Golden State Warriors guard, Stephen Curry, has been donned the “Baby-Faced Assassin,” due to the discrepancy between his killer on-court mentality and his boyish looks, but there’s nothing babyish about the two-time NBA champion’s game.
Curry’s sweet-shooting stroke and slick handles garner his game the most attention, but it would be remiss to ignore the fair amount of toughness Curry possesses for someone of his stringy stature.
First and foremost, Curry is an excellent rebounder at the guard position and has been since his first MVP-christened season.
Since 2014-15, only five guards have grabbed at least 1100 rebounds, and Curry happens to be one of them. Joining him in this (guard) board brigade are Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo.
You may slam Curry for being last among this group, but he is in excellent company for him to mingle with. All of these guards (with maybe the exception of Rondo) are physically and athletically superior to Curry, yet his glass-work is on par with theirs.
In that same time-span, there have been 13 guards to corral 180 offensive rebounds, and Curry makes a cameo on this list as well. If there’s one thing about Curry, it’s that he isn’t afraid to mix it up with bigger opponents and battle interior behemoths for a board. I remember a possession in the 2016 postseason where he kept then Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard at bay to retrieve a rebound and get fouled on the follow-up layup attempt. Not many guards are capable of that.
This is not a rarity either. Curry was top-11 last season among guards for contested rebounds per game, and his ability to maneuver among the trees and grab boards at his rate is another luxury for the Warriors.
Curry’s rebounding is admirable, but where he really shows his stoutness is with his work as a screener. In my opinion, this is his most underrated offensive attribute, and it’s vital to the Warriors’ high-octane, historic and hellacious offense.
We all know Curry is one of, if not the biggest catalysts for the Dubs’ offense, one that leans on space, fluid ball-movement and good screening as its principles. However, it’s Curry’s off-ball work that makes so much possible for not only his teammates but for himself.
Golden State includes Curry in various actions to produce layups for Curry’s teammates. For example, Curry will set a screen for someone such as Nick Young, and then JaVale McGee re-screens for Curry. A defender may take a bad angle, is late to contest and next thing you know Young scores two easy points.
We’ve seen how Curry opens the runway for Kevin Durant to lift off for thunderous dunks time and time again. There may be a play where Durant pitches it to Zaza Pachulia, then comes off a screen from Curry. Defenses are so terrified of Curry’s talents as a shooter that their attention from Durant wanes (crazy to say), and then next thing you know KD is putting the finishing touches on an easy score.
But a Curry screen isn’t always a gift for others to score. Curry utilizes screens to create opportunities for himself, and launch a laser-quick three-point shot from wherever on the floor, like the most tactical sniper you could ever imagine.
In a regular season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers last year the Warriors exploited the defensively challenged Kyrie Irving by using Klay Thompson in an off-ball action with Curry. Curry set a baseline screen for Thompson, who flared out to what became the weak-side of the floor because Curry shook loose from Irving and swished a three off an assist from Draymond Green.
Curry ranked in at No.1 in screen assists per game amongst guards that played at least 30 minutes a night, and his per game average was well ahead of contemporaries like Irving and Kyle Lowry (0.8 per game) and Harden (0.5 per game).
Curry’s total of 109 screen assists led all guards with that same minute’s qualification, and he tallied 19 more than No. 2, Antetokounmpo.
Curry isn’t thought to be the most rugged player, and some could point out that he grappled with durability earlier in his career leads him to be thought of as “weak.” It’s foolish to subscribe to the idea that Curry is “soft,” because, in actuality, he’s willing to sacrifice his body to the benefit of his team. He doesn’t cower away from conflict, and he plays with a fire that some of the greatest have possessed.
Yes, Curry is the “Baby-Faced Assassin,” but he knows when it’s time to man-up. And it’s something he has done quite often, even if his haters want to denounce it.
B.J. is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at WB806695@wcupa.edu.