Curry Is Outstanding At Defense
Curry has been outstanding at defense this season. This is not an April Fool's joke.
His reputation is still catching up, of course. For instance, ESPN rated Curry #12 out of 30 starting PGs in defense (Chris Paul was #1). This is probably as misguided as the 27 out of 28 ESPN Panelists who did not pick the Warriors to win the West -- Ethan Strauss being the lone accurate prophet.
Objective stats are more favorable than the old conventional wisdom.
- ESPN's Real Plus-Minus loves Curry's defense -- he's currently #3 after Bledsoe and Rubio, and notably far ahead of #8 Chris Paul, with a 1.82 DRPM over Pauls' 0.82 DRPM.
- NBA SportVU likes Curry too. If you look at guards with a reasonable amount of defensive action, out of 72 guards ranked by opponent's FG %, Curry is: #9 (less than 5ft); #4 (5-9 ft); #46 (10-14 ft); #12 (15-19 ft); #21 (20-24 ft); #11 (25-29 ft). That is somewhere between very good and elite.
- Then look at the 113 guards playing more than 21 min a game. Ranked by Defensive Rating, the top players are Tony Allen, Andre Iguodala and then a tie for #3 between Khris Middleton and (wait for it) Steph Curry.
- Curry is even #3 in Steal Rate at 2.1 per game.
He's got lateral quickness, he has very good hands, he's able to deflect balls at the point of the pass, which is very difficult for a lot of people to do. He's proven he can guard bigger players, more physical players, than him. And I think he has one really strong suit. I don't think it's as developed as I would like to see it, but he has a really good understanding about what's going on on the floor.
The Warriors Defense's Big Weakness (In Theory)
In defense of switching: Opponents who posted up Steph Curry shot 18.8% this season and Dirk was 0-of-2— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) March 14, 2015
1. Scrap Like A Junkyard Dog
2. Front The Post Like A Tasmanian Devil Chair
3. Steal the Entry Pass
4. Give Your Big Friends Time To Help
On this one, Curry is caught on a switch onto Ersan Ilyasova and the Bucks call a play to post up against Curry. He plays physically, power-sitting on Ilyasova, and fronts the post to make the entry pass difficult. Look how long it takes the Bucks to take advantage.
In fact, he switches onto Ilaysova with 16 on the shot clock, and by the time they can maneuver around to get the entry pass, there's only 8 left on the shot clock.
Also, when you have to use a high lob to enter the ball into the post, it gives your big friends time to give help while the ball is in the air. In this case, David Lee (whose own defense seems improved this year) helps while the lob is in-flight.
Between the pressure of the shot clock winding down, and Lee in his face, Ilyasova gets out of control and gives the ball up.
I really enjoy these clips. I see Curry as a man who is proud of his defense, who fights with great energy and physical force, who uses angles and leverage cleverly, who turns post-up mismatches into steal opportunities and shot-clock-burning temptations, and who does not give up when faced with much superior size. This slice of his defense is a microcosm of the changes in his defensive approach this year. His new intensity has made him one of the best point guard defenders in the league.
In conclusion, Steph Curry is MVP. Didn't see that coming, huh? But look, he has become an outstanding defender, and certainly a stronger defender than Russell Westbrook or James Harden.
People talk about Curry's great supporting cast, but Curry's gravity has made the cast great. His firepower has allowed Klay to blossom into a max-ish level player (remember what an overpay that seemed at the time?), and a starting lineup of Barnes (almost out of the league), Green (limited offense besides spotting up off Curry kickouts) and Bogut (barely can shoot any more and still a net negative Offensive Real Plus Minus) to be the starting lineup for the best offense in the league. That is incredible. That has allowed Lee and Iguodala to supercharge a fairly ordinary bench, which allows Kerr to mix and matchup against every team in the league.
So here are my awards:
- Player Whose Playoff Team Would Suck The Most Without Him: Harden & Westbrook
- Vine MVP (above the rim): Westbrook
- Vine MVP (below the rim): Curry
- Most Unstoppable When Healthy: Lebron James
- Most Quietly Stupendous Stats: Anthony Davis
- Most Valuable Contributions on Offense and Defense: Stephen Curry
- Player Who Takes A Borderline Playoff Team Without Him To One of the Top 20 Best Regular Season Teams in NBA History: Stephen Curry
- Most Double-Teamed Player: Stephen Curry
To me, that last point is a big one. If Curry's teammates are so awesome, how come he gets double-teamed more than the other MVP candidates? The coaches of the league have voted, and Curry is the guy whom you can't afford to let beat you. MVP.