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Golden State Warriors

The upside of losing Stephen Curry for a while

Dec 4, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr talks with guard Stephen Curry (30) during the first quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors appear to be without the services of Stephen Curry for a while after the superstar point guard injured his surgically repaired right ankle.

While X-rays were negative and it appears there was no structural damage, there was still a major ouch factor.

I mean, this looks painful, does it not?

Judging by the angle of that ankle, the Warriors are probably counting their lucky stars that it wasn’t worse. Still, missing Curry for any amount of time isn’t the first choice. The Warriors are indicating that he’ll be re-examined after two weeks.

Is there an upside of this, though? There could be.

Last year, when Kevin Durant went down for a spell, the Warriors initially had a struggle, losing four of six games — their worst stretch of games in the Steve Kerr era. Then they figured things out and went on a 13-game winning streak. When Durant returned, they seamlessly re-incorporated him back into their schemes and dominated through the postseason.

If anyone is equipped to handle the loss of Curry, it’s the Warriors, who have plenty of star power with or without Curry. Durant is a top-three player in the world, Draymond Green is arguably a top-10 player and Klay Thompson is a top-20 guy. Not many teams have that kind of  “Plan B.”

In fact, when you have that much star power, it can be hard to figure out what to do with it all. The Warriors are fine with the other three stars and no Curry. According to NBA.com, their net rating with all four stars is plus-19.1; with just Durant, Thompson and Green, it’s “only” plus-12.1. That’s none too shabby.

We might reflexively think that because Curry is such a great 3-point shooter, they’re going to have to have to adjust to that, but what’s fascinating is that when the other three are on the court with Curry, they make 2.9 triples per 36 minutes at a 46.1 percent rate. When they’re on the court without him, the make 3.1 3s at a 46.2 percent rate. So the difference Curry makes is fairly negligible. The problem is that only 46 minutes offer a basis for judgment.

That’s where the benefit could come in.

Just getting playing time could make a big difference. The Warriors will have a “chance” to learn to play without Curry. Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention. Steve Kerr is a creative coach.

The Warriors still have the talent to win plenty of games. They have just three road games between now and Jan. 3. The Dec. 8 tilt in Detroit is the only game on the road against a winning team in that stretch. Seven of their next 11 games are against teams with losing records. They can figure things out in a real-world laboratory without needing to sacrifice wins.

Maybe they will drop one or two additional games, but they’re not in much danger of dropping very far in the standings. It could be a little tough to catch the Houston Rockets for the league lead, but overall, they’re well positioned and aren’t concerned about seeding.

Whatever they gain from this experience won’t go away when Curry returns. They’ll have that many more lineups and plays that they can throw at teams. They’ll learn that many more ways to beat opponents — and it’s not like they don’t have enough already.

For most squads, losing a player of Curry’s value would be problematic, but the Dubs are so deep and talented that they’re probably going to emerge stronger because of it.

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