After the Warriors got off to an 8-3 start, including 8-2 with a healthy starting lineup, many people were calling this team a legit contender. ESPN Insider Writer Tom Haberstroh wrote a piece titled, "Are the Golden State Warriors the Best Team in the league?," and at the time, the idea wasn't too far fetched. The Warriors were the only team to rank in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and had not only won eight of eleven games, but done so convincingly. However, as we all know, the start was too good to be true and the injury bug hit the Warriors in full effect. First, Toney Douglas went out with a fractured tibia, followed by a concussion to Stephen Curry that caused him to miss two games. However, the most important injury to this team was the strained hamstring of Andre Iguodala. Not only does Iguodala provide much needed perimeter defense, but he also was the de-facto backup point guard. With the loss of Iguodala, as well as the injury to Douglas and the struggles of Nemanja Nedovic and Kent Bazemore, Stephen Curry was thrust into the role of being the primary ball handler for the whole game.
Last year, Jarrett Jack averaged close to 30 minutes a game, often with Curry on the floor playing off ball. This allowed Curry to be utilized in a variety of ways, such as running through screens or as a decoy in the corner. With the departure of Jack this summer, the team was forced to find another guard to fill this role, and Iguodala was doing so masterfully to start the season. However, the combination of Douglas’ injury as well as Iguodala’s hamstring strain, left Curry as the only ball handler on the team. Because Mark Jackson doesn't trust the previously mentioned bench players this also led to increased minutes for Curry. Curry has played 39 minutes of more in 10 of the last 11 games, with all of those minutes being at the point guard position.
Stephen Curry is already not the surest ball handler, and making him play point exclusively without another capable distributor only increased these issues. As shown in the graph below, with the orange line representing the game Iguodala got hurt, Curry turned the ball over considerably less when playing along Iguodala. Prior to Iguodala's injury, Curry had six games with 2 of less turnovers, but that has only happened twice since Andre's injury. On the other hand, Curry has had seven games with five of more turnovers since the injury, as opposed to only 3 times with Iguodala. All in all, Curry averaged 3.4 turnovers with Iguodala, as opposed to 4.9 without him. Furthermore, since the Iguodala injury, Curry has accounted for a higher percentage of the Warriors turnovers. In every game but one since the Iguodala injury, Curry has at least accounted for 20% of the Warriors turnovers. Prior to the injury, that had only occurred 4 times, and the Warriors had still managed to win three of those games. Overall, before to the Iguodala injury, Curry was contributing 18.7% of the total team turnovers, but has accounted for 29.6% since.
While the Iguodala injury has largely affected Curry's turnovers, as a whole, the team has actually been turning the ball over less. Five of the team’s seven highest turnover games occurred with Iguodala, and the team was averaging 18.3 turnovers per game. Without Iguodala, this average is now 16.6 turnovers per game, but despite the drop in total turnovers, opponents are now scoring more points off them than before. Teams have averaged 20.6 points off turnovers per game without Iguodala, more than four points more than before the injury. This effect can be shown in the chart below, which shows the number of points teams have scored per turnover. Prior to the Iguodala's injury, there was only one game (Win vs. Thunder) where a team averaged more than 1.2 points per turnover, and the Warriors turned the ball over a season low seven times that game. However, since then, this has happened eight times in twelve games, and while it is trending downward, it is still a serious concern.
Because of the recent struggles, many have been quick to blame turnovers. Curry in particular has received a lot criticism for seemingly lazy passes, but many have argued that he is not the problem.
To the people who keep harping on Curry’s "Turnover problem", note that the team averages 4.7 more TOV per 100 when he is on the bench.— EvanZ (@thecity2) December 13, 2013
However, just looking at the turnover numbers doesn't tell the whole story, as shown by the increase in opponents points of TO's despite a decrease in turnovers as a team. Similarly, although the team may be turning the ball over less with Curry on the floor, he is still contributing close to 20% of the total turnovers on a regular basis. When he accounts for less than 20%, the team is 6-1, suggesting that when Curry turns the ball over, it is worse for the team than when others do. Finally, when tracking Curry's TO's against team TO's, we see that they follow a very similar pattern since the Iguodala injury. Since the injury, Curry's six highest TO games are also the Warriors highest TO games as well. Prior to the injury, these floated somewhat independently of one another, but they now show a clear correlation.
So what does this all mean? With the loss of Iguodala, Curry has had to become a ball handler essentially the whole game. As you would expect, this has led to an increase in his turnovers per game. However, these turnovers are more costly to the team than previously, as teams are converting turnovers into more points. The team also seems to be following Curry’s lead more since the injury, suggesting that when Curry has been sloppy with the ball, the whole team does as well. It’s tough to think of a solution to this problem on the team as currently constructed with Toney Douglas and Nemanja Nedovic as the only other PG’s on the team, neither of which have shown the ability to run the offense. Instead, it must fall on Curry to take personal responsibility for his turnovers as the leader of the team, at least until Iguodala comes back.