The Importance and Evolution of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson Threes

Inspired by Evanz Visualizing the Ups and Downs of the 2012-13 Warriors usage of time series and the recent discussion on the three pointer, I decided to merge the two and see how the Warriors utilzed the most valuable shot in basketball. The three pointer was a huge weapon for the Warriors this last year, with the team leading the league in 3pt percentage and finishing 8th in makes. As we all know, the leader of this barrage was Stephen Curry, the newly anointed all-time leader in 3 point makes in a single season.

Stephen Curry's chase to break Ray Allen's record for most three's in a single season really took off after the all star break. Before the break, Curry was no slouch, tied for the league lead in 3-pointers attempted per game (with Klay Thompson, Ryan Anderson, and Carmelo Anthony) at 7 per game, while shooting a blistering 44.7% from behind the arc. However, after being snubbed off the team, Curry came out with a tear in the second half, attempting 9 three's per game while increasing his percentage to 46.1%! Even still, Curry needed to average 6 three's over his last three games to break the record, which he calmly did plus a couple more. Below is a time series graph of Currys 3PA and 3PM.


For these time series graphs, I used 5 game moving averages to make the data more clear, as it was very cluttered with per game data (This is the simplest way I could think of making the data clear, let me know if there is a better way to do this).

As you can see, there was definitely an upward trend in Curry's 3 point shooting, as the Warriors realized how great of a weapon it was. It has been said that Curry's tear was this was due to an increase in focus on three's in general by the Warriors, so I next wanted to see how Curry's trend compared to the other member of the Splash Brothers, Klay Thompson.

As mentioned earlier, leading into the all-star break, Klay and Curry were both tied for most 3-pointers attempted per game. However, while Curry upped his 3PA per game from 7 to 9, Klay decreased his from 7 to 6. This is shown below, as Curry attempted more 3's per game while Klay decreased as the season went on.


Although the number of combined Curry and Klay three point attempts increased as the season went on, this increase was completely due to Curry at a cost to Klay's attempts. However, this was not a bad thing, as Klay Thompson also increased his 3P% after the break, from 38.9% to 42.6%, while taking less shots. Because both Curry and Klay increased their 3P% after the break, it is no surprise that the Warriors also increased their percentage as a team, from 39.3% to 42.1% The overall increase in Splash Brother threes also mirrors that of the team after the all-star break; the Warriors only increased there average 3PA per game by 0.3 threes per game, from 19.8 to 20.1. This suggests that the Warriors offense was more dedicated to specifically getting more Curry three's, not just three's in general.

So what does this all mean? By the end of the season, the Warriors were no doubt Steph Curry's team as the offense was geared specially for him. This especially took place after the all-star break, when Curry increased his offensive numbers across the board and became more aggressive (PPG from 21 to 26, FG% 43.4 to 47.6, and AST from 6.6 to 7.4). Because it was so clear that this was Curry's team, I next plotted a time series of several of Curry's statistics against the Warriors win percentage to see which had the greatest similarity. Given the context of this post, what I found shouldn't be any surprise.


Given the 5 game moving averages that I have been working with, Curry's 3PM time series chart follows the warriors winning percentage fairly closely as the season went on. While in the beginning of the season, the Warriors winning seems to float somewhat independently of Curry's three point makes, as the season goes on the lines seem to follow one another more closely. This backs up the intuition that as the year went on, the Warriors became more dependent on Curry's three point shot.

Whether the increase in Curry three's as the year moved on was a product of the Warriors coaching staff, Curry becoming more aggressive, or Curry being mad about his snub of the all-star game, there is no denying that Curry's three point shooting became a bigger emphasis for the Warriors offense. This increase of Curry three's came at the expense of Klay Thompson's attempts, but this was not a bad thing as both players and the team increased their 3P% as the year went on. This increased emphasis on Curry three's also seemed to relate to the Warriors success, as more akes seem to correlate with a better winning percentage (interestingly enough, Curry's 2 highest 3PM games both came in losses). It will be interesting to see what Mark Jackson and the coaching staff do in the upcoming year and how they utilize the most dangerous shot in basketball with the player who's the best at it.

This FanPost is a submission from a member of the mighty Golden State of Mind community. While we're all here to throw up that W, these words do not necessarily reflect the views of the GSoM Crew. Still, chances are the preceding post is Unstoppable Baby!

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