The Warriors' title defense has taken yet another hit in the form of an injury to reigning Finals MVP Stephen Curry.
After an emotional run to the 2022 NBA title, Golden State has hovered around .500 throughout the first half of the 2022-23 season. And on Sunday, Feb. 5, The Athletic's Shams Charania reported that Curry would be out "multiple weeks" with a left leg injury, which the Warriors have diagnosed as "partial tears to his superior tibiofibular ligaments and interosseous membrane as well as a contusion to his lower leg."
Needless to say, Curry's absence will be felt in Golden State. Despite battling injuries this season, Curry is averaging 29.4 points, 6.4 assists and 6.3 rebounds over 38 games, numbers that placed him in early-season MVP conversations and resulted in a nod as an All-Star starter.
If there's any sort of silver lining for the Warriors, it's that Curry's prognosis comes just two weeks before the All-Star Game. The team has just five games scheduled prior to All-Star and, because of the break, will play just six games in an 18-day span.
With one of the NBA's top talents potentially missing extended time, there is sure to be a widespread impact of Curry's latest setback.
This season, Curry has appeared in 38 of a possible 53 games for Golden State, two of which he exited early from with injuries.
It should go without saying that the Warriors are a better team with Curry in the lineup, but the difference in record is not as drastic as it may seem. Golden State is 20-18 in games that Curry suited up and, at the time of injury, 7-8 when the two-time MVP is sidelined.
More important than records, however, is a deeper look at numbers that illustrate the obvious: Golden State is not the same team when Curry isn't available.
|Offensive Rating||Defensive Rating||Net Rating|
|Curry on court||117.4||112.1||5.3|
|Curry off court||107.1||113.2||-6.1|
For perspective, the Nuggets rank first in the NBA with an Offensive Rating of 117.9 while the Hornets rank dead last with an Offensive Rating of 108.9. That the Warriors plummet from a league-best caliber rating to one that would rank last shows just how valuable Curry is.
The tricky situation in the Western Conference standings makes every game important, and four of Golden State's five games before the break are against opponents that are nearby in the standings.
|Feb. 6||vs. Thunder||10 p.m.|
|Feb. 8||at Trail Blazers||10 p.m.|
|Feb. 11||vs. Lakers||8:30 p.m.|
|Feb. 13||vs. Wizards||10 p.m.|
|Feb. 14||at Clippers||10 p.m.|
It's also worth noting that three of the five games are at home. The Warriors are 2-6 on the road without Curry, though it is worth noting that he was a part of a slew of absences in some cases.
How tricky is the playoff picture in the West? Just five games currently separate the third and 13th seeds with most teams having around 30 games remaining in the year.
After winning six of their last 10 prior to Curry's injury, the Warriors moved to the middle of the pack, 2.5 games behind the third seed and 2.5 games ahead of 13th.
With five games to play before breaking for All-Star, Golden State could easily surge with a streak or free fall with a skid. If the Warriors could win at least two of the five games before All-Star, they would keep their current pace at the very least.
Here's a look at the West's logjam through games played on Feb. 5:
It's worth noting that the Mavericks, who are right in the mix with the Warriors, have now added Kyrie Irving to pair with Luka Doncic. The landscape of the West has already shifted ahead of the deadline and more moves could be coming.
Golden State, like most teams, will look to finish sixth or better to avoid the Play-In Tournament. When clicking on all cylinders, few teams are as scary as the Warriors, but they'll need Curry back and they might want to explore making a deadline move of their own.
While Curry's injury signifies that it is, once again, Jordan Poole time, there's more to explore here.
It's easiest to begin with Poole, though.
During Curry's 11-game absence from mid-December to early January, Poole put up averages of 27.9 points and 4.1 assists per game, though he shot just 27.5 percent from 3-point range.
Poole has taken on various roles this season, but it's clear that he's at his best as a starter:
Poole has been at his best as a starter thanks in large part to having a higher usage rate, a direct correlation to many of his starts coming in the absence of Curry. As a reserve in the game where Curry was injured, Poole scored three points on 1-of-6 shooting in 27 minutes of action.
With Warriors head coach Steve Kerr reportedly done with the starting lineup that features both Poole and Curry, the rhythm that is sure to return is likely only a temporary fix to an overarching issue.
In addition to Poole, Andrew Wiggins will be looked upon to step up. Wiggins has been in and out of Golden State's lineup this season but has yet to truly find his footing since returning to action in late January.
Wiggins' defensive presence and ability to score can keep Golden State afloat while Curry is out of the lineup. Among others that can step up from a scoring perspective are Donte DiVincenzo, Ty Jerome, Jonathan Kuminga, Anthony Lamb and Moses Moody.
Replacing nearly 30 points per game must be done by committee.
It may not seem as important in the grand scheme, but Curry's absence means that measures must be made for the upcoming All-Star Game. Only recently has the situation become even trickier.
As noted above, Curry was one of two Western Conference guards voted in as an All-Star starter in 2023. In most years, his injury would mean that Commissioner Adam Silver would promote a guard from the West's reserve pool into the starter pool, but on Sunday, Irving, another All-Star starter, was traded from the East to the West.
It's unclear what exactly the NBA will do, but there are a few things at play:
All-Star teams are decided by the All-Star draft, but conferences still hold importance with respect to the number of players selected.
Recent changes to the landscape of All-Stars in each conference add more to the potential replacement. In the East, guards like Jalen Brunson and James Harden could be first in line for a call, while Anthony Edwards and De'Aaron Fox are two worthy replacements in the West.
There are plenty of decisions to be made.2023-02-06T18:25:39Z dg43tfdfdgfd