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“Lethal with the ball, lethal without the ball”- How Stephen Curry made it easier for Kevin Durant



Stephen Curry

At first glance, it might seem outrageous to say Stephen Curry had anything to do with Kevin Durant‘s game. However, a deep dive into advanced stats and impact metrics prove otherwise. Standard box scores don’t do any justice as to how dangerous Stephen Curry can be without the ball.

There is an overlooked world of artistry, skill, and activity without the basketball. Off-ball movement generates enormous scoring value. Less dominant ball handlers can use their hands to create additional space. Moreover, they can do this without having to constantly dribble a ball hence reducing turnovers.

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Stephen Curry demolishes defenses with his off-ball movement

Stephen Curry has taken off-ball movement to a great level. His perpetual motion without the ball drains defenders. He is not a traditional point guard in the sense he can’t average monster assist numbers like Magic Johnson, John Stockton, or Chris Paul but his playmaking skills are elite. Box-score doesn’t capture just how lethal he is without the ball.

It is physically draining for defenders to guard Curry because of just how much he moves without the ball. For a reminder of why teams chase him like this, it’s because even the slightest air space can lead to video game shots that are higher in efficiency than most players shooting unguarded.

In conversation with ESPN’s First take panel, Andre Iguodala was asked how he managed to play ‘better than Curry’ in finals. He didn’t hesitate to point out just how stupid that statement was.

“You think I’ll be able to score as many points without having open looks because Curry was on court?”

And not the just Curry, Klay Thompson‘s presence creates a large number of open shots for Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green. This shot creation is not at all reflected in the standard box-score which goes on to prove just how meaningless stats without context are.

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Curry’s undeniable gravity on court makes Durant efficient

In the past 4 years, Kevin Durant has been the biggest beneficiary of Curry’s gravity on the court. Steph rewrites defensive rules by making teams use box and 1 defense essentially leaving 2-3 players with open looks. Steve Kerr punishes teams for gluing to Stephen Curry at the 3pt line as it translates into open dunks and floaters for Kevin Durant.

At times there is an absurdity to Stephen Curry, a Jordan rules aberration that leads to all the eyes on him while completely forgetting about the sniper Kevin Durant of all people. Before Golden State Durant never found himself alone under the hoop with all eyes focused on other threats. Curry’s shooting discombobulated defenses, making Durant the beneficiary.

Golden State’s offense 2017-2019

Stephen Curry

Just to put things into perspective, Durant shoots 34.1% from downtown without curry on the court, however, his efficiency bumps up to 41.6% with Stephen Curry by his side. Naturally, KD scores more with Steps off the court but his efficiency takes a huge hit. Curry’s efficiency takes a dip too without Durant on the court but not as much.

Make no mistake Durant is arguably the best midrange shooter, but Curry bends defensive rules with his gravity. With KD on the bench Curry ups his scoring levels to a mind-boggling 32.5 only touched by James Harden and Kobe Bryant in the last 30 years but on a true shooting of 62.1%, higher than either one of them.

You will rarely ever see a player influence offense the way Stephen Curry does.