The NBA season is about to kick off and IT’S ABOUT DAMN TIME! There has been a lot of activity this past off-season with big name players traded to new teams. One of those players was none other than Chris Paul.
Although the Houston Rockets’ acquisition of Paul didn’t exactly send the Warriors into a panic, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr did acknowledge how difficult it will be to guard Paul next to James Harden, as reported by Mark Medina of the Bay Area News Group.
So even if Kerr initially joked he just went to dinner upon hearing the offseason trade, the Warriors coach sounded aware of the implications after the Rockets lost in the second round of the NBA playoffs to Oklahoma City.
“They’re going to be awesome. They’re going to be really hard to guard,” Kerr said. “It gives James a chance to get off the ball and maybe take off some of the workload. I think it was easy to see he was tired in the playoffs last year. He had to do so much for that team. Chris is going to come in and really help balance the workload and they’re going to be tough.”
When we discuss elite point guards in the NBA, Paul is often included in that debate along with Stephen Curry. Opening night will put Paul and Curry against each other to lead two very strong teams. And you’ll certainly hear much made of this dynamic point guard matchup throughout the day and into the night as people discuss the game. Yet comparing players generally is an unfair task as each individual player possess certain strengths and weakness that make them unique.
Instead, let’s take a different approach and compare just one skill and see how they rank against one another.
Comparing court vision for Curry & Paul
Imagine ranking a player like Michael Jordan against LeBron James. It becomes very difficult as they possess such a different array of skills. Now imagine taking that same player comparison and comparing them based on their passing or defense. The task becomes easier to digest and a better case can be made.
In this series we’ll compare one Warriors player against an opposing player (generally a player in the same skill position) and highlight a shared skill.
This volume pits Stephen Curry against Chris Paul. Let’s see how they compare with respect to court vision.
What is court vision? It’s not simply just making the pass; it’s seeing the play develop before it has even materialized. It’s using your peripherals to take advantage of the defense and find the optimal play is key.
Sharp bounce pass on fast break - On this play, Curry sees the play develop in front of him. Draymond Green has Luol Deng coming in to defend him as he sprints into the front court. Curry sees Deng draw his eyes away from the ball as he tries to sprint into position to defend Green. That split second allows Green to create enough separation from Deng and a gap for Curry to throw a sharp bounce pass to lead Green to the rim.
This ball is perfectly placed as Curry stops sharply at mid-court to allow himself to throw the ball down at an angle in order for it to match the same stride of Green. The angle the ball comes to Green allows him to catch off his left hand to get that extra step to accelerate away from Deng and to the rim. Lead your guys to the rim and you will find easier baskets.
All out sprint - Off a tipped ball, Curry corrals the loose ball. His body takes him off to the left towards the sideline. He peeks over and he sees Kevin Durant up top. Curry whips a behind the back pass all the way up court. With just one man to beat, Durant just needs get to the ball before D’Angelo Russell catches up.
Curry sees an opportunity and trusts Durant to get into an all out sprint to catch up to the ball in open space. There was no way Russell was catching up with Durant unless Durant had to slow down to get to the ball. Behind the back passes aren’t always the best way to deliver opportunities to teammates but it happens to work here.
With a full front court to work with, the room for error is large since Durant can use his long wingspan to catch the pass and make an adjustment before he gets to the rim.
Lead bounce pass & adjust - In this one, we have Curry leading the fast break. He surveys the court and sees his man Klay Thompson trailing from behind. Curry leads him with a bounce pass to get Thompson to the rim. The ball cuts right in front of Thompson’s defender allowing Thompson to get to the ball first. It should have been an easy layup, but Curry’s defender is hanging around the rim. Thompson changes the play mid-air and whips the pass under the rim and back to Curry. Curry takes one quick dribble just enough to allow the defense to gravitate towards him.
Meanwhile, Thompson is still moving after the play and runs to his spot on the corner. Curry waits to get the defender closest Thompson to lean in, then kicks it out to Thompson for a wide-open corner three.
Curry sees the next play developing before the original play dissolves in front of him. All Curry has to do here is act as a hub for the ball while Thompson searches for open space on the court. He adjusts just enough to allow Thompson to readjust for a better open look.
Motion redirect - Being able to see the play before it develops is key to having exceptional court vision. As a point guard, you are the primary ball handler and thus can see a play evolve before the defense can react. It is your responsibility take advantage of those opportunities to put your teammates in a better position to succeed.
In this play, Paul handles the ball from just inside the perimeter and crosses over his defender. Another defender from under the rim bites and leans in towards Paul. Once he gets both defenders off balance, he cuts back in and towards the paint as he spots a clear path for Luc Mbah a Moute. Paul delivers a quick no look hand-off to Mbah a Moute who sprints towards Paul and wheels to the rim.
Everyone has their eyes on the ball handler but Paul spots the slashing Mbah a Moute off the perimeter. The redirection of Paul out to the perimeter during the hand-off drew the attention of his defender away from Mbah a Moute cutting into the lane.
Create the pocket - On this play, Paul works his way around screen from Luc Mbah a Moute as he cuts through two defenders. As he regains his footing, after stumbling into the lane, he places a sharp bounce pass into space between a triangle of three defenders.
Paul pulls the defenders that followed him off the screen enough to create a pocket of space between the defenders. Once Paul had pulled both defenders out of the paint, he created an open lane for Mbah a Moute to drive to the rim.
Lefty push - This is a very nifty play. Chris Paul works his way off a high pick to temporarily lose his defender. He keeps the ball in his non-dominate hand as he dribbles towards the rim. As he is dribbling, he keeps his eyes and body in front of him so the defense draws in.
Gordon Hayward is blocking off the direct path for Paul just outside the restricted area. As Paul dribbles into the paint, the collapsing defense moves towards his body while he pushes an easy bounce pass to his man underneath the rim. Paul uses his body as a decoy going to his right as he never switches his dribble back cross body. Everyone expected him to come back with his dribble and fire off a floater in the paint.
By moving in to his right, Paul was able to pull Hayward in enough to get the ball past him and under the rim. He uses Hayward sort of as a screen from the oncoming defenders that are trailing Paul.
Conclusion: In each of these plays, the point guard is using space to lead their teammates into position. It’s up to them to see the play develop and have their teammates execute when given the opportunity.
Who do you think has better court vision? Vote in the poll below and let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Also, would like to hear back if you are interested in any future player/skill comparisons. Let me know in the comment section. Open to suggestions.
If you care to check out any of the previous volumes in the series. Here are the links to the previous chapters:
Versus Vol. I - Steph vs. Kyrie: Ball Handling
Versus Vol. II - Draymond vs. Kawhi: Shot Blocking
Versus Vol. III - Kerr vs. Popovich: Beyond the Court
Who has the better court vision between Steph Curry or Chris Paul?
This poll is closed
Too busy counting who has more rings.