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Stephen Curry’s defensive highlight reel is in full effect

The scoring machine’s status as a 2-way player has never been higher

Golden State Warriors v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

How about Stephen Curry’s evolution on defense? He went from being declared weak on that end to getting begrudging notoriety as a quality team defender.

The statistics simply don’t marry up to Curry’s reputation as a weak, exploitable defender.

No one’s suggesting he’s an excellent one capable of being a primary on-ball or wing defender, but the notion that he should be attacked relentlessly is irrational, unless it’s primarily a way to reduce his energy levels for the offensive end.

His reputation is put forward purely by his lack of size, along with the Warriors historically great defenders (Thompson, Iguodala, Green) that have often made Curry an obvious outlier.

But he also got some flak for not taking on the toughest opposing offensive threats, as Klay Thompson or Andre Iguodala often locked onto dangerous guards so Curry could rest his legs and not be put into foul trouble.

In 2015, Ethan Sherwood Strauss got a very interesting quote about Curry’s much maligned defense from his coach:

To Steve Kerr, it was a no-brainer.

The Golden State Warriors’ incoming coach knew it helped a team’s morale to see the best player doing the dirty work of playing defense. He had an offensive wonder determined to become the best player in the game. And he had a defensive guru — assistant coach Ron Adams — in his ear.

“He was a really melded player already,” Adams said of Stephen Curry. “But there was always a caveat. As in, he didn’t have to defend his position. I think if you want to be the best, and he wants to be the best, you have to do both things.”

So two weeks after his hire, Kerr spoke to Curry over lunch in the Bay Area and explained that the team’s practice of hiding their top scorer on defense was over.

Curry would have to D up.

This was put to the test in the 2016 NBA Finals when the Cleveland Cavaliers mercilessly attacked him as he battled multiple injuries and a red-hot combo of Kyrie Irving and LeBron James.

The Cavaliers targeted Stephen Curry all game long, a strategy that paid off greatly. Curry’s tendency to gamble and look for bailout calls had been a problem all series but his limitations as a defender were on full display in Game 6. It was one of the biggest reasons why the Warriors lost.

Curry’s defense has been questioned many times, but he’s typically not a liability. He’s come a long way since his first years in the league to the point where he can hold his own on that end most of the time. He has fast hands and he competes, which goes a long way towards being a solid on-ball defender. The problem comes when he’s forced to make quick decisions in plays involving others and when he tries to take shortcuts. The Cavaliers knew that and took advantage of him time and time again.

Flash forward to the present day where now he’s strong enough defender to get an entire HIGHLIGHT REEL ON YOUTUBE. OFFSEASON CONTENT CONTINUES!

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