Time to tank, or tread water?
Curry long-term injury shifts tone
Stephen Curry is out through the new year with a shoulder injury. It’s a relatively reasonable timeline for his injury, which is essentially a partial dislocation - and thankfully on the non-shooting arm. But it does modify the reality for the Golden State Warriors, who will now sink or swim without their star. Andrew Wiggins remains out with his abdominal injury, Draymond Green is out for today’s game.
What’s left? Two of the Warriors’ most important players have struggled in the early portion of the season, but are going to now be looked at to lead the survival efforts for these short-handed Warriors. I’m not sure if coach Steve Kerr will go right to a starting pairing of Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole, but watch for both of them to be asked to do more for the team. Up and down the roster, the same sentiment is true. From Kevon Looney to Jonathan Kuminga to… wait… what?! WISEMAN!
WHO: Golden State Warriors (14-15) at Philadelphia 76ers (15-12)
WHEN: Friday December 16, 2022 // 4:30pm PDT
Injury update: Green, Wiggins, both out. We also got some last minute details on the MRI ruling out surgery right away for Curry are below, but there’s also a clip of him talking about pain level after return:
Also, Klay maybe too?
Without Curry, will the Warriors tank?
Right now, Golden State is right on the cusp of the play-in tournament. Any ideas about home court advantage in the playoffs blew out the window already. The Warriors have been mostly full strength for the bulk of this season, but just haven’t been able to string it together for sustained success.
There have been some online disagreements about whether or not the term “tanking” only refers to voluntary actions. But there’s an overarching reflection of the talent available to a team on any given night that overrides any want/need for intentionally not winning games. Kerr has the 7th best winning percentage of all time in the NBA - about 67% of the Warriors games he’s been at the helm of have ended in a win. But for games without Curry? It’s an abysmal 50-92 record. You don’t need any advanced calculus to understand why.
The bench looked fantastic against preseason rosters full of other marginal players, but fell way off as soon as the regular season began. With Wiseman recalled from the G League, it appears as if the two timelines are merging again.
As it stands now, the Warriors are in the draft lottery. I just made my first visit to tankathon, and with just a couple of clicks, saw the Warriors leap up to the 4th pick in next year’s draft
But that’s the fall back option. I’m just going to keep these concepts in the back of my head. A “break glass in case of emergency” sort of compartmentalization learned from my long suffering years as a Warriors’ fan of yore.
So how does Golden State not tank?
I saw someone point out online that Looney, Wiggins, and Poole have served as this team’s iron men - all having missed limited action since 2020. The goal right now isn’t even to thrive in Curry’s absence; it’s to simply tread water. The Warriors, fighting to hover around .500 and keep their playoff hopes alive, were not well positioned to survive an injury like this - especially on top of Wiggins’ ongoing health woes.
Even Curry quipped during his pregame media availability that “…where we’re at, we just want to win a road game.” In other words, expect a slide now with what’s left of this roster. Here’s Curry, just prior to halftime of the last game, down by 20 after putting up a massive 27 points in the first half:
No Curry, no Wiggins, and no Green against a Sixers defense that is ranked as the NBA’s 6th stingiest sounds like a recipe for a bad time, but you never know. The full strength Warriors teams have lost to worst rosters than the one that Golden State will trot out tonight. A lucky win or two is the ask here. If the roster can somehow gel and start to figure things out during this rough road trip, that’s found money.
So let’s look under the couch cushions.
One player that feels poised to shine within this new limited roster is Kuminga. He’s been emerging as one of Kerr’s more trusted young guys, and it’s an earned trust. Kuminga’s defense has grown by leaps and bounds - from both an individual and team defensive perspective. It’s the sort of development that you hope to see from any new player drafted into your favorite team, but especially useful for a Golden State roster that has begun to notice an increasing need for length and athleticism to combat the arms race in the NBA (no pun intended).
Poole is another player that might be oddly benefited by this roster shakeup. He’s had a weird season. After signing an early contract renewal that kicks in next season (four year, $140 million) things haven’t been going super well for him. Punched in the face during a preseason altercation. Haunted by an NBA referee vendetta on carrying violations that seems to specifically target him. A bit of a shooting slump that has him way down at 42% from the field, including a measly 32% from behind the arc.
If there’s a time for Poole to get back into his groove, it’s now. The team needs him to do more of everything - which will either help him get out of his head, or compound the problems via increased scrutiny.
This one isn’t going to be a pretty game. With Harden and Embiid on the Sixers, I expect a free throw showcase from two of the league’s most prolific free throw merchants. Combined with a stingy 76ers defense, this could be a long evening for the Warriors.
Look, I know I don’t always steer you right, but please, click here to check out the new Sarchasm song. This band is breaking up at the end of the month, and their most recent album is Barry Sanders level of going out on top of your game. Sort of pop punk, sort of rock. 100% good.