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What can't he fix? Curry's return will help, but can't solve all the team's problems
Though still a few days out, attention is already focused on how much Curry's return can fix for a team in desperate need of help in every aspect of basketball
While the Golden State Warriors are clearly not winning any championships this season, the franchise has backslid in a way that is well beyond just missing a few star players.
Forced to work around the fringes of the NBA talent pool for years, the Warriors haven’t picked higher than 28th in any draft in the past decade. Beyond that, due to salary constraints associated with a top-heavy roster, the team has been forced to dig through the discount bins of free agency looking for fringe players to fill out the rotation.
So before we get into what Curry can (or can’t fix) with this last place team, we should all start with an understanding of how Golden State got themselves to a place where so much of their roster is constructed from castoffs.
In case you forgot - Curry is transformative
The presumption that Curry’s return will fix everything really isn’t far fetched - even with the understanding of how bad the current roster is playing. Curry ushered in a new era of the NBA almost single-handedly. It’s not just his individual talent - though it’s surely a large part of his impact - Curry has a nearly unprecedented ability to make his team better.
Players most likely to thrive alongside Curry
Starting at the top: Draymond Green should immediately show improved output with Curry’s return. Green, the emotional leader of this team, is clearly struggling to care about games that don’t matter.
Last season, the duo shared the court for 1,619 minutes, posting a net rating of +15.2 points per 100 possessions, as per the NBA’s advanced lineup data. Perhaps no returning player (ok, to be fair, there’s only 3 of them this season) has been as impacted this year as Green. While you have to take these values within the context of the overall, Green’s Net Rating this year (-7.4) has dropped precipitously as compared to last season (+10.7).
Andrew Wiggins has also been oft cited as another player that would be well served playing alongside Curry. Athletic, and able to attack the rim as well as shoot from outside, Wiggins has already shown early flashes of improved efficiency while with the Warriors. There’s every reason to believe that a reduced offensive burden while playing with the floor spacing and sweet passing of Curry will be immensely helpful to Wiggins.
New starting Center Marquese Chriss is another player that seems poised to thrive when Curry comes back into the fold. After the resurrection of JaVale McGee, the team has consistently found a way to incorporate some sort of quick, springy Center. Chriss is the newest iteration of this role, and even without Curry, has been thriving here - especially after D’Angelo Russell was traded.
Marquesse Chriss has emerged since the Dlo trade (18.4 pts/9 rebounds/1.8 assts/1.4 blocks /0.6 steals)
He's also drawing 4.8 fta on 79% and he's shooting 67% from the field on 11 shots per game.
What can’t Curry’s return fix?
For starters (and this may get me flamed by my colleagues in our writer’s chat) Curry is not going to fix everything. While the league’s worst offense will surely improve once Curry gets involved, the team’s defense has been nearly as bad.
Curry is generally stouter than most fans realize on the ball, but the defensive schemes that he’s thrived in here have historically featured intelligent wing players like Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, as well as some sort of stalwart presence down low - either the rim challenging McGee, or a wide body like Zaza Pachulia. Without either of those in place, Curry’s return may do very little to assuage the defensive pain.
Offensively, while there are plenty of weapons that will be improved, this is still a roster that is bad enough to be a “trap game” for their opponents each and every night. I made a nifty little graphic to show the team’s best three point shooters, alongside their True Shooting percentage - the idea here is to show a general lack of efficiency, with a specific eye on the three-point line
These are the team’s current stock of “good” outside shooters - note that only three players are above 30% from deep. Now, it’s possible that some of this is just statistical noise - for example Poole shot 37% from deep in college (granted, the line isn’t as far out as it is in the NBA) so there’s some reasonable expectation that his shooting can climb back upwards. But the bottom line here is that even with Curry’s (and eventually, Klay Thompson’s) return, this is still going to be a team that will struggle to get meaningful contributions from large swaths of the roster.
So while Curry’s return is welcome, don’t expect him to get slapped onto the team and immediately solve every single problem like some sort of basketball Flex Tape.