Does Stephen Curry Really “Chill” On Defense?


Ty Lawson has been a Houston Rocket for just a few weeks now, but it seems as though he’s fitting in just fine with the Rockets’ culture of throwing shade at the Golden State Warriors. For those that forgot, Rockets’ superstar James Harden was caught telling his teammates that the Warriors “aren’t even that good” in a pre-game huddle when the two teams met in the regular season.

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Lawson, quick to gain popularity with his new team, called out Stephen Curry by claiming that he thought Curry was “chilling on defense” in an interview with Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski. Here’s the full quote:

"“I thought Steph was just chillin’ on defense – and then going crazy on offense. He looked like he was just putting shots up and not working so much on the defensive end.”"

Before last season, Curry had a reputation as defensive liability. His smaller frame and lack of footspeed often made him the target for opposing point guards, who were eager to take advantage of him. So much so, that former head coach Mark Jackson would often have Klay Thompson take on the defensive duties against the opposing team’s point guard if he was a bigger threat.

When Steve Kerr took over as head coach, he made it clear that he wanted Curry to step up defensively. Curry responded with a career-best defensive season, registering a 1.91 Defensive Real-Plus Minus (second best among NBA point guards), according to ESPN. Now, this doesn’t mean that Curry is the second-best defensive point guard in the league, but it does point to the significant improvement Curry has made on the defensive end.

But what of Lawson’s claims? Does Curry really “chill” on defense?

Well, for starters, the Warriors had a defensive rating of 97.4 points per 100 possessions during the playoffs last season. Against the Rockets in the Conference Finals, the Warriors had a 99.1 defensive rating and a 93.8 defensive rating in the NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Curry’s defensive rating throughout the Playoffs was 96.0, 102.9 against Houston and 92.9 against the Cavs.

Curry’s poor defensive rating against the Rockets indicates that the Warriors were worse defensively when he was on the floor. This however, doesn’t mean that Curry was “chilling” on defense against the Rockets. According to, Curry’s defensive assignments shot 4.5 percent worse than they did throughout the season when they were defended by Curry. Perhaps more impressively, they shot 12.2 percent worse from behind the arc when Curry was the defender.

While there has been significant improvement from Curry’s defense, there is still a lot of room to grow. He still gets caught on screens far too regularly, and can sometimes zone out of the defensive possession. According to NBA Savant, there were 159 shot attempts where Curry was six feet or further (which classifies as wide open) from his defensive assignment.

Another thing to consider is Curry’s role and importance to the Warriors. It makes little sense to expect Curry to be the Warriors’ perimeter lockdown defender because his value on the offensive end far outweighs his defensive value. The Warriors need him to launch three-point bombs and run the offense, and would gladly defer main perimeter defensive duties to his backcourt mate, Klay Thompson. And this practice isn’t one that is just exclusive to the Warriors; many players are given passes on the defensive end due to their role on offense – Lawson’s own teammate James Harden is one of the biggest culprits, along with LeBron James, a player whom many consider to be the best player in the league.

So the next time Ty Lawson decides to call out another one of his competitors in the league, he should think twice and look within his own team. After all, James Harden did score a -0.16 on ESPN’s defensive plus-minus, ranking 32nd among all shooting guards.

Perhaps James Harden “chills” on defense?

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