In the eight seasons that Stephen Curry has been healthy and Steve Kerr has been the coach, the Golden State Warriors have had five top-five offenses.
In those same eight seasons, Chris Paul’s teams have also had five top-five offenses. Over the last three seasons, Paul’s Phoenix Suns (114.9 points scored per 100 possessions, fifth) scored more efficiently than the Warriors (112.7, 15th).
With one of the best point guards ever joining the best shooting backcourt in NBA history, there’s the potential for another top-five offense in the Bay. But how this is going to work, how two different styles of offenses come together, should be interesting.
Here’s a bit of film on how Paul and the Warriors have flourished offensively on their own, and how they could do so upon coming together.
1. Pick-and-roll savant
Paul has seen (and beaten) every kind of pick-and-roll defense there is. The Suns set 2,420 ball-screens (46.1 per 36 minutes) for him last season. The goal, of course, is to gain an advantage, force the defense to make a decision, and maintain that advantage until a good shot is available.
The work can begin prior to using the screen, and Paul is one of the best at setting up his defender to get diverted by the pick …
Once he gains separation and draws the attention of another defender, Paul can make any pass on the floor. And if you let him get to his spot, he’s deadly from 5-15 feet. His 53.8% from that distance over the last three years is only topped (among players with at least 200 attempts) by three centers and Kevin Durant.
Highest FG%, 5-15 feet, last 3 seasons
Minimum 200 FGA (206 players)
2. Styles clash
Of course, the most effective pull-up shooter among guards is already on the Warriors. But Golden State doesn’t set nearly as many ball-screens for Curry, who has had the ball in his hands about 25% less than Paul (17% of his minutes on the floor vs. 22%) over the last three seasons.
The Warriors’ offense is more about ball and player movement. They’ve ranked first or second in passes per 24 minutes of possession in each of the last eight seasons (leading the league in each of the last five), according to Second Spectrum tracking. And their best shots are generated by the movement of (and attention paid to) Curry and Klay Thompson …
Paul’s team’s have ranked no higher than 16th in ball movement over the last eight seasons. So it will be a clash of styles when the guy who’s third in all-time assists joining the team that’s led the league in assist rate seven times in the last eight years. But it will be fun to see “the Point God” making reads in an environment with more movement.
3. Roll man dishing
If the Warriors have Paul play a lot of pick-and-roll, he’ll have a great partner in Draymond Green. The 33-year-old with a new contract has averaged 7.2 assists over the last eight seasons, 10th most among 252 players (and second most among non-guards) who’ve played at least 200 games over that span.
Green has averaged less than a point per game as a roll man over the last five years, but there are few players who are better at taking advantage of a 4-on-3 situation after setting a screen …
The Warriors have generally kept Green’s minutes closely tied to those of Curry over the years, and that may again be the case this season. But they may also look to have Green on the floor when Paul is out there without Curry, so they can go all-in on pick-and-roll playmaking.
4. Some familiarity
It’s not like the Suns’ and Warriors’ offenses were completely different. In fact, Phoenix ran an out-of-timeout play in Paul’s last game (Game 2 of the conference semis) that evolved into a Golden State action.
After setting a double-drag screen for Paul, the Suns entered the ball to Durant in the post and then ran the Warriors’ “split” action (which was denied by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope), with Bismack Biyombo setting a screen for Devin Booker.
So you can see how the Warriors can run pick-and-roll for Paul (and if that is Thompson or Andrew Wiggins in the weak-side corner instead of Josh Okogie, this gets more threatening) before transitioning into their own stuff. Paul shot 95-for-205 (46.3%) on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers in his three seasons in Phoenix, so it’s not like he isn’t a threat off the ball.
5. Curry in Spain?
One staple of the Suns’ offense over the last few years has been the “Spain” or “stack” pick-and-roll, where Paul uses a standard, high ball-screen and Booker sets a back-screen on the big’s defender at the foul line …
It can be tough to guard, because three defenders have to work together to guard three threats: the initial ball-handler, the big rolling to the rim, and the shooter popping out to the 3-point line. If the player guarding the shooter doesn’t want to leave him, that can lead to a layup for one of the other two offensive players involved in the action.
There’s no scarier shooting threat than Curry, who’s a very willing screener. The Warriors haven’t run much Spain pick-and-roll over the years, but it could certainly be an effective play for them with one of the best pick-and-roll decision makers handling the ball and the all-time leading 3-point shooter creating chaos with a back-screen.
Yes, this will be a clash of styles. But if there are two parties that can make it work, it’s Chris Paul and the Warriors.
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