Curry, The NBA's Top Three-Point Shooter, Finds His Place In Flow
Trail Blazers guard Seth Curry readily admits that, as a newcomer on a team returning 10 players from the previous season, he struggled initially with figuring out how he would go about getting good shot attempts. A career 45 percent three-point shooter, the 6-2 guard out of Duke never doubted that he could make shots, it was more an issue of figuring out how to fit in on a team already replete with shot-takers.
Add in the fact that he sat out the entire 2017-18 season with a hip injury, and it’s understandable that Curry entered his first season in Portland a little unsure of how things would shake out in the early going.
“Especially coming into this team that has pretty much the same team coming back from last year, I didn’t really know where I could find my shots,” said Curry. “Early on in the season that was pretty obvious, I kinda wasn’t in the mix of the game.”
Even if he wasn’t “in the mix,” his output was rather consistent, at least in his three-point shooting, for the first few weeks of the season. He shot 1-of-2 from three in six of his first seven games as a Trail Blazer, and shot no worse than 50 percent from three in his first eight games this season. But his percentage on two-point shots was poor, and at least in the first few weeks of the season, that’s where the majority of his attempts were coming from.
But as the season has gone on, Curry has made strides in figuring out where his best shots are going to come from, and it’s from behind the three-point line. The percentage of the total shots Curry has taken from behind the three-point line has increased every month this season, from 44 percent in October to nearly 54 percent in November to almost 60 percent in December. And considering that he’s the NBA’s most accurate three-point shooter this season at 51.2 percent, taking a higher percentage of his shots from behind the line is a good thing, especially playing in a second unit that has been prone to scoring droughts.
“As the year goes along, more games get played and just feeling more comfortable,” said Curry. “I’m feeling better every day, just trying to be aggressive, find opportunities to take advantage on that end of the floor finding good shots, not just be out there trying to get shots up to get shots up. Trying to find good shots for myself and usually when that happens the second unit plays well.”
Part of Curry’s initial reluctance might have had something to do with how Portland’s offense functions, specifically the reliance on “flow” rather than calling set plays. Head coach Terry Stotts only calls plays for about half of the game, with the other half of the game dictated by the players on the court, which is great in terms of empowering players, though it also requires some transition for newcomers. But as the season has gone on, Curry has learned how to better integrate himself into Stotts’ “flow” concepts, which, in some respects, requires a player, particularly in the second unit, to be a bit greedy.
“I think he’s being a little more aggressive looking for it, he’s taken it on himself to find his shots,” said Stotts of Curry. “And it’s tough coming into a new situation after not playing for a year and kind of finding your way. He missed some games during the middle with some injuries, so it’s good to see him in a groove. But there’s no question everybody knew he was a good shooter. He’s on a role and his confidence is high and I’m a big believer that to be a good shooter you have to be confident.”
And in today’s NBA, you also have to be active to be a good shooter. Teams are hunting for three-point shots now more than at any other time in league history, and defenses have reacted by placing more of an emphasis on not only getting out to shooters, but taking away areas of the court in which players like to shoot. So for a player like Curry, it’s imperative to bring consistent energy and movement, something he’s improved since the start of the season.
“Some of it was a little rustiness and some of it was just the way we were playing on offense, it was kind of tough at times,” said Curry. “I think when I’m moving around a lot is when i’m really engaged and playing well. When I’m not just standing still and just watching, when I’m off the ball cutting, moving to the other side of the floor, put the ball on the floor a couple times, making plays for other people. I feel like I can do both at a high level, just trying to get my activity level up.”
Hopefully with that increase in activity comes a corresponding increase in three-point attempts. He’s currently averaging 2.6 attempts in just under 17 minutes per game, and considering he was signed as a free agent in July specifically for his ability to stretch defenses with his shooting, seeing his attempt from three double would probably be a welcomed change. If he’s going to continue to draw more attention from opposing defenses anyway, which is sure to be the case as the league’s best three-point shooter, he might as well take advantage.
“Everybody knows the rep on me and what I do so they’re going to run out to me on the three-point line no matter what,” said Curry. “Whether I’m making shots or not making shots, they’re going to pay attention to me at the three-point line and from there, throughout my career I’ve worked on making plays off the dribble and doing other things than just standing and being a spot up guy.”