Warriors' pick-and-roll game isn't strong, so why is Steph Curry pushing for more of it?
Curry is not getting as many pick-and-roll situations, and he's performing much worse in them
The Golden State Warriors are kind of a duality at this point in the season.
On the top level, the most important, level, really, they're great. They have the best record in the league, with the second-best offense in the league, and the second-best defense. They are a juggernaut that looks exactly like the super team everyone knew they would be when they signed Kevin Durant last summer, and are clearly on track for a third-straight Finals berth.
On the other hand, it's a bit fascinating. When they lose, they often lose badly, as they did against the Lakers and Grizzlies. There's still concern over how they can protect the rim in a playoff environment. Their shooting numbers aren't quite the insane numbers they made commonplace last season. They're shooting absurdly well, no doubt. They're the Warriors. But they're not quite as good. Most notably, there are some issues with their crunch-time offense. This was most evident in their Christmas Day loss to the Cavaliers in Cleveland, as they suffered a 24-second violation and turnovers as Cleveland came back to win the biggest game of the season.
Stephen Curry was strangely quiet in that game, with 15 points on 4-of-11 shooting and just three assists. He hit a late pull-up three, but generally just wasn't very involved.
On Wednesday before the Warriors had to hang on for a win against the Raptors, Curry told reporters that he wants to see more possessions in the pick and roll this season. From ESPN:
"I definitely want to be in more pick-and-roll situations," he said at Golden State's practice facility when asked whether the ball is in his hand enough this season. "Whether I'm getting shots or whether we're manufacturing ball movement, that's a strength of ours, regardless of how teams play us."
"On what happened in the game Sunday, Curry said, "There were certain sets we were really good at, whether it's drags, pick-and-rolls, whether it's utilizing our post splits and things like that where we can get more space. Didn't really go to those sets as much."
So is Curry in fewer pick-and-roll situations this season?
|Pick-and-roll plays per game*||6.7||4.5|
|Percentage of time||26.2||21.3|
|Points per Possession||1.1||0.72|
|Effective field goal percentage**||61.1||42.5|
|Individual turnover percentage***||14.1||24|
* Includes passes | ** Factors impact of 3-pointers | *** Does not include turnovers made by players passed-to after the catch
So what we see is that Curry's right, he's not getting as many pick-and-roll situations, and moreover, he's performing much worse in them. This problem is seen across the Warriors as well, as they're averaging about 1.6 fewer pick and rolls per game, and are down to 14th in pick-and-roll points per possession after being No. 1 last season.
Does this matter?
Perhaps. It matters in crunch time, where the Warriors have been a mix of stagnant half the time and sloppy the rest. It matters with rhythm. The pick and roll is the building block of the modern NBA offense, and because the Warriors are so stacked at every position, it's hard for anyone to have the ball long enough to really develop any sort of chemistry. But there's time, and if Curry wants more touches in it, he'll get them.
This is all much ado about nothing, of course. The Warriors' offense is phenomenal, if not historic, and they have more than enough firepower to overwhelm everyone. But these quotes, along with other comments from the Warriors throughout the season reveal a truth: they know they could be better than this. That's both encouraging and frustrating. They're winning but they know something's not right. Imagine if they do figure it out? It's a delicate balance, but also a problem a lot of teams would love to have.
As for Curry, Steve Kerr noted that he sacrificed a lot to get Kevin Durant comfortable. Part of this is the price for adding Durant. You're not going to have as many touches, which means it's harder to get in rhythm. They can change and tweak things, but some of this is endemic to their situation in that they added a high-volume, ball-dominant superstar who is brilliant and needs the ball.
One final note: a lot of this is hiding things for the playoffs. The Warriors didn't -- and haven't -- gone to the Curry-Durant pick-and-roll schemes much this season; they've only shown it in flashes. The Cavaliers didn't have to deal with it at all on Sunday. The Warriors aren't going to throw out their best weapon in the regular season for teams to scout and scheme. Don't be surprised if that weapon, and the incredible results it will generate, make a bigger appearance in the postseason.
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