With Stephen Curry’s health now a significant issue, a prominent question hangs in the balance: Just how good are the Golden State Warriors without him?
It’s not as simple as looking at straight Curry on- and off-court splits, as a good portion of that is impacted by relatively meaningless garbage time.
The sample size from the regular season is 298 minutes (or just more than six regulation games).
Here’s what the numbers say regarding those 298 minutes
- The Warriors would be the second-best team in the NBA. With all three of its All-Stars on the floor, Golden State outscored opponents by an incredible 20.4 points per 100 possessions. With Thompson and Green in without Curry, that number drops to plus-7.9 points per 100 possessions. Though it’s a steep drop, it’s still good enough that it would have ranked second in the NBA this season, behind the Spurs.
- They’d have the fourth-best offense in the NBA. When Thompson and Green are on the floor without Curry, Golden State’s offense still scores 107.3 points per 100 possessions. That would have ranked fourth in the NBA this season behind the Thunder, Spurs and Cavaliers.
- They’d rank as the eighth-most prolific 3-point shooting team. Obviously, if you take the most prolific 3-point shooter in league history out of the equation, you’d expect a drop. In those 298 minutes, the Warriors averaged 9.5 made 3-pointers per 48 minutes, which would have been good for eighth in the NBA.
- They’ve relied heavily on Thompson. When Thompson and Green have shared the floor without Curry, Thompson’s usage percentage spikes to 33.2 percent, which would have ranked third in the NBA behind DeMarcus Cousins and James Harden. Thompson’s usage has spiked much more than Green’s, which went from 18.4 percent with Curry to 19.2 without him.
The style of play
By utilizing player tracking data, we can learn a lot about how the Warriors' style of play changes depending on who is on the floor.
Two numbers-based observations on what happens when Green and Thompson play without Curry: They don’t run as often, and they post up a lot (particularly Green).
The Warriors ranked second in the NBA in transition opportunities per 100 possessions this season, behind the Wizards. With all three All-Stars in the game, they run at a rate that would rank first in the NBA. With Curry out of the game but Green and Thompson in, their transition opportunities fall to a rate that would tie for ninth.
With Green and Thompson on the floor without Curry, the Warriors post-up nearly twice as often as they do with all three on the floor. The 28.2 posts per 100 possessions with Green and Thompson on the floor without Curry would rank second in the NBA.
Green turns into a post-up machine in those situations, averaging 14.2 post-ups per 100 possessions, which would have ranked 11th in the NBA. That’s nearly twice as many post-ups per 100 possessions as he averaged overall in the regular season.
Player tracking data also gives us tremendous insight into the types of shots the Warriors take and make with certain players on and off the floor.
- There are two shooting metrics that can paint a picture of how Golden State’s shooting is impacted by Curry:
Quantified Shot Quality measures the quality of a shot as the expected field goal percentage of a shot given the location, the shot type and the movement of the defense around the shooter (adjusted to account for 3-point shots). The quality of a shot is independent of whether or not a shot goes in.
Quantified Shooter Impact measures how much better/worse than average a shooter’s performance is given the particular shot (same variables above).
The Warriors ranked third in the NBA in Quantified Shot Quality, meaning only two teams took better shots than they did. With Curry off the floor, the Warriors had a quantified shot quality that would have ranked fourth in the NBA. So even without Curry, they get high-quality looks.
The biggest difference is what they do with those looks.
The Warriors led the NBA in Quantified Shooter Impact in the regular season. Remove Curry from the equation and they fall to 15th.
So when it comes to making the shots they get, Curry is the difference between the best shooting team in the NBA and one that ranks essentially average.