Stephen Curry

Stephen Curry’s toughness needs to stop being overlooked

Golden State Warriors guard, Stephen Curry, has been donned the “Baby-Faced Assassin,” due to the discrepancy between his killer on-court mentality and his boyish looks, but there’s nothing babyish about the two-time NBA champion’s game.

Curry’s sweet-shooting stroke and slick handles garner his game the most attention, but it would be remiss to ignore the fair amount of toughness Curry possesses for someone of his stringy stature.

Rebounding:

First and foremost, Curry is an excellent rebounder at the guard position and has been since his first MVP-christened season.

Since 2014-15, only five guards have grabbed at least 1100 rebounds, and Curry happens to be one of them. Joining him in this (guard) board brigade are Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo.

Stephen Curry

Photo via: @BBallSociety_

You may slam Curry for being last amongst this group, but regardless this is excellent company for him to mingle amongst. All of these guards (with maybe the exception of Rondo) are physically and athletically superior to Curry, yet his glasswork is on par with theirs.

In that same time-span, there have been 13 guards to corral 180 offensive rebounds, and Curry makes a cameo on this list as well. If there’s one thing about Curry, it’s that he isn’t afraid to mix it up with bigger opponents and battle interior behemoths for a board. Look at how on this possession he keeps Dwight Howard at bay to retrieve a rebound and get fouled on the follow-up layup attempt.

This is not a rarity either. Curry was top-11 this past season amongst guards for contested rebounds per game, and his ability to maneuver amongst the trees and grab boards at his rate is another luxury for the Warriors.

Screening:

Curry’s rebounding is admirable, but where he really shows his stoutness is with his work as a screener. It’s in what my opinion, his most underrated offensive attribute, and it’s vital to the Warriors’ high-octane, historic and hellacious offense.

We all know Curry is one of, if not the biggest catalysts for the Dubs’ offense, one that leans on space, fluid ball-movement and good screening as its principles, but it’s Curry’s off-ball work that makes so much possible for not only his teammates but himself as well.

Look at this action Golden State includes’s Curry in to get a layup for Ian Clark. Curry sets a screen for Clark, and then JaVale McGee re-screens for Curry. Wayne Ellington takes a bad angle and is late to contest, and Willie Reed has no idea what he’s doing defensively, easy two points for Clark.

Then see how he opens the runway for Kevin Durant to lift off against the Bucks. Durant pitches it to Zaza Pachulia, then comes off a screen from Curry. Matthew Dellavedova bear hugs Curry, and Giannis A. just dies on the screen and ultimately gives on the play. Help isn’t to be found from Jabari Parker, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway, Durant was bound to either convert or get fouled on this play regardless.

But a Curry screen isn’t always a gift for others to score. Curry utilizes screens to create opportunities for himself, and launch a laser-quick three-point shot from wherever on the floor, like the most tactical sniper you could ever imagine.

See how in last season’s regular season game against the Cavaliers, the Warriors exploit the defensively-challenged Kyrie Irving by using Klay Thompson in an off-ball action with Curry. Curry sets a baseline screen for Thompson, who flares out to what becomes the weak-side of the floor because Curry shakes loose from Irving and swishes a three off an assist from Draymond Green.

Poor communication between Irving and Iman Shumpert both retreating to Curry, before Irving realizes his gaffe and closes out late to the best shooter this game has ever seen. You know the end result.

Curry ranked in at No.1 in screen assists per game amongst guards that played at least 30 minutes a night, and his per game average was well ahead of contemporaries like Irving and Kyle Lowry (0.8 per game) and Harden (0.5 per game).

Curry’s total of 109 screen assists led all guards with that same minute’s qualification, and he tallied 19 more than No. 2, Antetokounmpo.

Stephen Curry isn’t thought to be the most rugged player, and some could point his grappled with durability earlier in his career leads him to be thought of as “weak.” It’s foolish to subscribe to the Curry is “soft” narrative, because, in actuality, he’s willing to sacrifice his body to the benefit of his team. He doesn’t cower away from conflict, and he plays with a fire that some of the games greatest have possessed.

Yes, Curry is the “Baby-Faced Assassin,” but he knows when it’s time to man-up. And it’s something he has done quite often, even if his haters want to denounce it. 

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