Despite Steph Curry's Hot Start, The Warriors' Greatest Fears Are Being Realized
It seemed Steph Curry had done all that he could as the new year rolled around. In true 2020 fashion, Klay Thompson tore his Achilles tendon in a November workout, leaving his fellow Splash Brother to run the Warriors' offense by himself. Golden State had a 2-3 record at the beginning of the calendar year, including two blowout losses against Brooklyn and Milwaukee to begin the season. They dropped the first of their back-to-back series against Portland on New Year's Day, 123-98, and the second would certainly give the league an idea of what they can achieve without Thompson.
Curry proceeded to drop 62 points, a career-high and arguably the most prolific shooting performance in his career. He went 18-for-31 from the field, 8-for-16 from deep, and 18-for-19 from the free throw line. Following the game, Curry channeled his inner Jordan, saying "I take all that personally" to reporters in a Zoom conference.
He displayed some similar magic last Friday against the Clippers and rallied his team from a substantial deficit. At one point in the third quarter, Golden State trailed by 21 points before Curry handed the Clippers yet another late-game collapse. He finished with 38 points and 11 assists; the second-highest scorer was Andrew Wiggins with 16.
The Warriors now sit at 6-4, good for fifth in the Western Conference. Curry is single-handedly willing his team to wins, and while that's a testament to how prolific he is on offense, it's obvious how much the team misses their second Splash Brother. Thompson is 14th in league history in career 3-point percentage with 41.9; Golden State replaced him with Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre Jr.
Wiggins has been solid from deep this year (38.5%), but his overall production has been lackluster. Consistency has been a theme, as he hasn't had a game below 12 points so far. However, the Kansas product is averaging 17.5 points per game, deficient of what you'd expect from a second option.
Oubre, on the other hand, has struggled mightily. Despite his insistence on shooting, the former Sun has shot a putrid 13.7%. He shot a career-best 35.2% from deep last season, so his historic start has been shocking to say the least. Oubre is still giving all he has on defense, however, and it's translated into 1.3 steals per game.
The only way for Golden State to contend this year was for their roster behind Curry to pull their weight. So far, it's been a disappointing effort for his supporting cast. Here's a quick stat: the Warriors are currently 19th in the league in 3-point shooting; without Kelly Oubre Jr., they would be fourth. Of course, Oubre is bound to regress toward the mean at some point season. The question is when.
Their problems don't just reach to offense; they're struggling mightily on defense. The Warriors are allowing the fifth most points per game and haven't held a team under 105 points yet. Rookie center James Wiseman has done the best he can, but he's averaging almost twice as many fouls than blocks. The hope is that Draymond Green can improve his conditioning after a foot injury and testing positive for COVID-19 in December. He's Golden State's defensive glue despite this being his age-30 season.
If Curry misses time this season, it's hard to imagine Golden State winning games without monster performances from Wiggins or Oubre Jr. I'm not sure they'd even make it past the second round of the playoffs with their transcendent point guard at the helm. The Warriors are reeling from Thompson's absence, and his fill-ins haven't done much to help.