You Better Recognize: Golden State Finding Spot-up Shooters

Welcome back to the ongoing series here at Hardwood Paroxysm, You Better Recognize. Each week, I’ll take a look at a specific aspect of a specific player’s (or team’s) game and tell you just how and why they have been so successful (or unsuccessful). Previously, I covered Lou Williams using screens to get himself open. Today, we slide on over to the Western Conference and take a look at how Golden State finds open perimeter shooters for threes. 

The Warriors make the 4th most 3-pointers per game in the NBA and shoot the 5th highest percentage from beyond the 3-point line. Their 20.6 3-point attempts per game rank 7th in the NBA and account for over 1/4 of their total field goal attempts per game. At any given time, they can have up to three players on the court who are shooting above 45.0% from 3-point land this season. They can supplement that with last year’s league leader in 3-point field goals made and another two players who, while they don’t shoot great percentages from three, are two of the streakiest shooters in the league and can win games with one hot streak. At different points during the game, the Dubs may have four of these players on the court at the same time.

Because they have so many snipers, the Warriors are shooting 44% as a team on spot-up threes according to mySynergySports, 6.5% above their season average of 37.5%, which is again 5th in the NBA. Here are some of the things they do well to create openings for spot-up opportunities from 3-point land.


When you have guards that are as good at creating off the dribble as Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis, Klay Thompson and even Nate Robinson and pair them up with shooters like Curry and Thompson again, plus Dorell Wright and Brandon Rush, there are going to be a lot of seams in the defense. Shooters of that quality cause the defense to stretch to its limits, which opens driving lanes, which draws defenders, which creates spot-up threes. Let’s take a look at an example.

Here, Golden State has Nate Robinson, Klay Thompson, Brandon Rush, Dominic McGuire and Andris Biedrins in the game. This lineup has shot 57.1% from three in the time they have have spent on the court together this year according to’s stats database. The play starts with Robinson at the top of the key, Rush and McGuire stacked on the left block and Thompson and Biedrins stacked on the right block. Rush gets a quick rub-screen from McGuire and catches the ball at the left elbow extended. He tries to dribble-drive but finds no lane, so McGuire comes out to set a screen. Robinson has come down closer to the top of the key and Thompson has floated out to the perimeter. Notice Biedrins on the right side of the screen pointing to the corner. He’s telling Thompson where to go next.


Rush takes the screen and drives the baseline hard, drawing Biedrins’ defender across the lane to cut off his penetration and prevent an easy layup. Meanwhile, Thompson’s man then slides down to cover Biedrins…


…but what he doesn’t know is that Thompson is the real target of the play. Instead of opening up and looking for a pass, Biedrins hits Thompson’s man with a screen, opening up an entire side of the court. Four out of five Wizards defenders are in the lane and the fifth, John Wall, is ball-watching. No one is even paying attention to Thompson, the 45.8% 3-point shooter, standing all alone in the corner. By the time Thompson catches the ball, it’s already over. When you leave a knockdown shooter this wide open, you’re just asking to get a three splashed on you. Not only are all five Wizards players now in the lane while the shooter stands and sets himself in the corner, but JaVale McGee makes only a token attempt to challenge the shot.



This drive-and-kick happened to be a designed play, but there are also plenty of instances where Ellis, Curry or Robinson will take their man off the dribble either from the top of the key or the elbow extended, get into the middle of the lane and drop the ball off to a waiting shooter.



Post-up kick outs

The Warriors also boast two excellent post-up threats, one guard and one forward, as well as a third raw but improving post-up threat, who can draw extra defenders when they get near the basket, which creates open opportunities for more spot-up threes. Monta Ellis isn’t your prototypical post player, but he’s been extraordinarily effective there this season. According to Synergy, Ellis’ 1.07 Points Per Possession (PPP) ranks 2nd in the NBA out of the post. He’s shooting 51.6% on post-ups and draws shooting fouls 10.1% of the time. All of which is to say, when Monta Ellis posts up, he commands a hard double team. And that’s exactly what happens in the play below.



Ellis senses the baseline double  and dribbles out the opposite way. He starts to turn the corner, but sees Klay Thompson on the opposite side of the court with no one around him. Ellis, a much more willing passer this season than previously in his career, delivers the ball and lets the shooter do the work, making an overly aggressive defense pay.

David Lee, while not quick as effective as Ellis, is also a good post-up threat. His 0.88 PPP ranks 41st in the NBA and he shoots 46% out of the post this season. He also draws a shooting foul 8.2% of the time. Lee, too, commands a double-team.



Here, the ball is entered to Lee in the post and Marc Gasol comes all the way across the lane from the weak side to cut off his driving lane, knowing that Lee likes to face up and take slower forwards off the dribble if he doesn’t pull the trigger on a mid-range jumper. Lee catches the rest of the Grizzlies sleeping and throws a skip pass to a wide open Ellis, who knows down the three.

Making the extra pass

While the Dubs are stacked full of shooters, they are not an overly selfish team. They share the ball and they share it well. Making the extra pass when you’re kind of open but there’s another guy who is even more wide open is often the difference between a make and a miss. Because the Warriors know the kind of shooters they can put on the floor, none of them is afraid or hesitant to make that extra pass because they know it can often turn into a made basket.



Here, Monta Ellis runs a pick-and-roll with Dominic McGuire, hitting McGuire on the roll underneath the basket. The defense collapses on him, so he kicks it out to Dorell Wright in the corner. Wright, last year’s reigning 3-point champion, has an opening to shoot, but it’s a small one. He instead dishes over to Klay Thompson for the wide open trey.



In this clip, Monta Ellis takes his man off the dribble and causes Klay Thompson’s defender to collapse into the middle of the lane. Ellis hits Thompson with a pass on the side of the key. He’s open, but Nate Robinson’s man is quickly closing on his shot, so he slides a pass over to Robinson, who nails the three.

Jared Dubin

Jared Dubin is a New York lawyer and writer. He is the co-editor in chief of Hardwood Paroxysm and the HPBasketball Network.