Stephen Curry health
It could be the biggest storyline heading into this year’s playoffs. Curry will sit out the entire first round match-up versus the San Antonio Spurs and is targeting a Western Conference semi-finals return. The injury which is diagnosed as an MCL sprain was suffered on March 23rd in the Warriors 104-96 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.
Not only is Stephen Curry one of the premier players in the NBA, he is the heartbeat and focal point for why this Warriors side is so unstoppable when healthy. Fellow teammate Kevin Durant knows just how important it is to have Curry back out on the court. In a Bleacher Report article when Curry had suffered an ankle injury earlier in the year, Kevin Durant stated that: “It’s weird not having Steph out there, and we’re just kind of playing on the fly each possession.”
Curry has had a history of lower leg injuries dating back to his early playing days out of college at Davidson and it has always been important for the Warriors to never rush him back and rest him. In this instance, he has much bigger fish to fry later in the playoffs, especially since he has three other All-Stars to make up for his absence. Golden State may not be the favorite in the Western Conference with how well the Houston Rockets have played all season. However, the big three of Curry, Durant, and Klay Thompson have not been on the court as much as they would have liked to be all season.
It is easy to say that Durant is the player that must step up as the go-to-guy for the Warriors this series, however, I believe that the combination of Draymond Green and JaVale McGhee will play a major role in this series. With the Spurs missing their most valuable player in Kawhi Leonard, the attention for then turns to LaMarcus Aldridge. Enter Draymond Green and JaVale McGhee. Green and McGhee are not known for their contributions on the offensive side of the ball with Green averaging 11.0 PPG and McGhee averaging only 4.8 PPG.
By having two solid and tenacious defenders, look for the Warriors try to rough up and disrupt Aldridge from getting going in this series. If that can happen and Aldridge’s production can be held in check by those two, then the Warriors will get by in this series with ease until their leader, Curry, returns to the floor.
Can Quinn Cook hold the fort down
A lot of pressure will be placed on the second year guard out of Duke University, Quinn Cook. Cook will have to fill Curry’s shoes in the first round of the playoffs versus the Gregg Popovich led Spurs to defend the team’s title as reigning NBA champions.
The brakes need to be pumped in assuming that Cook will replicate or come close to replicating Curry’s production. Curry is an elite level talent and almost nobody in the league outside of a select few can do what he can do. He will just have the bring the type of energy and level of play he has been bringing since he filled in for Curry as the interim point guard. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr has given Cook 18 starts on the season and Cook has returned the favor by collecting 9.5 PPG, 48.4 FG%, 44.2 3PT%, and a 2.8 Assist to Turnover Ratio. Cook has to be the floor general and game manager while just doing enough while Thompson, Durant, and Green pick up the slack.
The Warriors are not looking as strong as they have been heading into the playoffs as previous years especially with the injury bug biting them hard this year, they still were able to weather the storm and earn a two seed in the Western Conference. Cook is obviously a short-term solution but if he plays well and does what he has been doing in his limited time as a starter, then it gives the Warriors added depth when Curry returns. Thompson, Durant, and Green must all step up their game versus the Spurs to avoid a disappointing upset. I wouldn’t be too worried about any of those three given their prior post-season success.
The Warriors bench should also not be slept on as they can all provide big minutes and valuable contributions. Players such as Jordan Bell, Nick Young, Shaun Livingston, Andre Iguadola, and David West all bring something onto the second unit that certain teams cannot handle when they are all clicking.
Warriors win this series with ease.