Why Stephen Curry's Turnovers Shouldn't Be Surprising

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Why Stephen Curry's Turnovers Shouldn't Be Surprising
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Stephen Curry has earned the title "star," but whether he has earned the right to be called a "superstar" is up for debate.  

The only real argument against him is his turnovers, and within the Golden State Warriors' fast-paced offense that relies heavily on Curry's decision making while the ball is in his hands, Curry's turnovers aren't all that surprising.

The Davidson product is averaging 4.3 turnovers per game.  At first glance, your first thought is "Yikes."

Then think about how fast and flashy the Warriors play and how often the ball is in Curry's hands.  Not to mention how often the ball is in Curry's hands not just to make a meaningless pass, but to make a play, to make something happen.  

That's not to say these factors are excuses for Curry's excessive turnovers.  Both he and his coach know it's unacceptable.  

As reported by Monte Poole of CSNBayArea.com, earlier this season Curry had this to say about his turnovers: "I've got to play smarter. Sometimes, getting a shot up is better than trying to thread a needle when it's not necessary."

And head coach Mark Jackson added, ''That's unacceptable to me as his coach. But more importantly, he knows it. So there is no sense in me beating him upside the head," according to Poole (linked above.)

The factors that play into Curry's turnovers are not excuses because as Curry said himself he has to be smarter, but taking a closer look at the Warriors style of play and Curry's responsibilities offensively can help explain his 4.3 turnovers per game.

And hopefully ease some of Dub Nation's worries about their star and their team.

 

Fast Pace and Possessions

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Yes, 4.3 turnovers per game is still too many, especially for a point guard who is flirting with superstardom.  But the Warriors play fast.  They are fourth in the league in pace, using 99.1 possessions per game.  Just statistically, that means more possessions in which Curry can potentially turn the ball over. 

And it's not as if during those possessions Curry rarely touches the ball.  In fact, the 6'3", 185-pound point guard averages 85.5 touches per game, just behind the Philadelphia 76ers' Michael Carter-Williams, who averages 86.5 touches.

And within those touches, Curry has a lot expected of him. Curry doesn't have just one job offensively. Unlike fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson who leads the NBA in catch and shoot points per game with 9.2 and is second in the league in points per touch with 0.46, Curry who is also a great shooter is expected to make plays.

Thompson is great at what he does and is an amazing shooter, but that's basically his one job offensively.  Catch the passes and shoot.  And he's great at it.

Curry on the other hand is expected to not only put the ball in the basket, but to create for himself and others.

Curry's time of possession in minutes per game is at 7.1, tied with the Memphis Grizzlies' Mike Conley and right behind the Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul with 7.4.

To put that stat into perspective, compare Curry's time of possession with Kevin Love, who averages more touches than Curry with 89.1, but only has the ball in his hands for a total of 2.4 minutes per game.  

This means that unlike Curry, Love has the ball in his hands pretty much just to score, although Love is averaging a career high 4.2 assists per game.  But for the most part, he has one goal, one responsibility when the ball is in his hands on offense, which is get buckets.

Curry is also averaging a career high in assists per game at 9.5. 

But, as I said before, the ball isn't in Kevin Love's hands for his ability to create plays for others, although he can.  So let's compare Curry to someone who is juggling multiple offensive responsibilities, LeBron James.  

Like Curry, LeBron is asked to score, pass and ultimately make plays for himself and his talented teammates.  LeBron is averaging less touches with 73.1 and less time of possession with 4.3 minutes per game.  However, in those 4.3 minutes of possession, almost a full three minutes of possession less than Curry, LeBron is averaging 3.4 turnovers per game.

And the Miami Heat actually play at a slower pace than the Warriors, averaging 95.5 possessions per game.

Granted, 3.4 turnovers is still not as bad as 4.3 turnovers, but with the ball in his hands less often, even LeBron—who is one of the most skilled passers in the game and has incredible court vision and court sense—makes some bonehead errors and turns the ball over.

 

Warriors Flashy Play

Golden State is a flashy team.  They feed off of three-pointers and fast breaks, many of which come off of showy behind-the-back passes or off-the-backboard alley-oops like Curry's pass to Andrew Bogut in the video below.  

These type of passes are pretty high risk for a turnover.  

This is what makes the Warriors one of the most entertaining teams in the NBA.  It's what makes Oracle Arena one of the toughest places to play and one of the most electric atmospheres in the NBA when Curry and the Warriors are on a roll.

But, it also is one of the reasons they are leading the league in turnovers with 15.6 a game.

As I said before, these are high risk passes.  What makes these plays so great is the same thing that sometimes turns them into TOs.  

For example, let's look at Stephen Curry's behind-the-back pass to David Lee against the Washington Wizards a few nights ago.

I mean, that's awesome.

But let's think about the things that could have gone really wrong in this play.  For one, Curry is making a behind-the-back pass in the paint in traffic, meaning he could have easily gotten the ball deflected and stolen, resulting in a turnover.

David Lee could have not been expecting the crafty pass, although Lee seems to find himself on the receiving end of his teammates' behind-the-back passes quite often.  The ball could have slipped through his hands and into a Wizard defender's hands or out of bounds, resulting in a turnover.

Curry could have miscalculated and passed the ball into the hands of a Wizard defender, resulting in a turnover.  

There's a lot of things that could have gone wrong, but nothing did.  Instead, it was just awesome, resulting in "ooh's and aah's" from the Washington crowd.

But that's part of the Golden State Warriors' culture.  They wear sleeved jerseys, they love social media, they pass up layups to take threes in transition and hey, they take chances with their behind-the-back passes.

And the fans love it.

Will Curry's turnovers affect the Warriors' chances at a title?

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All this said, Stephen Curry is one of the best players in the NBA, and averaging 4.3 turnovers per game is unacceptable.  Chris Paul, who before his injury was playing like the best point guard in the NBA, averages more time per possession than Curry and is only averaging 2.4 turnovers per game. 

But, if and when Stephen Curry gets his turnovers under control, he will be one scarily good player, and the Warriors will be a scarily good team.  

Less turnovers for Curry means more assists and more points.  And he's already averaging 22.8 points and 9.5 assists.

And if you hadn't heard, the Warriors have won 10 straight, during which time Curry's turnovers have increased.

Curry's turnovers could very well be the title-contending Warriors' kryptonite down the line in the competitive Western Conference playoffs, but with turnovers under control and everyone healthy, Curry will not only be a definitive superstar, but the Warriors may just be in the NBA Finals in 2014.

 

 

 

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