break.  Against top of the key pick and rolls, the Spurs big men generally stay in the paint, leaving Curry open for mid-range jump shots.  Possibly because the athleticism of Green and Leonard makes these shots more difficult, Curry has been less aggressive off top of the key pick and rolls.  He made his way into the paint off several at the beginning of Game 5, but went away from this action as the game progressed.


With the Warriors seemingly committed to using Curry off-ball, especially when Jarrett Jack is playing, many of Curry’s recent pick and rolls have been initiated towards the wing.  Curry generally finishes off-ball plays in the corner or near the break, and drifts towards the wing.  As the primary ball-handler, Curry will often dribble to this spot to set up the pick and roll.


Throughout the season, the Warriors ran these “Hawk Angle” pick and rolls.  This action is generally preceded by a cutter running through the lane.


Against San Antonio, the Warriors have been reluctant to send this cutter when running hawk-angle pick and rolls.



In this play, Klay Thompson sets the screen for Curry, and rolls towards the right corner.  The Warriors spacing on this play allows Boris Diaw to defend and box out both Landry and Lee, leaving Tim Duncan free to cover any penetration, meaning Kawhi Leonard can hedge aggressively deny the jump shot before recovering to Thompson.


The goal of this pick and roll may just be to draw a Parker switch onto Thompson, but the Warriors have run the hawk-angle pick and roll without sending the cutter regardless of the screener during this series.  Even if Klay Thompson were on the opposite wing and David Lee was setting the screen, the  Spurs’ help defenders would be able to free Duncan by having the man in the corner step down to fill Duncan’s rotation, only punishable by an extremely difficult kick pass by Curry to the opposite corner only LeBron James has mastered.




On this iteration of the hawk angle pick and roll, Klay Thompson runs through the lane as Harrison Barnes comes to set the screen.  This forces the defense to account for Thompson running through the lane and coming off a screen on the opposite side, forcing Howard and Gasol to commit to help defense longer than expected, giving Curry more room to operate both in the middle of the court and on the right side.


Curry’s ankle injury may render any hope for Curry’s re-emergence as an offensive star a failure, but putting Curry in position to succeed is necessary if the Warriors hope to come back in the series.  Off-ball actions often devolve into simple isolations on the catch, and against the Spurs have rarely produced open looks.  Operating out of the pick and roll allows Curry to create or find his own space, and affects San Antonio’s defense much more than spot-ups and off-ball screens typically do.  Stephen Curry has become an elite offensive NBA player, and as any Knicks (or general NBA) viewer will confirm, putting an offensive talent in position to succeed involves more than simply getting them the ball.

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.

Warriors Secure Split, Even Series at 2-2

The Warriors overcame poor shooting and an eight-point halftime deficit to even the series at two games apiece.  The Warriors held the Spurs to 35.5 percent shooting, only slightly worse than their 38.0 percent performance, and were especially effective defensively to end the game.  After injuring his ankle at the end of Game 3, Stephen Curry appeared slowed, and spent the majority of the game off the ball, often forgotten as the Warriors struggled offensively.

Why the Warriors Won:      

In classic Warriors fashion, the Warriors controlled the boards and dominated defensively.  Well, maybe it was not the typical Golden State victory, and maybe the Warriors’ defensive success was as much a result of poor shooting by San Antonio as it was due to the Warriors’ actions, but the Warriors grabbed several key offensive rebounds, made a few vital stops, and received just enough assistance from San Antonio to eek out a victory.

Key Stretch:  

With 4:18 left in the fourth quarter, Kawhi Leonard pulled down an easy offensive and scored on an uncontested layup, putting the Spurs up 80 to 72.  Over the next three possessions, Jarrett Jack made three straight midrange jumpers, while the Spurs scored only once, decreasing the lead to four.  More importantly, the Jack had returned some semblance of offensive production to the Warriors’ offense while the Spurs’ struggles continued.


Today’s award goes to Jarrett Jack, almost by default.  Jack scored 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting, and though they eventually won, Jack led the Warriors through many offensive possessions that were nothing more than offensive.  Jack did not play well defensively, though he was not abused to the same degree as prior games, but someone has to take credit for the Warriors’ late game comeback.  Jack keyed the Warriors offense down the stretch, avoided any crippling turnovers, and was efficient enough for the Warriors to win.

Notable Performances:

Stephen Curry, despite appearing immobile for many stretches, scored 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting.  Curry was a team high plus-23 in his 39 minutes, but was not able to be the offensive focus on whom the Warriors have come to rely.  Harrison Barnes attempted a career-high 26 field goals, but only made nine.  Barnes repeatedly attacked out of the mid-post and off wing isolations, often against the smaller Tony Parker and Gary Neal.

On a night when nearly every player struggled offensively, Manu Ginobli may have been the most dynamic.  Ginobli made 5-of-10 attempts from behind the arc, and converted 8-of-18 shots to score 21 points.  Ginobli missed several key attempts towards the end of the game, and though he created much of the Spurs’ offense, he often damaged it as well.

How Has Jarrett Jack’s Playoff Performance Affected His Free-Agent Value?

San Antonio Spurs v Golden State Warriors

(Written for Blue Man Hoop)

On May 2nd, Marcus Thompson reported that Jarrett Jack did not intend to sign an extension with the Warriors, and would enter free agency.  In the article, Thompson wrote, “He is expected to be a fairly well sought after this offseason, especially with the postseason he’s having, as multiple teams are looking for a point guard.”


Jack may have impressed in his first few postseason games, but after recent difficulties, he has emerged as the scapegoat for most of the Warriors’ struggles.  Statistically, Jack is only slightly worse than he was during the regular season, but several blown key decisions, typical egregious shot-selection without expected results, and defensive lapses have turned many Warriors’ fans against the sixth man.


During the playoffs, Jack has recorded a Player Efficiency Rating of 15.9, the exact same as his regular season P.E.R.  Jack has scored 16.2 points per 36 minutes, 0.5 above his season production, and has actually increased his efficiency in doing so.  Jack shot a 54.2 percent true shooting percentage during the regular season, which has improved to 57.8 percent through nine playoff games.


Jack primarily functions as a scoring guard, and while he has maintained his scoring ability, his contribution in other areas have dramatically decreased.  Jack’s assist percentage has decreased from 29.9 percent to 22.8, and his turnover percentage has increased from 14.3.0 to 21.0.


The increased turnover rates and decreased assist rates are especially noticeable given Stephen Curry’s outstanding playoffs.  Jack is blamed for taking potential shots from Curry, Thompson, and the other Warriors, and often takes the fall for their struggles while appearing irrelevant to their successes.


So, how has Jarret Jack’s playoff performance affected his free agent value?


First off, I do not expect that general manager’s typically put a ton of stock into playoff performance over a limited number of games.  The nine games Jack has played in the playoffs represent 10.2 percent of Jack’s total games played this season.  While this is not an entirely insignificant portion, there is plenty of data available that should influence a GM’s decision more than these playoffs.  We often ridicule GM’s for judging a college player based on his performance in a few tournament games, and a judgment of Jack based solely on his playoff performance would be worthy of equal ridicule.


However, Jack’s play does reveal several of the major flaws in Jack’s game.  He is a scoring guard whose shot-selection would not generally lead to efficient scoring, struggles defensively, and whose poor court vision is often detrimental to his team.  He repeatedly makes bad decisions, highlighted by a hilariously awful turnover at the end of Game 3 versus San Antonio, and does not appear conscious of his struggles.


Jack’s ability to lead an effective offense has been brought into question by his struggles without Curry on the court, damaging his value to teams, such as the Utah Jazz, searching for a lead guard.  If Jack’s 16 game disaster spanning March was not enough to make teams aware of this, the playoffs exemplify why Jack’s current role may already be beyond his ability.


The Atlanta HawksCharlotte BobcatsCleveland CavaliersDallas MavericksDetroit PistonsHouston RocketsMilwaukee BucksNew Orleans HornetsOrlando Magic,Phoenix SunsPortland Trail BlazersSacramento Kings, and Utah Jazz will all have sufficient cap space to offer Jack a contract paying more than his current 5 million dollar salary.


In free agency, Jack will likely be looking for a significant increase in both salary and role.  He may be willing to remain a backup point guard, perhaps still with the Warriors, but it is unlikely that he would do so without a pay raise and long-term contract.


Of the teams listed, four, Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, and Portland, have point guards already under contract next season who would likely not surrender the starting role to Jack.  Though Jameer Nelson may not be a better player than Jack, it is highly unlikely that the rebuilding Orlando would want to add Jack’s contract, as they, along with Charlotte, have no real motive to attempt to improve next season. Several of the teams listed have free-agent point guards they could likely re-sign.  Atlanta will negotiate to keep Jeff Teague, Brandon Jennings has hinted at signing the qualifying offer with Milwaukee, and Jose Calderon may re-sign with Detroit, who could easily switch Brandon Knight back to point guard.  Sacramento may or may not be able to retain Tyreke Evans, who is generally used as a small forward or shooting guard, already has Isaiah Thomas, and has no need for another shoot first guard.  New Orleans is likely comfortable with Greivis Vasquez as a starter, though he is possibly worse than Jack defensively, and would likely rather keep their options open than pay Jack to continue their mediocrity.


Though the NBA landscape can obviously change very quickly, these conditions present only one destination for Jarrett Jack that would likely offer him the starting job; Utah.  The Jazz finished the regular season 43-39, and contended for a playoff spot until the final week of the season despite playing with a point guard rotation of an often-injured Mo Williams, Jamaal Tinsley, Earl Watson, and Alec Burks.  The cap space through which Jarrett Jack would potentially be signed will be created by the possible departure of their leading big men, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap.  Utah may feel that the presence of a decent point guard will recreate the offensive production of Jefferson or Millsap, and that, with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter waiting to replace the incumbent starters, the team will again be able to contend for a playoff spot.


Many of the teams with potential cap space have need of a backup point guard. Cleveland may make a push at the playoffs, and though Shaun Livingston was productive, could use a boost off the bench.  If Portland is unable or does not wish to re-sign Eric Maynor, point guard will join every other position on their list of bench needs, and many teams may desire the scoring punch provided by the aggressive Jack.


The playoffs have likely hurt Jack’s ability to be considered as a potential starter, or at least a starter for a successful team, but he may not have had many opportunities in this role to begin with.  Jack’s future as a well paid back up has not been dramatically damaged by his playoff performance, as teams are well aware of his flaws and will hope to limit those in a back up role.


I asked the ESPN’s Daily Dime Live what contract the dimers expected Jack to receive and from whom.  Cole Patty, a write for Portland Roundball Society responded that he expected Jack to receive a four year, 40 million-dollar offer from the Utah Jazz.  For a team that really should be rebuilding and developing young talent, this seems to me like an extreme commitment.  I would expect Jack to receive a contract closer to three years, 21-30 million-dollars, possibly with a second year team option, especially if offered from the Jazz.


I also believe that it is best for the future of the Warriors to not re-sign Jarrett Jack.  Jack prevented the Warriors from winning many winnable games, but also helped the Warriors to victory.  In the aggregate, Jack was a positive contributor this year, but he, especially his crunch-time role, may hinder the development of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Harrison Barnes.  Barnes lost many minutes to Jack and the Warriors’ three-guard lineups, Curry was forced off-ball, which, though it may help Curry short-term, is not conducive to the development of an elite point guard and scorer, and Thompson lost several shot attempts and ability to develop his ball-handling skills when Jack took over as point guard.


Part of my belief in Jack’s expendability may come from an irrational love for Kent Bazemore.  I do not think that the Warriors’ three-guard lineups featuring Jack are necessary to their long-term success, especially when Jack forces Curry off-ball.  In sporadic spurts, Kent Bazemore has shown himself to be a capable ball handler and impressive defender, and could likely play the back-up point guard for 10-15 minutes a game, with Brandon Rush replacing Jarrett Jack in the Warriors’ small ball units.


Jack has his high’s and low’s as a player, and though the playoffs have been a low, his value as a backup point-guard has not decreased significantly, and though it would likely be misguided to trust Jack as your starting point guard regardless of his playoff performance, the playoffs have displayed the flaws that prevent Jack from attaining this role.