Next step for Warriors starts with Curry and Thompson

Curry: 'We're winning the championship next year'

Next step for Warriors starts with Curry and Thompson
May 19, 2013, 7:15 pm
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Stephen Curry (right) shot just 40.5 percent from the floor in the series, including 35.2 percent from 3-point range. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

The Warriors wrapped up their 2012-13 season on Friday by dropping Game 6 to the San Antonio Spurs at Oracle Arena. It was a much later finish to the season than many anticipated.

Coming into this year, many had the Warriors failing to make the playoffs altogether, while plenty of others believed they’d be lucky to secure the No. 7 or No. 8 spot.

Well, the Warriors not only made the playoffs but they finished the regular season as the No. 6 seed. They then won their first-round series over the Nuggets to advance to the conference semifinals against the Spurs.

[RATTO: Warriors simply got Spurred]

But how do they get better? That’s the question owner Joe Lacob and general manager Bob Myers will try to answer this offseason.

One way for them to improve would be for their starting backcourt – Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson – to become more well-rounded as a tandem.

Now, on the surface, this would seem a tad unfair. After all, both Curry and Thompson had breakout and career seasons, so why should the burden fall mostly to them?

Well, because as far as both Curry and Thompson came this year, they still have further to go. The bottom line is that Curry and Thompson are going to have to have to become less one dimensional for the Warriors to take the next leap. The Spurs’ series showed that.

Warriors coach Mark Jackson called Curry and Thompson the best shooting backcourt in NBA history this year.

Heck, he might be right, but let’s forget about shooting for now. Curry and Thompson have to find ways to impact games positively in other than scoring – particularly other than scoring from the perimeter.

Take Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili of the Spurs. Both of those players shot the ball horribly in Game 6 – the clincher – and yet both ended up hurting the Warriors. They were able to bring something more to the table than just scoring.

Parker went 3-for-16 from the field in Game 6, yet he still knocked down perhaps the game’s most important bucket, a killer 3-pointer from the baseline as the Warriors were threatening late.

Ginobili went just 1-for-6 from the floor, but more than made up for it with an 11-assist performance.

Disclaimer: Take it as a compliment to Curry and Thompson that they’re compared with Parker and Ginobili. Curry and Thompson are going to school a lot of opposing backcourts in their careers, but this is about the Warriors living in the playoffs and sometimes maybe going deep.

The Spurs succeeded in turning Curry into a volume shooter for much of the series, and they pretty much took Thompson out of things after Game 2. But that was only half the problem.

The other half was that neither Curry nor Thompson found consistent ways to impact the game positively in other areas. Curry shot just 40.5 percent from the floor in the series, including 35.2 percent from 3-point range. Those percentages are drastically down from his regular season percentages.

Now, it’s not unusual for players’ shooting percentages to come down in the postseason, but Curry didn’t make up for those struggles with playmaking (barely a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio for the series) or at the defensive end of the floor.

In fact, you could argue that Curry’s defensive performance in Game 5 – though certainly on a troublesome ankle – was his poorest defensive game of the season.

As for Thompson, he didn’t surface much after his monster Game 2 in which he scored a career-high 34 points, making 8 of 9 from 3-point range in the process.

In Games 3 through Games 6 of the series, Thompson shot just 34 percent from the floor and made just five 3-pointers. What’s got to be very alarming for the Warriors and their fans is that Thompson didn’t take a free throw in the final five games of the series.

Zero foul shots in five consecutive playoff games from your starting two-guard isn’t going to cut it. Thompson did get a little bit better at putting the ball on the floor and creating with penetration over the course of the year, but he still doesn’t finish consistently or draw any kind of contact at the rim.

Curry went to the line just 17 times for the series and not at all in Games 5 or 6. Again, perhaps that was somewhat attributable to his bum ankle, but getting to the line is something both Curry and Thompson must improve on.

If you’re looking for bright spots, hey, they’re all over the place. Not the least of which is that Curry and Thompson are just starting to play together – and they were good enough as a backcourt to lead the Warriors past the first round.

Curry certainly improved in the game management department over the course of the season, and he did a terrific job of anticipating on defense which led to steals and fastbreaks.

He’s never going to be a perimeter player who attacks the rim, but he’s seemed to develop consistency now with his floater, which may be all he needs to supplement his shooting.

Thompson quietly turned into a terrific on-ball defender as the season wore on. That’s a huge positive going forward for the Warriors, particularly if the pattern of Curry not defending certain opposing point guards continues.

Because of Thompson’s size, athleticism, length and foot-speed, he’s able to more than hold his own against quicker, smaller ball-handler types. That’s a nice, little defensive partnership between the two – or at least a start.

Curry and Thompson put on a shooting and scoring display at times this year that was nothing short of mesmerizing. Their ability to make shots from well beyond the 3-point line makes them both unique and difficult to defend.

The long-distance shot is a lot of what Curry and Thompson do, and it’s what they should do. Curry and Thompson give the Warriors a backcourt that is capable of scoring points by threes … and do it very, very quickly. That alone is going to help lead the Warriors to a lot of victories in the future. But to get bigger victories than the ones they got this year, Curry and Thompson will have to get better in areas other than scoring.

 

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