Curry back? Warriors eye return of their brightest star against banged up Suns
Also, checking in on the team at the halfway mark
Though nothing is set in stone, Stephen Curry might return for tonight’s game against the Phoenix Suns. Now, before you go getting all excited, please be advised that Curry is still listed as “questionable” - not probable - on the Golden State Warriors’ most recent injury report.
For a lot of reasons, this team needs Curry back as soon as possible. They’ve tread water as requested during his absence, but the Warriors are running on fumes and are badly in need of some additional firepower. That recent record of semi-success hasn’t come easy, and with a team so dependant on their small cadre of veterans, there’s been a heavy ask - highlighted by Klay Thompson’s late scratch because of knee soreness prior to the team’s last game.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (20-20) vs Phoenix Suns (20-21)
WHEN: Tuesday, January 10th, 2023 // 7pm PDT
Halftime report: Just get to the tourney
Tonight’s game will be the 41st of the season. It’s sort of the middle point of the season if we choose to ignore the postseason altogether - but more importantly, it feels like a natural point to stop and check in on the team. When Curry went down, the hope was that the team could tread water in his absence.
In that regard, it’s been a rousing success. The Warriors have just slightly exceeded the 50-50 split in games without Curry, and in doing so, they’ve managed to resolve many of the concerns that were surfacing… not all of them, but enough to assuage a concern or two. Since this is the halfway mark, let’s take a look at where the team stands in general, and then a few key highlighted statistics.
At the highest level, here are the team’s general stats from basketball reference. The top row is the actual measurement, and the bottom row shows the relative NBA rank.
There are some outliers up there. Starting on the far left, we can see that the Warriors are dead last in free throw rate, or FTr (for reference they were 23rd last season). Probably related to that low free throw rate, the team offense is clearly hunting threes. Even against the backdrop of the rest of the NBA, Golden State has had the second-most frequent three point attempt rate (3PTAr) - a full 48% of all shots the team took this year were from deep.
Even with the well known shooting problems this season, the Golden State offense is still managing to hit their shots. A .561 eFG% is good enough for 5th in the league - though it’s worth noting here that the overall offense is pretty pedestrian (17th in the league).
Thompson has emerged from his earlier shooting swamp, but Jordan Poole is now at the unfortunate fulcrum where the team’s offense pivots a little extra hard around a guy that is in the midst of a slump. Currently, Poole is the very worst volume shooter from deep. Of his 145 threes, he’s only hit 26.9% of them. That’s real bad. Poole is currently shooting just over eight threes per game. Hopefully, he will regress back to the mean soon and fix some things - he shot 36.4% from deep last year, and 35.1% the year prior.
Thankfully, the west is wiiiiiiiide open.
But I find it increasingly hard to focus on the minutia this season. Let’s back up a bit.
This team hasn’t been fully assembled yet this season. Even if Curry finally gets to appear alongside Klay, Wiggins, and Andre Iguodala, there are still the absences of Jonathan Kuminga and others to work around. This is a roster that is built for the post season, at some point, it’s just about getting to the tourney and rolling the dice on your guys.
One wild move could still be in the cards of course.
The recent opening of 10-day contracts opens the windows a bit, but it’s really hard to imagine a marginal player blowing in and cracking coach Steve Kerr’s rotations. Those rotations have been stretched real thin with all the injuries. It’s no secret that the roster construction this season presumed some minutes for James Wiseman, and Kerr commented just yesterday on the burden it’s been for both Kevon Looney and Draymond Green. Two of the team’s most reliable - and most irreplaceable - players.
Wiseman’s career has been hampered by injuries. Even now, a year out from his final rookie scale contract, he’s only played 58 NBA games. So while this isn’t just about Wiseman, his large salary slot and flashes of excellence mixed with ineptitude would tend to put him at the epicenter of any sort of marginal roster improving trade.
For now though, the priority is to get everyone back, get them healthy, and get tuned up for the second half of the season.
Suns are all banged up
I don’t have a ton to say about any of this, but be advised that there is a huge swatch of the Suns roster that is going to be out for this game. It’s slim comfort to Warriors fans that have watched this franchise scramble through a number of major injuries over the past few years, but the sad truth is that the injury bug bites everyone sooner or later.
I’m going to my second ever game at Chase tonight. I predict that the crowd will be slightly louder (at least right near me anyways). Hit me with your Chase recommendations. I’m leaning towards checking out the new subway line.