How Stephen Curry of the Warriors discovered a new way to dominate by performing brilliant basket-area finishing

In the competitive Western Conference, the defending champion Golden State Warriors are now outside of even the play-in picture after a disappointing start to the year. What’s more troubling is that they’ve played worse than.500 despite some very outstanding play from Steph Curry.

Curry is averaging 32.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per game in his first 15 games while shooting 52.8 percent from the field, 44.3 percent from beyond the arc, and 90.9 percent from the line. He is on pace to join Larry Bird and Steve Nash as the only players with multiple 50/40/90 seasons. He is currently third in the league in scoring, leads the league by a significant margin in 3-pointers made (77, compared to 55 for Buddy Hield, who is in second place), and is third in the league in scoring.

Curry’s power has, as usual, largely come from outside the arc. Even closer examination reveals that he is shooting an incredible 46.8 percent of his off-the-dribble 3-point attempts this season. To put that into perspective, Donovan Mitchell is the only other player who shoots better than 40% on at least five off-the-dribble 3-pointers per game. However, the discussion of his shooting could go on forever, and it has received extensive coverage over the years.

Instead, Curry’s ability to score close to the basket, which has been an underappreciated aspect of his strong start, merits closer examination. His career-high average of 5.7 two-pointers made per game and his 63.7 field goal percentage from behind the arc have all contributed to his efficiency rising. But what stands out is his driving and paint finishing.

According to Basketball-Reference, he’s converting an astounding 79.1 percent of his tries inside of three feet, which is also a career high. He is averaging 1.522 points per possession on shots that Synergy Sports classifies as coming “at the rim,” which puts him on par with power forwards Nikola Jokic and Karl-Anthony Towns in terms of efficiency. Only Donovan Mitchell is shorter than him among the 12 players with at least as many attempts as Curry’s 55; according to the NBA’s analytics site, he has a 76.4 percent success rate in the restricted area.

Curry has been exceptional when it comes to the basket, whatever you want to look at it.

Curry noted, following the Warriors’ victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers on November 11, “Knowing I can shoot the ball and put a lot of pressure on the opponents there, you gotta be able to have a change-up to go to the paint and find creative ways to finish.” It’s all about playing angles and having some touch in there since I’m not playing above the rim. You have to use your shot as a threat to clear the road, and I was successful in doing that. Even after receiving excellent screens from guys, not shying away from contact. Although I don’t frequent the foul line very often, I still try to understand how to get into the right lane, find the right driving angle, protect the ball, get it on the rim, and hope it goes in.

Curry, of course, receives some transition looks and exposes backdoor cuts by defenders. But the vast majority of his attempts with the paint haven’t been simple, so what he’s accomplishing is much more remarkable. Here is a closer examination of some salient features of his attack.

As he said, he doesn’t play above the rim and hasn’t sunk a single shot all season, but that doesn’t mean he has to be wary of contact. He won’t ever leap over opponents, but he can still take advantage of his physicality. As a guard, you can achieve this by jumping first and making contact.

Curry came downhill in the pick-and-roll against the Detroit Pistons and left his feet close to the dotted circle well before Isaiah Stewart was prepared. This was an extreme case. Curry glides to the hoop unimpeded after leaning into Stewart to keep him on his hip.

In order to finish in the paint, you must first get there, and Curry has excelled at handling the ball. Despite consistently having one of the league’s greatest handles, he has a history of being careless when in control of the ball. He has the ball on a string and has been using that control to cook defenders on the perimeter. This season, he is only turning the ball over 2.7 times per game, which is the second-lowest rate of his career. A behind-the-back move to his right hand has been one of his favorite moves this season.

It’s reasonable to wonder if he can keep converting at this high a clip considering some of his finishes have been so outrageous. At the same time, you generally don’t want to play the game of doubting Steph Curry given everything he has accomplished throughout his career.

“Adjectives run out when describing Steph’s play. He simply amazes me every every night “said Steve Kerr. “He’s in incredible shape. His strength and conditioning are the one thing where he has significantly improved since I arrived. He can play two-way basketball for the whole of a game because he is considerably bigger and stronger and capable of excellent defense. and simply making free throws from anywhere and scoring at the rim. He is incredible.”