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The New Way Stephen Curry Defends LeBron James

The Warriors’ latest scheme to counter Cleveland’s use of LeBron James to attack Stephen Curry’s D.

Golden State Warriors v Cleveland Cavaliers
Curry’s injured elbow is the size of a basketball
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

This is a continuation of an interesting conversation from an old comment thread, which started when I wrote about LeBron James attacking Stephen Curry with the pick and roll:

This is definitely the $64,000 question

And I think a lot of the W’s scheming this year has been about how to un-switch Curry from LeBron. To me, it’s not so much that LBJ will dominate Curry — I think if forced to guard him, Curry does not get annihilated — but more that it gets Curry into foul trouble and he’s still the head of the snake that takes the team from very good to historically great.

A lot of the conversation that followed was about what degree of annihilation would ensue.

Anyway, I’ve been wanting to write about the new Warriors defense for exactly this play, and I finally did it after reading Zach Lowe’s love song to the LeBron James - Kyrie Irving pick and roll:

Cleveland has sharpened this play for two years with an eye on Curry. "Kyrie's getting really good," James says. "And we're going to get better at it as he grows, and I continue to do what I do."

There aren’t many good solutions to this play. If you go under the screen, LeBron can hit a three. If you go over, LeBron is fast enough to get to the rim. If you ICE it, LeBron can hit a short jumper or drive by in space. If you double team, LeBron can often find the open man. If you switch, now LeBron gets to work against a smaller defender like Curry.

Anyway, I wrote out a full analysis of how the Warriors now have Curry guarding James when attacked in the pick and roll. It was on the wonky side, so I gave it to BBallBreakdown, and you can read the rest there:

“The New Way Stephen Curry Defends LeBron James”

You should read it, it has lots of videos! But the very very short summary is that the Warriors now use what I’d call a hyperactive high tag.

This is a clever defensive idea. I’ve never seen the Warriors play this scheme except exactly when Curry is attacked in the pick and roll by LeBron. Honestly, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this scheme played by anyone.

And if you get confused by the terminology, use the handy glossary at the end.

PS. For those asking: no, I’m not leaving GSOM. I still plan on doing more Explain One Plays in the future...

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