It’s no surprise that a team with two of the greatest all-over shooters takes a lot of attempts off of screens, particularly in the playoffs. The assertion that the Golden State Warriors take quick shots immediately off picks passes the eye test, but particular attention should be paid to their current playoffs MVP, Klay Thompson. The 26-year old guard is a deadly combination of all-time shooting talent and size, and will be a huge part of the Warriors’ attempt to repeat as NBA Champions. Having watched a lot of Warriors games this year, I can barely count the times that Andrew Bogut or Draymond Green set a screen either just inside the three-point arc or near the elbow for Thompson to set and shoot. Luckily, I don’t have to try and count. Synergy Sports does it already. So, just how crucial is play off screens to not just Thompson’s success, but that of the Warriors?
The Warriors take more shots off of screens than any other playoff team by both percentage and straight up volume, and it’s not particularly close. They’re also quite efficient at it. 12.1% of Golden State’s offense is generated off screens, to a volume count of 12.3 field goal attempts per game. Off of those attempts, they score 14.2 points per game on an effective field goal percentage of 53.8%. That’s good for a points-per-possession of 1.09.
A lot of that derives from the Warriors’ bevy of effective screeners such as Bogut and Green. Even Stephen Curry sets occasional screens for a quick perimeter shot after a handoff to Thompson. This follows from the Splash Brothers’ historic off-the-dribble scoring ability, and it’s one of the things that makes them deadly. When we refine off-screen shooting to players, however, Thompson in particular leaps off the page.
Thompson attempts a whopping 7.5 shots per game off screens, good for first in the league. Curry is also high on the list at 3.5 per game. If you’re counting at home, that’s an even 11.0, making those two players responsible for nearly 90% of their team’s off-screen shots. The next highest attempt count for playoff teams is 9.2 for Dallas, then 6.3 by Indiana. Combined, they take more of those shots than any other team does in total. Thompson alone would be third on the list.
Since he accounts for the lion’s share of the attempts, it follows that Thompson’s efficiency numbers on these shots are close to the team numbers. He’s good for 1.08 points per possession with a 54.3 eFG%. Of his 26.2 points per game in the playoffs, 8.6 come from scoring off screens, or 32.8% of his points (33.4% of his attempts). For reference, that’s a higher PPP than offensive post-ups this season for San Antonio, one of the best post teams in the league. One of the reasons this works for him so well is his size and quick trigger; attempting off screens is one of the quickest attempt types due to the proximity of the four or so players initially involved in a pick play. It’s the same reason that Curry is so good at it (1.12 PPP, 52.6 eFG% with a much lower frequency).
This could play out in a big way in the Finals, where the Cavaliers are going to roll out a starting pair of guards not known for their defensive prowess. While J.R. Smith has been playing generally improved defense lately, he and Kyrie Irving don’t fight through screens well, and don’t quite have the length to recover on a shooter with the trigger speed of Thompson or Curry. The Warriors were always going to attack the Cavaliers off screens (particularly high pick and rolls), but it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see them get even more aggressive with attempts directly off of screens in the half-court. Other than transition shooting, it’s one of their most reliable plays, and one that should serve them well with the matchups they’ll get from Cleveland.