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Explain One Play: Steph Curry to Klay Thompson to JaVale McGee Dunk

Video analysis of a big JaVale McGee dunk off a second option from a Steph to Klay curl play.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Golden State Warriors
Do not taunt Happy Fun JaVale
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve been a big booster of JaVale McGee and for lots of reasons would like to see him succeed. (See the preseason piece Explain One Play: JaVale McGee is good, bad and ugly.)

In tonight’s game against the Nuggets, he got more run, possibly because it was a back-to-back game, and he threw down dunks left and right. The Warriors lobbed repeatedly to him, almost like kids with a new toy - the Dunkomatic 2000.

Let’s look at one play, which is a counter option for a very common Warriors offense action: the Curl.

1. The Basic Curl

Here’s a simple example from later in the game. The ball starts on the right side of the court with Klay Thompson. On the weak (non-ball) left side, Stephen Curry curls up from the baseline around a screen by Kevin Durant.

The defender hustles and tries to steal the pass, but instead experiences “You Reach, I Teach” Three Point Edition.

2. Curl Double Counter

This play is 95% of the time run with Klay Thompson as the curler. (Here is a longer piece on Klay Curls: Explain One Play: Klay curls a go-ahead three.) In this case, the play begins similarly. The ball starts on the right side with Curry, and Klay curls up around a screen from McGee. But watch how the Nuggets defend the curl:

Thompson’s defender chases him gamely, but Kenneth Faried hedges out to contain Thompson’s curl. At that point McGee alertly cuts straight to the hoop. As soon as Thompson meets the big defender hedging, he knows JaVale will be open. Sadly, Thompson throws the pass behind him, turning an easy dunk into a tough finish by McGee, who skillfully seals off one defender and out-leaps a second defender.

Final Thoughts

You got the usual package from Javale McGee tonight. An offensive game that looks like young DeAndre Jordan (catch lob and humiliate defender or bust), spectacular blocks (some of which you’d like to see him catch out of the air as opposed to spiking it wildly), awkward hustling offensive rebound, oddly regularly getting out-positioned for rebounds, and a scattering of awkward moves and fumbled balls. I’m looking forward to seeing what else good coaching can get out of his talent.

If you want to read more video breakdowns — one for every Warriors’ win since 2015 — check out the rest of the series of Explain One Play articles. For the full, updated index, go to The Explain One Play series index.