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The truth about Stephen Curry’s overlooked defense

Steph Curry has always been known for being a great shooter, in fact, the greatest shooter in the history of basketball. When it comes to arguments, people have always brought up Curry’s “unreliable” defense, and while it may show in some occasions, Curry is far from being a terrible defender
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry

Steph Curry

A two-time MVP, once unanimous, Stephen Curry made the last few years his own, from winning titles to shattering records. Curry’s career has always been labeled as heavy on offense and light on defense, but many would agree with Warriors head coach Steve Kerr when he stated how Curry’s game had seen a huge difference.

“He’s built his body in a way that impacts how he can finish at the rim, get into the paint, and get through screens. And it’s also helped him on defense. — He’s an excellent defender. — This stigma has remained from early in his career that he’s a weak defender, and I would just ask anyone to watch him every night.” Kerr stated in an interview.

He’s right. The once skinny shooter from Davidson is now looking like the strongest version of himself in his career. This season was nothing short of a Steph Curry season as the Warriors won the title over the Boston Celtics as he was crowned Finals MVP. Steph finished the season tallying 25.5 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, and 1 steal on 44-38-92 shooting splits.

Overlooked Impact

In recent playoff history, Steph has proved to hold his own against other star players like James Harden, Chris Paul, and LeBron James. He was forcing Harden to make tough decisions in that 2018 Playoffs as he forced him on just around 42% field goal percentage.

His defensive impact was outstanding this season as at one point he had a 99.5 defensive rating earlier this year. In simpler terms, a lower Defensive Rating like 99.5 means a player allows a low amount of scoring over 100 team possessions.

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Of course, that would change as the season progressed. The former DPOY in Rudy Gobert would eventually be the leader in Defensive Rating, as Stephen Curry would be top 15 in that category with a 108 DRTG, still beating the likes of defensive guys like Mikal Bridges and Dejounte Murray. And as per Yahoo Sports and Basketball-Reference, Curry had the second highest defensive rating among guards, just behind Gary Payton II.

Looking back, Curry was actually the NBA steals leader in 2015, averaging 2.1 a game in what would be the 73-9 season for the Warriors. In the previous year (the championship season), he was holding opponents to 38% shooting, which is great for a “bad” defender.

In the 2022 playoffs, one could argue that at one point, it was only Bucks Guard Jrue Holiday that was the better defender than Steph as Curry held opponents to less than 38% (!!) shooting in most of the postseason games. He was also top 10 among leaders in Defensive Win Shares these playoffs.

“We’re getting really good efforts. — Steph’s been so good defensively this playoffs and during this season, which makes a big difference in our defensive structure.He’s older, wiser and really focuses defensively. I think he feels good about his overall strength, it allows him to do some things defensively as well as offensively.” Warriors assistant Ron Adams stated in an interview just after Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

Removing the Narrative

In recent years, Curry’s defensive skills have been seen as more of a liability by most people. He had posted several seasons with unlikeable averages of Defensive Rating for a starter, but this season may have just removed that narrative for his game as a whole.

After the Warriors’ victory in the 2022 NBA Finals, Curry made it clear that he is not what people think of him on defense anymore. He stated that he knows his limits and tries to be as “well-rounded as possible.”

The way I play (defense) is just doing my job and trying to not be considered the weakest link out there. — That’s all effort and IQ and understanding the game.” Curry said in an interview with Complex.

Of course, these ratings do not display Stephen Curry as an excellent defender and an All-Defensive team material. But to say he’s been one of the weakest defenders throughout his career is truly a myth rather than a fact. 

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