Stephen Curry proving he's more than just a 3-point shooter

Over last two seasons, Warriors' superstar has become a solid finisher at rim

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann

When we think of Stephen Curry, we think of the 3-pointers. The ones from 28 feet. The step-backs against helpless defenders. The ones where he barely looks at the basket before launching.

On Tuesday, Curry hit three 3-pointers in the span of 122 seconds, part of a third quarter in which he outscored the Blazers, 23-20, and turned a close game against a good team into a blowout. He was 5-for-6 on 3-pointers in the corner.

He was also 3-for-4 in the restricted area, hitting a couple of really tough shots through contact.

With 8:23 to go in the third, he took a high-post feed from Zaza Pachulia and put in a reverse layup before Al-Farouq Aminu could arrive with help. With 1:30 left in the quarter, he drove baseline, took contact from Ed Davis, and dropped in another reverse as he fell to the floor. And two possessions later, it was another and-one, where Curry fed the post, faked a screen and cut to the hoop, caught the give-and-go pass from David West, got bumped by Allen Crabbe and put in another layup on the other side of the basket.

A player that shoots so well from deep shouldn’t be able to finish so well through contact, especially at 6-foot-3. But that’s the greatness of Curry. And it’s in his ability to finish at the basket where the two-time Kia MVP has seen the greatest improvement over the course of his career.

Curry came into the league as a great shooter. And his 3-point percentage hasn’t changed much over the years. The high mark was 45.5 percent (on only 121 attempts) in 2011-12 (when he played only 26 of 66 games), and the low mark was 42.4 percent in ’13-14. That’s not a big difference.

But if you look at Curry’s numbers near the basket, you see the real improvement.

Through his first five seasons, Curry shot 58.4 percent in the restricted area. That mark was good for a guard, but below the league average for all players (59.3 percent over those five years).

But in his first MVP season, Curry became a much better finisher, shooting 66.5 percent in the restricted area, a mark that ranked third among 42 guards and 20th among 124 players who took at least 200 shots there.

He followed that up with a mark of 65.9 percent last season. That was second among 49 guards with at least 200 attempts in the restricted area. Over the last two years, a shot at the basket from Curry has had almost the same value per attempt as a Curry three.

While Curry’s 3-point percentage hasn’t increased much, he has been able to increase his 3-point volume over the years. The improvement in his ball-handling has allowed him to better create space and get his own shot. He’s also benefited from the Warriors’ emphasis on ball movement under coach Steve Kerr.

But Curry has also seen an increase in how often he gets to the basket, up from 2.6 shots in the restricted area per 36 minutes in his first five seasons to 4.6 over the last two-plus years.

Opposing defenses want to run Curry off the 3-point line. But when they extend their defense, he has the ability to beat them off the dribble and punish them with an improved ability to finish through contact. He keeps moving and he’s an efficient scorer from everywhere on the floor. Curry is a great shooter, and not just from distance.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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