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The next evolution of NBA basketball: The Eye of the Storm and its possible counter

Zach Harper



June 3, 2018; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr and guard Stephen Curry (30) reacts to a play during the second quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers in game two of the 2018 NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Pick-and-roll. Seven Seconds or Less. Countless defensive schemes crafted by assistant coaches hungry to prove their worth. The NBA and game of basketball thrive on innovation. While we ignore the Houston Rockets coming up one win short of defeating the Golden State Warriors, some contend the health of the league has been ruined. The Warriors have become too unstoppable with Kevin Durant joining Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. Competitive balance doesn’t exist anymore and fans outside of the Bay Area anxiously await the downfall of the Warriors.

Teams will go into an arms race for the second straight summer at the stroke of July midnight in a few weeks. Last summer, we saw the Rockets get more serious by acquiring Chris Paul. We saw the Thunder go get Paul George and Carmelo Anthony (please stop laughing). A summer of chaos became a theme for the NBA. This summer is expected to be even crazier with LeBron James once again hitting free agency. Roster construction becomes the first step in trying to chip away at the Warriors’ dominance since Durant joined up.

After that, schemes will determine just how much the league can figure out the Warriors. We saw Mike D’Antoni flip the league on its head under the new defensive rules in 2004 when the Phoenix Suns took off with Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire. We saw Tom Thibodeau’s defensive schemes change the way the NBA approached pick-and-roll action on both ends of the floor. Then the Warriors embraced some new and improved version of D’Antoni’s offense under Steve Kerr. The rest has been history since then. Of course, while the NBA tries to figure out a scheme to dismantle the Warriors, the Warriors will look for ways to create an even greater gulf between them and the next challenger.

How do they accomplish that? One very outside the box thinker on Reddit decided to put Steph Curry inside a protective shield on the court. Let’s take a look at this idea from u/danmaker99 with this offensive strategy:

Serious question: why can’t 4 Warriors starters lock arms and form a ring around Steph Curry, so he can take open shots?

Picture this: the Warriors go out and get 4 incredibly strong bodies with really long arms. For the entire game, on the offensive end, those 4 guys lock arms together and form a circle around Steph Curry so that none of the opponents can get to him – sort of like how you might protect a quarterback if you didn’t know the rules of football.

Steph Curry barely needs much daylight to shoot, so as long as they leave around a foot of room around him, he can probably just bomb away freely every possession. Why don’t the Warriors do this? Is Steve Kerr an idiot?

To put it mildly, it’s pretty clear that danmaker99 is a genius. This serves as the type of innovation the NBA needs in order to stay a step or three ahead of the next wave of game plans. The brilliant thing about this idea is the Warriors already have the physical attributes to make this work.

Draymond Green has a 7-foot-1 wingspan and we know he can box out with the best of them. Kevin Durant doesn’t have the physical strength of most, but his 7-foot-4 wingspan makes up for it. The Warriors could also employ David West into this strategy. He’s one of the strongest guys in the NBA and his 7-foot-4 wingspan also suffices here. Klay Thompson doesn’t have a huge wingspan (6-foot-9) but it’s nice enough to allow him to remain on the court.

Let’s take a deeper look at how this works.

How it works

We’ll go with the lineup mentioned above just for starters. With Curry literally surrounded by Draymond, West, Durant, and Thompson, they have more than enough defense, shooting, and arm length to create this bubble of destruction. We can call it the Eye of the Storm or the Eye of the Steph or something that markets nicely with the DVD release of Hurricane Heist, which might be one of the funniest movies ever created. But this lineup should be effective enough in creating this zone for Curry to operate.

In theory, it should begin around the time he crosses half court. The beauty of implementing this strategy is the defense has to respect it and give them the room to create the bubble. Place Draymond, Durant, and West at half court as Curry brings the ball up the floor. Have Thompson inbound so he can help create the backside of the circle. Draymond and West should be the “lead blockers” on the play while Durant and Thompson protect the back. If the opponent tries to play up on the half court line to disrupt the formation of the circle, Green or Durant or West can slip the formation and make a rim run for Curry to pass to.

Once the circle is formed, Curry has plenty of space to operate. We’ve seen him dribble in and around a handful of Clippers before launching a step-back 3-pointer as Kerr waves his hands in horror and acceptance. So Curry trying to get things done in this circle should be a problem. As danmaker99 pointed out, Curry doesn’t need much room to feel comfortable getting the shot off. The tricky part is making sure the circle moves in unison and the Warriors’ literal perimeter around Curry doesn’t charge into set defenders.

Again, should enough Rockets try to get in the way of the moving storm, a system of hot routes can be called out for a blocker to bolt for the rim or an open area on the perimeter. This should leave the defenders just anxious enough to not fully feel comfortable getting in the way. Then the Warriors can keep their barrier strong and let Steph approach the shooting areas he wants to fire from without much impediment. It may look a little something like this.

Granted, this calls for a lot of sacrifice from Durant (especially), Draymond, and Klay. But this also allows the Warriors to give the greatest shooter of all-time free reign whenever he wants to take over a game.

Maybe it’s extreme to run this play every time. However, imagine what Curry could do from an offensive perspective as an individual by the Warriors adopting this plan. Could he average 90 points per game? Could he knock down 1,000 3-pointers in a season? Do the Warriors spread the wealth enough in a game to keep the other scorers and shooters happy? Would the Warriors average the fewest assists in the NBA?

Of course, for every great offensive system, the opponent will attempt to create a countermove.

How it possibly gets solved

First off, we need to show this video of Steph Curry and Seth Curry playing ball overseas. It was mentioned in the comments of this Reddit post by u/limache. A Korean TV show had the Curry brothers play against several Korean actors and comedians. In an effort to level the playing field against this sharpshooting family, they brought out several “innovations” to the court. One player had a peacock plumage of cardboard arms. They also had inflatable arm-flailing tube men locking down the post. Another player wore a giant inflatable puppet of sorts.

It took a while for the Curry brothers to figure it out.

Eventually, they did though. And as forward-thinking and innovative as Adam Silver and the Competition Committee can be, I don’t think they’ll allow these types of gimmicks on the floor. So how do you stop the Eye of the Steph offense? It’s time for NBA teams to get creative.

Let’s fast-forward to the 2019 NBA Finals based on a few assumptions:

  • First assumption: the Warriors returned to the Finals for the fifth straight season.
  • Second assumption: the Philadelphia 76ers have made the Finals to try to take down the Warriors.
  • Third assumption: the Sixers either signed Isaiah Thomas or traded for JJ Barea in an attempt to quell the Eye of the Steph offense that’s all the rage. Or maybe they’ve even done both.
  • Fourth assumption: they’ve managed to bring Aron Baynes aboard and Joel Embiid has become good friends with his new teammate.

Here’s the strategy for the Sixers. Embiid stands just outside the perimeter formed by the Warriors teammates. Baynes stands pretty close to him but doesn’t crowd the big man. Embiid takes Barea in front of him; Baynes takes Thomas. In an effort to block the highly protected shot by Curry, Baynes and Embiid toss their smaller teammates into the air. Then they have the responsibility to catching them, like we often see male cheerleaders do after launching their female counterparts into the air.

The players being thrown in the air have to be small enough to not completely wear down Embiid and Baynes. But Embiid especially because he needs to have that energy to score on the other end. Granted, this has highly dangerous risks involved but it also creates a challenge to the shot of Curry that otherwise couldn’t happen. Throw Ben Simmons back to protect the basket and he can grab the rebound and immediately go up the court. It might look a little like this:

This is how basketball innovation happens. This is how evolution of the game occurs. The Warriors can dominate with their strategy and strong big men can counter it by throwing their smaller teammates into the air. It’s all just crazy enough to work and boost ratings at the same time.

Welcome to the new NBA.

Zach Harper is a basketball obsessive with a penchant for outside shooting and high volume scorers. He believes in living life 3-point line to 3-point line. Zach has worked for ESPN, Bleacher Report, and CBS Sports since 2010. He's as interested in exploring the minutiae of the game of basketball as he is in finding the humor in it. Basketball in previous eras was fun, but it's much better now. Embrace change.

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