The Impact of Steph Curry's Injury
Golden State Warriors PG and league MVP Stephen Curry was diagnosed with a sprained right MCL on Monday morning and will be out indefinitely, as announced by the team.
The team said they will re-evaluate him in a week. Curry missed games 2 and 3 of the Rockets series with a right ankle injury before returning for game 4 on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, Curry, right before halftime, slipped on a wet spot. Curry favored his right knee and headed to the locker room with a noticeable limp.
In Curry’s time on the floor, his rust clearly showed as he went 2/9 from the field and 1/7 from three. Despite Curry missing three games in this series, the Warriors were up 3-1 and wrapped up the Rockets in five games
It was hard to watch Curry walk off the court with the pain and dejection in his face knowing that he could no longer help his team on that particular day and possibly many more. With that said, here are the first things that come to mind now that we have a prognosis on Curry.
1. A playoffs that really was kind of dull now has a very intriguing storyline - Most of us love watching him play and would rather not see him injured, his injury and potential timetable for return make this playoffs so much more compelling. Quite frankly, before Curry slipped on that wet spot before halftime on Sunday, the Warriors romp to a second consecutive title felt inevitable. Add to that the general poor quality of games, and the NBA playoffs lacked the intrigue and storylines that typically help bring it to a higher level. Curry’s injury wipes away the aura of inevitability that’s been around the whole NBA season and makes the field more wide open.
2. The week before the examination is a MINIMUM - People seem to be taking the week as if Curry will hit the ground running after he is re-evaluated. No, he will be re-evaluated in to see if he can go and how he feels at that time. That is a long winded way of saying that we’ve probably seen the last of fully healthy Curry in spring/summer 2016. After injuring his ankle, Curry said that it was an injury that would probably linger for the entirety of the postseason. It wasn’t structural like some of his prior ankle injuries, but it would be a nuisance more than anything.
The ankle is already a lingering issue, albeit not a major one, and that complicates the whole situation. Even if Curry comes back “healed”, he probably will be overcompensating to deal with two different ailments. We don’t know this affects his shot, his lateral agility, his quickness, his defense and his ability to elevate Golden State’s league best offense.
3. The margin for error for GSW is smaller - The Golden State Warriors are still a really good basketball team without one Steph Curry. He takes them from really good or great to transcendent. The Warriors could probably still win the NBA Finals without him. I’m not sure I would pick them but there’s enough talent there to get the job done. Obviously adjusting to life without Curry in the middle of a high leverage playoff situation isn’t easy and thus the margin for error is almost nonexistent. To state the obvious, the Warriors can’t afford another injury to a core piece and everyone has to step up their games to compensate for the loss of arguably the league’s best player. They can’t afford to relax for periods at a time knowing they can flip the “DEATH” switch later and they can’t sit and watch Curry put on dazzling shows for minutes at a time like they do at times when he’s on the floor.
It’s not a completely hopeless situation for the Warriors, if the numbers are to tell some of the story. With Curry, F Draymond Green, and G Klay Thompson, the Warriors outscored opponents by 20.4 points per 100 possessions. Without Curry, that number goes down 12.5 points per 100 possessions to a still very good 7.9. That would have been second best in the NBA (SA) if extrapolated over a full season. Also, they scored 107.3 points per 100 possessions which would’ve ranked fourth behind the Oklahoma City Thunder, the aforementioned San Antonio Spurs, and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The biggest constant for the Warriors without Stephen Curry is that Klay Thompson’s usage rate spikes to a healthy 33.2 clip. Yes, the journey is more difficult but all is not lost for the moment. They’re going to play slower, they’re obviously going to take less threes and they will post up more. The Warriors game without Curry is clearly going to be a lot more conventional.
4. Although it’s an unfortunate situation, other NBA teams will see this as an opportunity - The Warriors ran through the league like a knife through butter and the NBA’s elite weren’t exempt from this treatment. They were 12-1 against Cleveland, Oklahoma City, San Antonio and the Los Angeles Clippers. Feeling like your team was going to beat a nine loss team four times in a seven game series probably felt unrealistic.
5. This injury opens the floor up so many questions - When will Curry actually return? Will they survive the Blazers if Curry doesn’t play or is compromised on the court by his injury? What does this do for San Antonio, OKC, and Cleveland’s respective title chances? What will Curry look like when he returns? How much shit will Draymond Green talk if the Warriors survive this and go back to back?
It stinks that it takes a Curry injury to get to the point where the NBA playoffs intensifies and becomes more interesting, but that also speaks to the greatness of this Warriors team. If they manage to survive this, I CANNOT WAIT to see Draymond Green on the court after the final win and at the championship parade.
UPDATE: The Warriors started the second round with a wire to wire 118-106 win over the Blazers on Sunday. So far, so good without Curry for Golden State as they’ve generally looked like they can hold it down until he comes back.