On Saturday, the Golden State Warriors quietly put out an update on Steph Curry’s health. Calendars had been circled for February 1, as the Warriors had long scheduled that as the day when a re-evaluation would occur. In recent weeks, videos of Curry practicing had lent credence to the early return optimism that some fans had harnessed.
The injury update wasn’t bad; not at all. But it wasn’t the great news that would have ignited Dub Nation. It was simply this: As good as the progress has been, Curry’s out for all of February, at the very least.
He’ll be re-evaluated on the generally elusive February 29, at which point we might get a narrow time frame on his return. But even if the second re-evaluation is positive, it will probably be a few weeks until Curry is back on the court.
If I were a betting man, the date I’d circle for his return is March 25, a home contest against the Atlanta Hawks. Perhaps that seems conservative, but the Warriors embark on a five-game road trip starting on March 14. Given that the team has nothing tangible to play for, it seems likely that they’ll want to re-integrate Curry at Chase Center, rather than on the road.
A March 25 return would put Curry back on the court for all of 11 games to end the season. That would offer a mere glimpse of the two-time MVP before Warriors fans drift into their first full-length offseason since 2012.
Barring a setback, Curry will be back on the court. That is going to happen.
But it’s fair to question: should it happen?
There are reasons to put Curry on the floor as much as possible. And there are reasons to keep him sitting on the sideline in his stylish, well-tailored suits. Let’s examine both, starting with the bad so we can finish with the good.
As far as the concern of re-injuring goes, a broken hand is a pretty good injury to have. It doesn’t come with the persistent risks of, say, a sprained ankle or a damaged knee.
Curry probably isn’t at any further risk of damaging his hand than he was prior to breaking it. But if he does injure it again, it could be worse. And we’ve seen players return from injuries only to be a little hesitant, misuse their bodies, and suffer injuries elsewhere.
It’s safe to say the Warriors will be as conservative as possible with Curry. But still.
Even though they’re riding a two-game winning streak, the Warriors still have the worst record in the league at 12-39. That’s good for their draft position.
Curry obviously makes the team notably better, which could threaten their draft stock. Now, Golden State benefits from the new draft odds, which were implemented a year ago. Under the new system, the three worst records have equal odds of grabbing the first overall pick.
The Warriors currently share that worst-three bubble with the Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers, and they’re three games away from the next-closest team, the New York Knicks. So they have a little bit of a cushion.
But there’s a lot of season left to play, and the Knicks have flirted with trading Julius Randle and Marcus Morris Sr., which would certainly accelerate their tank.
It’s not unrealistic to think that Curry’s return could cost the Warriors a few draft slots, which could impact the player they select, or impact the trade package they can put together in the offseason.
D’Angelo Russell stat suppression
One thing should be clear based on the rumors swirling around the Warriors this week: Golden State is more than open to the idea of trading D’Angelo Russell.
Russell is having the best year of his career. He’s averaging career highs in points per game (23.8), three-point percentage (38.3%), two-point percentage (48.3%), true-shooting percentage (56.3%), and free throw rate (22.9%). He’s averaging a career low in turnover rate (12.9%), despite averaging 6.3 assists per game.
Those numbers look like a shiny red Ferrari to opposing GMs, and the Warriors know it.
Would those numbers go down with Curry on the court? Perhaps not, but it’s a distinct possibility. And any suppression of Russell’s stats is suppression of his trade value.
Time with DLo
Sure, you can argue that Curry sharing the court with Russell will only serve to suppress the 23-year old All-Star’s stats. But there’s another side to the coin: The Warriors are still interested in a future that involves Curry and Russell sharing the court together.
Spring offers some time to see how it works. It’s a chance for Curry and Russell to work on their chemistry and dynamic, and see how good they can be. And it’s a chance for Steve Kerr and Bob Myers to gauge what the ceiling of that pairing can be.
Time with the youngsters
The Warriors believe their championship window is still wide open going into 2020-21. And they should. Any team with Curry, Russell, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson has their shot.
But this isn’t the same team as in year’s past. They’re not filling the bench with Shaun Livingston and David West (though I would expect Andre Iguodala to be back in the Bay next season).
If the Warriors are to succeed next year, they’re going to need contributions from young players like Eric Paschall, Jordan Poole, Jacob Evans III, Omari Spellman, Marquese Chriss, and Alen Smailagic. Not from all of them; but from some of them.
Time on the court with Curry is valuable not just for developing good rapport, but for giving those players a chance to develop in a better situation than they’re currently in.
Curry peace of mind
Unfortunately for Curry, he has plenty of experience returning from injuries. So maybe this isn’t as big of a point of emphasis for him as it would be for other players.
But it’s not always easy to return from an injury, and trust your body fully. Players often move at 90%, consciously or subconsciously. Often they’re a little bit more willing to settle for a jumper instead of attacking the rim (hardly a bad thing in Curry’s case, admittedly).
Just getting on the court for a few games can give players some peace of mind, and some comfort and confidence heading into the offseason. Getting that out of the way at the end of the year can make a world of difference come October.
He’s Steph Curry. Come on.
You want to see him. I want to see him. His teammates want to see him. His opponents want to see him.
And, perhaps more importantly to those making the decisions, the fans who spend money to come to the Warriors flashy new arena want to see him. And they’ll pay more money when he’s there.
Curry being back - even for just eleven games - is a huge financial positive for the Warriors. That’s worth something, quite literally.
Ultimately the pros and cons don’t matter much, because we know Curry will step foot on the court once he’s cleared. And we know that we’ll all be grinning from ear to ear when that happens.