Regional SI Cover Features Sharp Shooting Stephen Curry of the Golden State WarriorsPosted: May 7, 2013
This week’s SI features a look by senior writer Chris Ballard at the top complementary shooters in this year’s playoffs who give elite scorers room to operate and one star—Stephen Curry—who doesn’t need anyone’s help to find room to get off a shot. The regional cover is Curry’s first appearance on an SI cover.
During the Warriors six-game first-round victory over the Nuggets, Ballard says that Curry “appeared to be engaged in one very long, extremely thorough heat check.” (Page 52)
Ballard writes that Curry is a different breed who not only creates his own space, “but he also thrives in the absence of it.” Along with some nudging from his sharp shooting father Dell and coach Mark Jackson, Curry has adapted to defenders playing him tight by shooting more quickly and from more difficult angels. This has led to Curry scoring 59.1% of his buckets unassisted this season. For comparison’s sake, Kevin Durant, another space creating shooter, was assisted on over half of his shots.
“It’s ridiculous the types of shots he makes in games,” says Jarret Jack, the Warriors’ sixth man. “And each he hits one, it only helps the rest of us.” (Page 53)
Ballard also profiles the floor spacers who open up the lane for their team’s primary scorers and simply wait for their moment to come. Ballard says “The NBA has been a shooter’s league for a while now, but never as much as it is today: a record 39.9 threes were launched per game this season.” (PAGE 50)
Think Mike Miller for the Miami Heat in last year’s clinching game 5 of the NBA finals. Says Ballard, “His job: Stretch the Thunder’s defense so it couldn’t collapse on James and Wade as they attacked the basket.” Miller and other floor spacers force the defense to make a decision: leave a star like James or Wade or hope the shooter cools off and misses open shots. Miller made 7 of 8 threes, and the heat won the championship.
Ballard notes other floor spacers in the playoffs, such as New York forward Steve Novak, San Antonio guard Danny Green and Hawks forward Kyle Korver. Teams are now featuring lineups with multiple wing shooters in at a time. After losing Russell Westbrook to injury, the Thunder have even stationed four shooters—Kevin Martin, Derek Fisher, Thoba Sefolosha and Reggie Jackson—in the same lineup with Durant.
Yet, nobody uses shooters as much as the Heath according to Ballard. This season, the Heat have even more floor spacers to join Miller in Ray Allen (a career 40.1% three-point shooter), Rashard Lewis (38.8%), Shane Battier (38.7%) and James Jones (39.9%). Heat coach Eric Spolestra runs a primary offense in which the entire team sets up on the perimeter to creating space for James and Wade to drive. However, due to the Heat’s depth, Miller, Jones and Lewis have barely played yet in the playoffs.
“They haven’t had to use Miller and Joes and Lewis yet,” says an NBA scout. “But I guarantee you, through 16 wins those guys will come in and make a difference. Even if it’s one for one series, or one game. That’s why they’re there.” (PAGE 53)