Curry's slump and a Warriors team finding balance
Worried or not, Curry's slump is the talk of the town
I thought Daniel Hardee did a great job summarizing all the woe in his article’s introduction, and there’s no sugar coating the fact that Curry is shooting career lows both from the field as well as from deep (excluding the injury shortened season). So what the heck is going on with the greatest shooter of all time?
The easiest answer is that this all temporary. If you’re satisfied with that, and/or don’t want to see a bunch of parsed shooting numbers, skip on down to the next section.
A deep dive into Curry’s shooting slump
Shooting a basketball from at least 22 feet away is hard, and the elite accuracy that Curry has somehow made into his norm is a razor’s edge that even the best of the best can only find a wobbly balance upon. Over the course of his career, Curry has shot better after the All Star break - an 11 point improvement on his True Shooting percentage (TS%). Over his career, Curry averages 41.8% from deep prior to the All Star break, and a hefty 44.9% post-break. So patience is deserved.
But small comfort aside, that doesn’t really do much for the current situation. Curry is 207 of 550 from three-point range (37.6%) right now. Context matters, so I want to be sure to point out that according to Cleaning the Glass, Curry’s 118.7 points per 100 attempts is still an elite efficiency — in the 93rd percentile for players at his position.
Also, I looked, there’s no magic spot where Curry’s shooting falls off a cliff. Normally, I wouldn’t present such a messy summary, but I think the full picture does a fantastic job of showing how much noise there is in the shooting data on a game-to-game basis.
The wavy grey line on top is the percentage for each game (game numbers are along the bottom axis). On the left axis are numbers for attempts (orange bars) and makes.
The reason I wouldn’t normally present the graphic above is that it’s just too noisy. We are looking for patterns. Outliers. And in order to do that, the single game statistics just aren’t very helpful… well, not for much other than showing how super noisy Curry’s shooting is.
Instead, let’s parse the data as rolling averages and cumulative shots. Same general color combinations and layout here, but now each game shows the cumulative totals — this should make it a little easier to identify any trends.
One interesting note is that Curry shot 40.8% in the 15 games before he missed any games (85 of 203). After missing that first game against the Detroit Pistons in mid-November, it’s 34.7% from deep (122 of 347).
Another interesting cut of the data is that after the Phoenix Suns game on Christmas day (when Green started going in and out of the lineup) Curry’s only hitting around 30% of his threes. We are getting into some real small sample sizes at that point, but even so, it’s been a tough January for Curry’s three ball. Tough enough to help make it a tough season.
Roster shuffles and scuffles
Of course, it’s a known fact that Curry is better off playing alongside Green and Thompson. A return that’s slowly unfolding but stalled out like a flower that takes a while to bloom. So if you’re playing “what if” then it makes a lot of sense to wonder if the slump would be as bad if Thompson and Green were around right now.
Stan Van Gundy @realStanVGAdmittedly small sample size but over the last 2 seasons Steph Curry has played 91 games with Draymond Green — 30.5 points, 21.4 FGA, 12.9 3A, .465 FG%, .414 3%. He’s played 14 games without Green — 24.8 points, 19 FGA, 11.6 3A, .406 FG%, .344 3%.
Is it something physical? Curry quipped that his hands are “still attached” when asked if there was anything physical bothering him. And sure, who gives a damn about excuses, but I’m personally interested in explanations.
Anthony Slater of The Athletic knows the team about as well as anyone not in uniform, so listen carefully to him discussing the question and answer exchange with Curry.
Slater is talking about the recent stretch of games, where Curry has banged his hand a couple of different times. Slater then relates a story about pregame warmups where Curry is missing frequently (and you can hear the incredulous tone in Slater’s voice), gets his hand looked at, and then brings over Leandro Barbosa to work on more stuff. The clip concludes with Slater saying that "I think it's clear... I just don't think, mechanically, he's happy where his shot is."
And on that same, here’s a scene from post practice yesterday. It’s tough to tell how much of this is a realistic representation or carefully curated supercuts, but one way or another, it’s clear that Curry is working his way through something.
The Warriors have 12 games left before the All Star break. A natural reset point, and one that has historically been kind to Curry. For now though, there’s no easy answer besides patience; and faith that the world’s best will soon rediscover his old secrets.
Remember, we are slicing real small cuts out of Curry’s game over the past few months. Unless you believe Curry’s age decline has slammed him to the earth, just try and remember this same man was hitting 42% from deep through the middle of December.