Minnesota Timberwolves veteran guard Austin Rivers thinks that Golden State Warriors star guard Steph Curry is the hardest player to guard in the NBA, but not for the reason you might think. According to Rivers, Curry is the league’s toughest cover because he’s favored heavily by referees.
“Steph… It’s not even close,” Rivers said on a recent episode of his Ringer podcast when asked who was the hardest player he’s had to guard in the league. “He doesn’t stop moving. He’s more dangerous when he gives up the ball than when he has it. … He has a handle, he can shoot. You can’t touch him. They give him every f—ing call. They set illegal screens for him the entire game. Draymond [Green], he’s going to set illegal screens. They don’t call it because they want to see him shoot. It’s good for basketball. It’s good for the NBA. It’s good for ratings. You want to see this guy shoot as many threes as possible.”
Rivers made sure to credit Curry’s movement and elite shot-making, but it’s clear he thinks that the way Curry is officiated has played into his success. While it may not be fair to single Curry out here, the league has certainly altered the rules in recent years in order to make things easier for offensive players, and shooters especially. Shooters like Curry basically can’t be touched at any point during the shooting motion and follow-through, or a foul will be called. Many smart offensive players have quickly learned how to take advantage of these rules in order to maximize their trips to the foul line.
Given these changes, its understandable how a defensive-minded player could become frustrated. However, the Curry criticism from Rivers seems to be a bit off the mark — at least when it comes to free-throw attempts. Twenty-six players in NBA history have averaged over 24 points per game over the course of their career. Of those players, Curry has averaged the fewest free throw attempts per game (4.3), per Stat Head. In fact, the most free throw attempts per game that Curry has ever averaged in a season is 6.3 — a number that pales in comparison to some of his contemporaries.
Ultimately, perhaps Rivers is just frustrated by the lack of success he’s had against Curry over the course of his career. The two players have faced off against each other on 26 different occasions, and Curry has come out on top 22 times.