3 Reasons Why Oscar Robertson’s Plan To Stop Steph Curry Is Ridiculous
Like virtually everything, sports evolve. We know this much. Rules change, officiating becomes more precise and players get stronger/faster/better, so coaches have to constantly devise new ways to keep up. Unless a sport starts hemorrhaging talent (like boxing has over the last thirty years), it will become more complicated, which requires new, smarter gameplans. This is not news.
For NBA legend Oscar Robertson, however, the game of basketball is the same as it was in 1964 when was league MVP. "The Big O" told Mike & Mike on Thursday that he believes coaches have been defending Steph Curry completely wrong, because, get this, they aren't sticking to him from the moment he steps on the court.
Robertson then shook his fist at the sky and screamed "Those damn cell phone text message waves are ruining all my tomato plants!"
“If I’ve got a guy who’s great shooting the ball outside, don’t you want to extend your defense out a little bit? I just don’t think coaches today in basketball understand the game of basketball. They don’t know anything about defenses. They don’t know what people are doing on the court. They talk about analytical basketball and stuff like that. I look at games today, and they’ll start a defense at the foul line. When I played, they were picking you up when you got the ball inbounds. So it’s a different strategy about playing defense.”
What a novel concept: play closer defense on Steph Curry. Before we get into why that doesn't work, let's hear from Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who had this to say about Robertson's ingenious plan...
“Oh I’m sure, yeah, I could have stopped this back in my time," he told reporters after Thursday's 130-114 win over the Orlando Magic. "Boy, I would have shut Steph down, because athletes, you know, 50 years ago were much bigger, stronger and faster, more finely tuned, so Steph might not have made it in the league.”
Ok, so now to some of the reasons why Robertson's theory is a bit misguided.
1) No defender can stay in front of Stephen Curry.
It goes without saying that if you defend someone farther away from the basket, they have more room to run past you. This brutally basic concept works best when you're talking about a lumbering defensive specialist who can't put the ball on the floor without dribbling it off his massive foot, but it doesn't when you're talking about a player who can change hands/speeds/directions better than anyone in the history of basketball. The best guards from Robertson's era didn't even use their non-dominant hand. No joke, this is Hall of Fame point guard Lenny Wilkens' highlight reel from the 1969 NBA All-Star Game. Notice how he will literally turn his body to avoid having to switch hands. Of course Robertson thinks you should pick up Steph Curry farther from the basket -- he's never defended someone with a decent handle.
2) Tight defense doesn't stop Steph Curry -- it makes him better.
Robertson may brush off stuff like "analytical basketball," but if he saw Curry's shooting percentage with a defender in his face, he may reconsider the effectiveness of defending him altogether. Steph shoots a staggering 50% from three over defenders guarding him at a distance of two-to-three feet. That means if you do somehow manage to get in his face -- which is hard enough to begin with -- he still has a better chance at making his shot than Oscar Robertson did on any given field goal attempt in his best season (his field goal percentage in 1968 was .500). Still think the answer to stopping Steph is tighter defense up top? Think again.
3) Pulling a defender away from the basket lets his teammates beat you.
Ok, so let's say that you've picked up Steph 30 feet from the basket and, because he's got a nasty case of food poisoning from a tainted supply of Gatorade Rain, he's struggling to get a shot up. There are still four other players on the floor he can pass to that can burn you, so by sending a defender to hound Steph at some remote part of the floor, you increase the open space closer to the basket by 20%. It basically turns the game into a half-court four-on-four, which, as you may have guessed, benefits the faster side...and the Warriors are ALWAYS the faster side. Once Steph gets rid of the ball, you're tasked with stopping Klay Thompson or Andre Iguodala or Draymond Green -- all of which shoot over 40% from three -- with that much more open space available to spot up and score. What's more, Steph's teammates distribute the ball better than any NBA roster in recent memory, so the added space also increases the width of passing lanes, which makes it that much easier for them to find open shooters.
— Warriors Vision (@Warriors_Vision) February 23, 2016
Listen, I get why Oscar Robertson feels frustrated watching Steph & Co. waltz to an 80-win season. It seems unfair. It seems rigged. It looks like they're playing with the difficulty setting on "Rookie" -- but they're not. There are no easy answers to stopping Stephen Curry outside of waiting for him to get old and slow and injured and retire, at which point he'll probably be saying the same things about the next guy to dominate the sport fifty years from now.
"Coaches today don't understand basketball, because they should be triple-teaming Nick Azalea-Young III on every play. He never passes."
Be the first to know
Want FREE Fantasy and Gaming Advice and Savings Delivered to your Inbox? Sign up for our Newsletter.