The Unreleased Ron Adams Tapes #1: Stephen Curry's Defense

Ron Adams is the legendary assistant coach whom Steve Kerr brought with him when he began with the Warriors. I’ve always enjoyed his scholarly and thoughtful discussions of basketball. I have a few exclusive chats with him which never made it out to the world, until now.

The Story So Far

The series of exclusive, unreleased Ron Adams chats so far:

The Setting

This chat came just hours after Game 7 of the 2018 Western Conference Finals against the Houston Rockets, one of the best playoff series of all time, and before Game 1 of the NBA Finals against LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

In Game 1 of the WCF, the Rockets had an extreme game plan of trying every single play to isolate James Harden against Stephen Curry, who was recovering from injury.

The Warriors in fact won Game 1 and Houston went away from this strategy, but this triggered a huge debate over Stephen Curry’s defense.

This debate was made harder by the fact that defensive statistics are inaccurate and don’t capture game plan.

Twitter avatar for @EricApricotEric Apricot @EricApricot
The isolation stats have been a clusterf. looked way off, who knows where ESPN got theirs. I more trust humans charting off film, but even then how are they counting dump offs etc. I was gonna make a super cut, but I figured I’d wait until after G2.

sam esfandiari @samesfandiari

More accurate than @nbastats tracking data

During the series, Duby and I took a deep dive into Steph’s defense with a careful review of the video:

First, when the game was still in doubt, Curry was excellent. His final numbers being “fine” are the result of his play later on in the game dragging his metrics down. Maybe this is cherry-picking, but I prefer to think of it as selective analysis. 

Secondly, there are some hilarious unintended consequences of Nick Young being on the floor. One of those is that tidbit about the Rockets not attacking Steph as much. In exposing a weaker defender, the Warriors may be inadvertently protecting Curry. Sun Tzu would be proud.

Naturally, I wanted to hear the assessment of Steph’s perfectionist defensive coach, Ron Adams.

Steph’s Underappreciated Defense

Eric Apricot: Speaking of Stephen Curry's defense, he got isolated a lot last series [vs HOU]. People have been criticizing his defense. Do you think there are aspects of his defense that people don't appreciate?

Ron Adams: After the flurry of, should I say, criticism after the first game of the Houston series, I thought Steph played really good defense! There are people on the other team that...

(Adams shrugs cryptically, implying a Houston Rocket did not play good D… I wonder if that player’s name rhymes with “pardon”).

But when you look at the numbers, you can get any stat on anything. How many times I directly was scored on, for example. His numbers were not that bad!

And I think people tend to forget... in the Houston series, who was our second leading rebounder for the series?

Eric Apricot: Was it Steph?

Ron Adams: STEPH! Third overall in the playoffs.

So he's doing a lot out there. He's one rebound away from a triple double with 9 rebounds in that championship game we had. So there are a lot of things he is doing.

As coach, my area of concern is not his one-on-one defense. That's more of a fan thing, that's more of a fantasy league thing. I'm more concerned with some other things that we want him to do within our scheme.

So it's not, I think that was overblown, you could analyze the game statistically and circle some other guy, you know…

(Ron Adams chuckles cryptically, see above possible reference to a player rhyming with “garden”)

But he's tougher than a lot of people think, and when he's focused, which in the playoffs he generally almost always is, his defense is more than acceptable.

Steph’s Near Triple-Double

Here is a video about Steph’s near triple-double that Ron Adams mentioned above. It pushed GSW past HOU in the thrilling 2018 WCF Game 7.

For Your Discussion

Well, you are all welcome to discuss whatever you want. But here’s a topic. GSW’s current players who can play the 5 are:

  • Draymond Green

  • Marquese Chriss

  • Omari Spellman

  • Alen Smailagić

  • Kevon Looney

Is that enough for GSW in 2020-21, or should they be drafting/signing a starting big?

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