The latest reports have Stephen Curry coming back from injury sometime in the 2nd round series vs the Portland Trailblazers. The Blazers will be looking to steal early wins in the series whilst Curry sits, but how are they going to do it? And what adjustments are the Warriors making without Curry?
Firstly, we don’t have a whole lot of data to work with here initially. The Warriors have so far played 4 games without Curry this season which isn’t a lot, but digging through the data there are definite offensive adjustments the Warriors are making and defensive schemes that can be applied to counter it.
I am discounting any data from this season where Stephen Curry played but was on the bench as typically bench units are on the floor at this point.
Let’s first take a look at one of the biggest offensive adjustments the Warriors are making without Curry when the Warriors win………being even more unselfish.
Below compares Warriors season averages vs Games they won without Curry vs Games they lost without Curry.
What does the above tell us?
In wins without Curry, the Warriors are looking to move the ball even more than usual and therefore create easier scoring and assist opportunities. The Warriors are already one of the most unselfish teams in the league with Curry, but without him they are looking to take this to another level and keep their scoring efficiency high with easy shots through ball movement.
Passing is up +17.9%
Adjusted Assists* are up +14.1%
Potential Assists* are up +14.2%
Points from Assists are up +8.1%
What about the loss against Dallas without Curry?
Assists are down -30.8%
Potential Assists are down -19.02%
Points from Assists are down -32.86%
“Yeah but the Warriors just shot poorly against the Mavericks and its only 1 game”
Yes the Warriors didn’t shoot well, but as I look further into the numbers below there are reasons the Warriors shot poorly, with the Mavericks making some key defensive adjustments to make it happen.
Also, take note above of the "Potential Assists" stat from the Mavericks game. Sure an easy argument is that the Warriors shot poorly, but they were 19.02% down in potential assists, meaning the Warriors had 19.02% less opportunities than normal to make a shot from an assist against Dallas.
Let’s drill into these games without Curry a little deeper and look at what the Warriors players did from a ball movement/assist perspective:
It’s pretty clear in wins that Livingston is getting the majority of Curry’s minutes and is effectively using them to generate offense for the Warriors through his passing skills.
Draymond Green is already averaging 7.4 assists a game this season and is a point-forward for the team, he takes it to another level with Curry out. Draymond’s assist and passing numbers are up close to 50% across the board.
Against the Mavs in that loss?
There is a lot of “red” in that picture above for Draymond Green. Down across the board.
The Mavs took Draymond from being chief play maker to taking mid-range and 3pt jump shots.
As the Mavs vs Warriors shot chart for Draymond shows below, Draymond was 2/8 from outside the key and 57% of all his shots were either mid-range or 3pt shots.
He was 4/15 from the field for the night.
Draymond Green's shot chart vs Dallas (Empty circles are a miss) :
The defensive strategy for the Mavs was to encourage Draymond to go 1 on 1 and shoot the ball, taking him and the Warriors away from their ball movement strategy and strength when Curry is out.
It’s an identical strategy that teams have been using against Lebron James and was first seen in the Miami v Spurs finals series a few years back. Encourage Lebron/Draymond to shoot long range 2’s and 3’s and not look to create for their teammates.
What has happened in the 11 games this season when Draymond took 15 or more shots like in the Dallas loss?
His FG% is down from 49% to 44.6%
The Warriors winning margin is down from a league leading 10.8 point per game to a much closer 5.6 points per game.
So how did the Mavs encourage Draymond to shoot long range jump shots?
Draymond has the ball in his hands at the top of the key a lot, the Mavs gave him all the room in the world....
Go under on screens, encourage Draymond to take the jump shot......
If Draymond is on the weak side perimeter, stay in help defense. The Mavs will live with Draymond beating them from 3…
If Klay Thompson has the ball nearby, dig down on Klay and leave Draymond on the perimeter. Encourage Klay to pass it back to Draymond…
If Draymond is setting a high on-ball screen with Klay, double off of Draymond and again encourage a pass back to Draymond for a shot....
The Mavericks defense wasn’t perfect, some of the Draymond’s shots were a little too wide open when helping off of him. Teams applying this strategy would want to have better defensive rotations and at least get a hand out to Draymond but the strategy itself seemed to work well.
Draymond is going to make some shots, he shoots a healthy 38.8% from 3 but he’s not a volume shooter as the numbers show in the 11 games where he took 15 or more shots.
A few shots going down early for Draymond isn’t exactly a bad thing for the defense either, it will give him confidence to keep shooting the ball which teams can live with.
As mentioned earlier, the Mavs used a “Spurs vs Lebron” like strategy of encouraging mid-range jump shots, a key stat here is Draymond is only shooting 29.20% from mid-range (16-24ft) this season.
That is the shot you want Draymond taking as much as he likes.
The Blazers should be looking at the Mavs defensive strategy in round 2 with Curry out, turn the Warriors and specifically Draymond Green from play maker to isolation shot taker.
.....and don’t worry if Draymond makes some shots early in the game, it might be a good thing.
*Adjusted Assists - Sum of a players assists, free throw assists and secondary assists
*Free throw Assists - Passed to a player who was fouled and missed the shot they took but made at least 1 free throw
*Secondary Assists - Pass to the player who earns the assist.
*Potential Assist - If the player made the shot an assist would have been awarded