The Golden State Warriors Are Pretty Average Without Stephen Curry
NBA MVP frontrunner Stephen Curry got off to a scorching hot start to the opening game of the Golden State Warriors-Houston Rockets series, scoring 24 points on 8-of-13 from the field in the first half, including 5-of-7 from beyond the three-point arc.
The Warriors jumped out to a 60-33 halftime lead and never looked back, rolling to a 104-78 win.
Unfortunately for Curry and the Warriors, it wasn't all good news.
Curry rolled his right ankle late in the second quarter and ended up playing just three minutes in the second half as a result. Golden State had a comfortable lead, so Curry's sitting seemed precautionary at the time, but with the injury history with his ankles, there obviously was still some concern.
After the game, Steve Kerr had this to say about his superstar point guard, "As far as [Game 2 on] Monday, I'd say Steph is questionable. We will see how he responds the next couple of days and go from there."
Shortly after, the Warriors officially listed Curry as questionable for Monday's game. Although, Curry said himself that he doesn't see a scenario where he misses Game 2:
"Right now, don't see a scenario where I'll be out. Obviously, if it's not right and I'm at risk of further injury or whatnot, that's the only thing that we'll have to worry about ... Pain tolerance and all that stuff, I kind of know what I can deal with on the court. But you don't want anything more serious to happen, favoring an ankle or whatnot. So that's what we'll kind of pay attention to the next two days."
But what if Curry is unable to play Game 2? Or what if his ankle acts up again, and the Warriors decide to play it safe and just shut him down for the series? Any number of scenarios where Curry is unable to play obviously isn't an ideal scenario for the Warriors, but what exactly would the impact be if Curry is unable to play?
Let's take a look at how Golden State has performed in the past -- both with games Curry has missed completely and also just in times when he is off the floor.
Warriors Without Curry
In situations where Curry is simply not on the court for the Warriors, his presence is missed in a significant way.
Per Basketball-Reference, the Warriors lead the NBA with an Effective Field Goal Percentage of 56.3 percent, which is 3.7 percentage points ahead of the San Antonio Spurs' second-best mark. That may not sound like much, but it's the same differential between the Spurs and the 23rd-ranked team, the Denver Nuggets.
With Curry off the floor in 2015, Golden State's Effective Field Goal Percentage is 50.4 percent, which would rank them 12th in the league.
Golden State's Offensive Rating is 114.5, also best in the league. With Curry on the floor, that number is even more impressive at 119.1. With Curry off the floor, that number drops down to 105.3, which would rank the Warriors 20th in the NBA.
It doesn't end there -- the Warriors' rebounding, assists, steals, pace and just about every offensive category that exists are all down when Curry isn't playing. But it's not only on the offensive end where his presence is missed. Curry has evolved into a very good defender, and the Warriors are worse defensively without him.
The Effective Field Goal Percentage against the Warriors is 47.9 percent, second-best in the NBA. With Curry on the floor, that number is even better: 46.8 percent. When Curry doesn't play, the Warriors allow a mark of 50.2 percent, which is exactly the league average. So they go from being a great defensive team, by this measure, to exactly league average when Curry isn't on the court.
In terms of Defensive Rating, the Warriors allow 101.2 points per 100 possessions with Curry on the court, second-best in basketball. With Curry off the court, that number is 109.6, a differential of 8.4, which would rank sixth-worst in the NBA. So teams perform like the second worst offense in the NBA when Curry is playing and the sixth-best when he isn't playing.
For reference, let's take a look at the Spurs and Kawhi Leonard, who just repeated as the Defensive Player of the Year. Offenses facing the Spurs without Kawhi on the floor see an Offensive Rating boost of 4.6 when Leonard is off the court. Curry's is 8.4 -- nearly doubled.
So on both sides of the court, the overall impact when Curry doesn't play is massive. The Warriors statistically are an average to below-average team in many areas without him, which speaks volumes to how important he really is to the team. Considering the numbers we just ran through are mostly times when Curry simply is resting, this type of affect stretched out over the course of one or multiple games is a scenario the Warriors do not want to find themselves in.
In games where Curry has missed completely -- there were three of them in 2015 -- the Warriors have not fared well, at least by their standards.
Golden State went 2-1 without Curry this season, with the two wins yielding 4-point margins of victory, with the loss being by 23 points. Golden State's average margin of victory in 2015 was 10.8 points, so that 6.8-point differential without Curry is notable. One of those wins required overtime, and the other needed a 38-point effort from Klay Thompson in order for the Warriors to emerge victorious -- that game was against Houston.
All of these numbers really put into perspective how much of an impact Curry has on his team, both offensively and defensively. That's obviously not a surprise, but being able to measure his value in some capacity is fascinating.
Still, it sounds like Curry will be good to go in Game 2, and for the sake of the Warriors, hopefully beyond. But if he can't go in Game 2 or any additional games, the Rockets could have a real shot at winning the series given the drastic difference of the Warriors without Curry.
Golden State, of course, has plenty of talent outside of the reigning MVP, and they are a very well-coached team, but the series would become much more interesting at the very least.