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Steph Curry’s Off-Ball Mastery Helps Make Him The NBA’s Best Player

That title is a taboo in itself. Those who dare to defame the almighty king James and question his throne atop the NBA face the wrath of angry Twitter mobs. Despite being the unanimous, back to back MVP, Stephen Curry doesn’t get enough credit. He’s the greatest shooter of all time and most will concede this fact.

And as this tweet, which sparked the idea for this piece, says, Steph Curry does so much more than shooting, making him one of the best offensive players of all time.

DeMarcus Cousins’ return to the NBA has everyone talking about the Warriors. They’re the first team since the 1970’s Celtics to trot onto the court with five All-Stars. With so many other high profile names on the roster, Steph Curry fades out of the spotlight. He isn’t scoring 50 points a night like James Harden or dunking from the half court line like Giannis. But unlike every other superstar in the NBA, Stephen Curry doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be the best player on the floor.

We all know how lethal Curry can be as a primary initiator: his 2016 season was arguably the most impressive initiator season of all time. At all times, Curry has the ball on a string and is a threat a put the ball in the bucket from anywhere inside half court. In 2019, we don’t see nuclear Steph too often anymore. He will still hit his 30+ foot threes and snap defenders’ ankles but he works in an ancillary role more often than not.

In fact, Curry ranks sixth in the NBA in usage (31.4) but is one of three players in the top 20 in usage who has scored more assisted baskets than unassisted. The other two are Joel Embiid and Anthony Davis, both big men. Steph Curry is the best off-ball player of all time for many reasons and his willingness to work in an offensive system, despite being arguably the most talented offensive player ever, is chief among them.

NBA fans often minimize the impact Steve Kerr has on the Warriors, given his myriad of All-NBA talent. However, he’s implemented a free-flowing, pass-centric offense in order to make his players’ shots as easy as possible. The staple of Golden State’s half-court offense is the low post-split. After the ball is entered to the post, two players “split” above the arc. There are many variations of this action, depending on the personnel, but here, Looney screens Curry open for three:

Unlike a Harden or LeBron, Curry’s willingness to play as a screener opens up the offense. His gravity makes his screens Shaq-level impactful despite his lack of physical strength. Running in transition, Curry sets a quick pin-down screen, freeing up the Klay Thompson triple:

Curry backscreens for Durant, who acts as a natural screen on Elfrid Payton. Curry doesn’t even need the Looney curl screen to get wide open:

Kerr’s motion offense accentuates Curry’s off-ball goodness but Steph doesn’t need set plays to get open. He is shifty like a running back; his understanding of timing, angles, and spacing and his constant motion make Curry a nightmare to track off of the ball. The most consistent way to generate open threes in the NBA is to relocate immediately to the three-point line after a drive and kick. Few players do this often and Curry does it many times per game, netting countless open threes. Watch Denver’s defense forget about Curry for a split second as he sprints to the wide open corner:

Again, the Mavericks don’t have time to deliberate this switch after the kick because Curry will be wide open before the defense knew what happened:

Looking like an all-time great receiver who used to dominate in the bay, Curry shakes Wendell Carter out of his socks, returning to the line after a fake backdoor cut:

Steph Curry is a master at reading screens and taking advantage of defensive positioning to get open. Fearing the Curry three, Jrue Holiday puts himself in t0p-lock position, cutting off Curry’s path over the screen. So Curry and Green make an adjustment in real time: Green shifts his screen angle towards the sideline and Curry wraps under the screen to find the open space:

Avery Bradley intense trepidation for Curry’s shooting is on display here, as he top-locks Curry 15 feet from the basket, preparing for the low-post split. Curry simply cuts towards the rim for the wide-open layup.

Curry’s shooting gravity is on Jupiter levels and the Warriors routinely get open shots because of this. Not wanting to give Curry any space, Anthony Davis and Elfrid Payton both drift to Curry in transition, leaving the streaking Kevon Looney wide open:

Stephen Curry is the complete offensive superweapon. He’s the most dangerous shooter of all time, combining boundless pull-up shooting and movement prowess. Curry is an elite passer with a fantastic feel for the game and underrated finishing ability with touch. His defense is staunch for a small guard and his instincts, toughness, and effort make him a legitimately good positional defender.

Steph Curry gets more hate than he deserves. Because of the NBA community’s disdain for Golden State’s superteam and the lack of parity it has created, Curry’s greatness has been lost in the sea of thoughtless criticisms. Talents like Curry don’t come around often and there isn’t going to be another Curry for a long time.

One day, when the Warriors’ dynasty is long dead, people will lament the fact that they took their greatness for granted. So sit back, relax, and take some time to enjoy the greatest show on hardwood, and it’s ringleader, the best player in the NBA, Wardell Stephen Curry.