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Can the Toronto Raptors Force Steph Curry to Guard Kawhi Leonard? | NBA Finals Film Preview

Can the Toronto Raptors Force Steph Curry to Guard Kawhi Leonard? | NBA Finals Film Preview   Objective: Get Curry to Guard Kawhi      Kawhi Leonard is very clearly a walking mismatch for any defender that lines up with him, but that clear advantage can be exaggerated if Leonard secures a “switch” against…

Can the Toronto Raptors Force Steph Curry to Guard Kawhi Leonard? | NBA Finals Film Preview

 

Objective: Get Curry to Guard Kawhi

 

 

  • Kawhi Leonard is very clearly a walking mismatch for any defender that lines up with him, but that clear advantage can be exaggerated if Leonard secures a “switch” against a physically limited defender such as Stephen Curry.

Defensive Counter: Hedge & Recover 

 

 

  • However, the Golden State Warriors are well-prepared for big wings that handle the ball and want to hunt down Curry as a mismatch.
  • The Warriors are ready to “Hedge & Recover” with Curry – a defensive coverage in which Curry attempts to impede the ball handler’s progress by jumping out with arms outstretched before scurrying back to his original assignment without switching.
  • Note: Eric uses the terminology of “High Tag” and I have chosen to use “Hedge & Recover” to describe the same thing based on prior experience. Different terminology for the same thing.

Problem: Kawhi vs. Hedge & Recover

 

 

  • Unsurprisingly, teams have defended Kawhi Leonard similarly throughout the season in the (spare) instances in which Toronto has decided to attack a mismatch with a ball screen.
  • The results are not definitive, but certainly early indications are that Leonard has a tendency to be hesitant and indecisive when both defenders are momentarily drawn to him as the screener floats away unguarded. The decision made has to be fast to leverage such an advantage, and Leonard leans towards the end of the spectrum which limits Toronto’s effectiveness.

Solutions: Countering the Hedge

 

  • Luckily for Toronto, there are ways to assist Leonard against such a defensive coverage to create better advantages than the ones in which he is unable to capitalize upon.
  • When Toronto’s screener pops to the perimeter after Curry “hedges”, they can be run off of a “Flare Screen” to force Curry’s path to recovery to be more circuitous. This will accentuate the advantage created of momentarily drawing 2 defenders to Leonard and could create easier passing lanes.
  • Additionally, Toronto can flip the ball screen for Leonard in a precise manner that leverages the “hedge” against itself. If timed properly – by flipping the screen before the “hedge” defender has began their recovery back to the screener – Leonard will be able to re-use the screen and drive towards an unguarded part of the floor while the screener shields him away from both defenders.

    However, if not timed perfectly – by flipping the screen once the “hedge” defender has already started to recover back to their original assignment – Leonard will be re-using the screen to see the same coverage and have his progress impeded for a second consecutive time.

Closing Thoughts

 

 

  • While much of the video showcases Kyle Lowry screening for Kawhi Leonard to get a mismatch for the latter, Stephen Curry is unlikely to guard Lowry. Curry has typically matched up with Danny Green, which means that a less crafty screener and less dynamic attacker on-the-catch will be involved in these actions.

    Toronto can still have Lowry screen for Leonard to attack the Curry mismatch when Curry doesn’t have time to match up with the preferred assignment of Green when Toronto pushes off misses and turnovers. Additionally, Toronto can have Lowry and Green screen for one another before the screen for Leonard as a means of switching him on to Lowry.
  • Attacking a mismatch with a smaller screener has not been in Kawhi Leonard’s DNA as a player for the Toronto Raptors. By no means was it a staple of their offense that appeared 5 times a game throughout the regular season. However, it was a part of Pascal Siakam’s game on a regular basis. Much of this analysis extends to Siakam, however if Golden State sags back off of him as Milwaukee and Philadelphia have done, a “hedge” is no longer necessary.