Finishing at the rim can be one of the hardest things for young guards to do at the NBA level. It’s also one of the most important. As much as we tend to pay attention to quickness, passing, and outside shooting when talking about guard prospects, the ability to convert at the rim is just as important, if not more so.
Plenty of extremely talented guards have had trouble scoring efficiently in the NBA because of how hard it can be for the smallest guys on the court to convert layups among the 7-footers that protect the rim in the NBA. Russell Westbrook only shot 39% from the field in his rookie season, and the fact he made less than half of his shots at the rim definitely contributed to that. This is Raymond Felton’s first season shooting better than 50% at the rim, which has helped him shoot significantly better from the field this year.
With his diminutive build, quickness with the ball, and mostly below-the-rim game, Stephen Curry fit the mold of a player who would have trouble finishing at the rim at the NBA level. As it turns out, that hasn’t been the case. Curry has made slightly more than 60% of his shots at the rim this season, which is an excellent mark for any point guard. Curry’s efficiency on shots at the rim is almost exactly the same as fellow rookie Tyreke Evans’, which is impressive when you consider how much more physical Tyreke is. (To be fair, Evans does take more than three times as many shots at the rim than Curry.)
The San Francisco Chronicle’s Rusty Simmons
has an article today that discusses how Curry has used a series of imaginative moves around the basket to make up for his lack of physicality. Like Steve Nash, Curry doesn’t need to play above the rim to get points at the basket. (Nash’s efficiency at the basket is an absurd 72.8%, which puts him right up there with LeBron James.)
With moves like the one he pulled on Denver’s Chris Anderson last Thursday, which was impressive even if Steph did drag his pivot foot a bit, Curry has been successful using finesse where others use brute strength or try to force a whistle. Like everything else about Curry’s game, his touch around the basket is beautiful to watch and only getting better.