After a strong rookie season where Stephen Curry showed that he could play point guard at the pro level, he had even more success his second year with the Golden State Warriors. He went from scoring 17.5 points per game his first season to scoring 18.6 points per game his second year. He also saw his PER jump up from 16.2 to 19.4 and his True Shooting Percentage rose from 56.8 percent to 59.6 percent.
What He Did Well
Curry's outside shot was never a question, as he shot 43.7 percent from the three-point line his rookie season and even saw it increase to 44.2 percent last year. Where Curry struggled a bit his rookie season was finishing at the rim and getting himself to the free throw line. Curry was able to start getting himself all the way to the rim last year, and that led to better results. According to Hoopdata.com, Curry's percentage at the rim jumped up from 57.6 percent to 60.7 percent, while his free throw rate jumped up from 0.17 to 0.22. More advanced numbers indicate this as well, as his rookie season showed 40.5 percent of his makes at the rim were assisted. His second year? Just 23.8 percent.
To me, it seems that Curry developed a better understanding of how to finish at the rim from his rookie season to his second year. Looking at Curry's shots around the rim, you start to notice that he uses the basket almost as a way to keep defenders from blocking his shots with the reverse, a shot that he took more often this past season. When he didn't go to the reverse, Curry recognized the quickness of the help and flicked up runners instead of normal layups more likely to get blocked by athletic help defenders.
What Needs To Change
One of the things that Curry needs to improve upon is his ball security and ball distribution when running the point, especially in the pick-and-roll. Despite playing point guard most of the time, Curry's assist rate was well below average among point guards (Curry posted an assist rate of 31.18, league average is 39.0). Maybe most problematic are his turnovers. In pick-and-rolls, which Curry ran the most out of anything last year (28.7 percent of the time last year), Curry turned it over 20.2 percent of the time--the second highest turnover percentage among the 90 players with 100 pick-and-roll possessions.
Curry's biggest shortcoming in the pick-and-roll is the fact that he tends to take one or two dribbles too many when coming off of the screen. Perhaps he's looking for his own shot; remember, he was a shooting guard most of his college career, so looking for a shot was his job. Curry also doesn't have a great feel for the trap, meaning he is unable to see it coming and make the pass to the open man. Additionally, when he gets trapped, he usually picks up his dribble. Unlike Steve Nash, who might be the best in the NBA at keeping his dribble alive and slithering out of double-teams, Curry panics, picks up his dribble and looks to kick the ball out. By that time it is too late.
So can Curry take the next step? I think he can. Curry is a shooting guard developing into a point guard, and I think he has the skills to make that happen. He just needs to continue improving his feel for the defense and become more comfortable doing that. This is the one situation Mark Jackson might be suited for as the new coach of the Warriors.
Sebastian Pruiti is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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