Steph Curry lit up the scoreboard and the national fans’ attention spans with dominant playoff performances, but he still has a to-do list to become even better next season.
Curry is arguably the best pure shooter in today’s NBA game, and he will work to improve on his shot selection and his ability to move off screens, since he is now one of the top 10 players in the Association.
With him propelling into stardom, teams will be focusing on limiting his movement and forcing him into close quarters. Curry will need to break through double-teams, use his brilliant ball-handling skills and use his vision to create opportunities for him and his teammates.
The first item on his to-do list is to get stronger and strengthen both of his ankles. As you can remember from the playoffs, he hurt his non-surgically repaired ankle, and it significantly limited his mobility in the San Antonio series.
The strength will help Curry play and grind out the extra minutes that he will be playing next season. The stronger each ankle gets from conditioning and hours in the weight room, the better off he will be going into the late season and the playoffs.
He can’t majorly bulk up, or he will lose some of his quickness, but if he can add strength to his frame, he can continue to drive to the center of the court and take on other teams’ bigs. He has perfected his floater as you can see in the video below.
Curry is very creative when he drives to the basket, but the major missing ingredient is that he doesn’t get the fouls and hasn’t generated enough trips to the line.
Finding His Way to the Foul Line
If he can start getting the fouls, and his rising ascension around the league will help, Curry is a deadly shooter at the charity stripe. He shot 90 percent from the line, but he only earned 291 free throws, ranking him 42nd in the league and 12th versus point guards with an average of 3.7 attempts per game.
When he became the “guy” in the playoffs, Curry only averaged 3.2 free throws per game. Yes, he converted at a 92.1 percent rate, but he could have used at least four or five more free trips. In the same number of games (12), Memphis Grizzlies’ point guard Mike Conley has averaged 6.8 attempts per game.
The strength will help show the league that Curry isn’t someone who is afraid of the contact and won’t always be in a position to pass the ball when contact is near. However, he is a very creative passer, as evidenced by his assist to Carl Landry below.
Curry dribbles around and draws the defenders up before he spots Landry near the baseline. He lofts a pass that only Landry can catch, and Landry converts on the play.
Increasing His Assists
Passing is a strength of his game, but he needs to continue to develop the skill before the start of next season. Curry needs to have a 360-degree awareness at all times, so that he can make transition passes, start the pick-and-roll with Andrew Bogut or David Lee and find the open man when he draws more than one defender.
The focus on passing will further enhance his shooting ability, because defenders will have to react to Curry, instead of focusing on just his shot or his dribble-drive penetration. Curry can’t fall into the habit of just relying on his shooting ability.
During the season, Curry averaged 6.9 APG, which ranked him 13th among point guards. In the playoffs, he stepped it up a notch as he dished out 8.1 dimes per game. If he can bring that type of consistency to next season, he is one step closer to becoming one of the league’s best players.
Limiting the Turnovers
Curry has outstanding ball-handling skills, but he can give up easy turnovers here and there. The ankle problems have increased the occasional turnover at times, but this is one area that he really needs to focus on this summer.
He finished the season ranked tied for 180th place in the NBA with former Warrior Monta Ellis by committing 3.1 turnovers per game. Yes, Curry has the ball in his hands more than most players, but he finished tied for 39th place out of 43 point guards.
He can’t force the ball when nobody is open. He needs to survey the floor and kick the ball back to a wing or Andrew Bogut, if he is hanging out near the top of the arc.
On this play, Curry has the ball batted away, which leads to an easy conversion by the San Antonio Spurs.
If he can increase his assists and lower his turnovers, Curry will help the Warriors win more close games and pad his star status.
Becoming More of a Defensive Presence
Coach Mark Jackson and assistant coach Mike Malone have reinvented the culture of the Warriors with an intense defensive focus. Curry is a good defender, but there is a lot of room for improvement.
Hopefully with a full offseason without any surgery, Curry can improve his lateral quickness. Against the Spurs, he didn’t have what it took since he was hobbled by his ankles.
Tony Parker dribbles around Curry, gets him off balance and forces him to reach with the foul. As you can see from the remainder of the highlights, Curry is running very slowly and he can’t use his legs to break through the screens.
When he returns next season, he will need to use his new strength and quickness to get between his man and the basket, while he breaks through and avoids players trying to shield him from the play.
He needs to be more effective off the ball where he can fill passing lanes to deflect passes and be in the right position for medium to long rebounds. He also needs to finish plays and not give up if the ball isn’t in his vicinity for a period of time.
Ideally, he should have a sit-down with Chris Mullin, who was known for wearing out his opponents on both sides of the floor.
Curry has a solid foundation in place, and if he can strengthen and condition his body during the summer, he will be an even better player next season. He can isolate and pay particular attention to his weaknesses, Curry could very well move into MVP consideration.
We saw during Game 1 versus the Spurs what Curry can provide.
If Curry can provide this type of consistent play all season, his teammates will benefit from an open floor, and the win total should continue to increase. He can also become a certified All-Star and build on the Warriors' championship dreams.