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How much worse are the Warriors without Stephen Curry?

The Golden State Warriors, for all their success, now have a problem that isn't Steve Kerr's absence. Stephen Curry might not be "injured," but he certainly is hurt, beset by a shin bruise that has a habit of announcing its presence.

After his third issue with shin bruises in four games, Curry revealed how long the injury would take to heal if he took a break: "Like four weeks." He smiled and assured his audience, "I'm not going to sit out four weeks."

It's obvious why Golden State would be wary of a month without the MVP. One illustrative stat: The Warriors have yet to play a game in which they were outscored in Curry's minutes. In the loss to Milwaukee, Curry broke even in plus-minus. Other than that, it's been all gains, every game, when Curry is on the court. On the season, Golden State is plus-523 in Curry's minutes and minus-104 when he sits.

The current unfortunate situation raises the question: What if Curry did take four weeks off? Although he has made it clear that sitting isn't in the cards, recent history indicates that some rest might be beneficial. Right now he's listed as "probable" for the upcoming game in Portland. Before we return to that, let's inventory the Golden State superstar's recent, concerning leg issues.

Over two weeks, Curry has gotten hurt five times, all in his lower legs. On Dec. 23, he was kneed in his right calf by Utah's Rodney Hood. Despite that setback, Curry didn't take time off, electing to play in the big Christmas Day game versus the Cleveland Cavaliers. In that game, he strained his right calf, exiting to the locker room for a spell and not looking wholly right until the game's final stretch.

On Dec. 28 against the Kings, Curry bruised his left shin. This time, the Warriors sat him over their two-game Texas road trip. On Jan. 2, Curry returned to play Denver, although that morning he acknowledged remnants of the shin bruise.

"There's an awareness that something's still healing," he said.

In the second quarter of that game, Curry reinjured the shin, getting kicked by Jameer Nelson. After a fine game without incident against Charlotte, Curry again hurt the shin, crashing into one of the Roman columns Roy Hibbert uses for legs. Right now, we've seen little indication that this issue is going away.

This is a tricky situation and hard to judge without all the information. Despite his optimism, Curry keeps getting hurt. It's not exactly clear that this particular injury will lead to something more serious, though. Although it's easy to say, "He should sit until he's totally healthy," a month without Curry is no small concession.

On an individual level, sitting would hurt his MVP case (Note: This illustrates why the Spurs are onto something in terms of ignoring individual awards). On a practical level, it could easily mean losing home-court advantage to San Antonio. Of course, there's some risk attached to just slogging forward with recurring pain, but it's hard to know exactly how serious that risk is.

Curry hasn't been quite the same level of great since the win streak. He's averaging nine fewer points (per 36 minutes) and shooting a "slumping if you're Steph" 36.8 percent from distance. With the benefit of hindsight, the Warriors probably would have made different choices in the early part of the season -- although the choices they made are understandable. In the 82-game slog, the streak was inspiration to push forward, but perhaps too much so. The coaching staff certainly considered resting players in December, but doing so could have been taken as a betrayal of competitors on the cusp of history.

Strange as it sounds, a missed layup by Brook Lopez on Nov. 14 could have big ramifications this season. If the Brooklyn Nets center had sunk that, there would likely be no historic win streak to pursue and therefore less motivation to take on risk. It's been said that Miami's 27-game streak sapped some of its life force. The Warriors face a similar issue, even if their 33-2 record argues that all is well.

Again, the big background question is, "How much worse are the Warriors without Steph?" It's the type of answer you want to know without having to actually find out. It was a hotly debated topic during last season's MVP race, and it has come up again as some suggest that Draymond Green is just as if not more important to Golden State's success.

I'll start by saying that Curry is Golden State's most important player, which is no slight to his teammates -- it's hard to have more value than the literal MVP. Obviously, most of Curry's impact comes offensively. Although Curry is an underrated defender and Golden State's defensive numbers have been miserable when he sits, a lot of that can be chalked up to sub patterns.

On the offensive side, Curry has an impact unlike anyone else. Defenders simply can't relax, ever. Not only that, but they must guard him in a way they wouldn't anyone else, sprinting out to contain what would be an awful shot for other superstars. Life is difficult for a defense when this looks like efficiency.

Green was wide open here, and I still think Curry made the right choice. That kind of threat is why Curry then gets easy buckets like this one:

Andrew Bogut didn't even run back on this play. The Warriors are playing 4-on-5, and Curry still got a layup by leveraging the threat beyond the arc.

Speaking of the big Aussie, his nifty kickout assist also illustrates Curry's impact on a defense. Like Green, Bogut can make plays when attention comes Steph's way. Look how Golden State's weave play ends.

By contrast, look at how the offense can look without Curry. The blowout loss in Dallas did not augur well for future Steph-less games.

Somewhat arbitrarily, I'd guess that Curry's 82-game value is 23 additional wins. But that is simply a guess. The real answer is difficult to find for a few reasons.

The first complicating factor is that Curry and Green play the vast majority of their minutes together. For that reason, plus-minus stats will have some difficulty telling us where one guy's impact ends and the other guy's begins. In just three games (the two Curry missed and the half he missed against Denver), Green got more Steph-less minutes than he'd gotten the entire season before that point.

The other complicating factor is how players evolve to replace what's missing. Life moves on, the team changes its shape. Ideally, players grow new skills while they compensate for the void. Green obviously benefits from Curry drawing two defenders, getting quite a few assists off the drives that follow double-teams of Curry. Also, "Dray Allen" is shooting 41.7 percent from beyond the arc, cashing in again and again on being open after Curry is doubled.

The easy conclusion is that Green owes much of his success to Curry, that he's "a system player," as detractors might put it. That conclusion is probably unfair to Green, though, considering his ability to transform into whatever his team needs. Sure, Green wouldn't score as efficiently without Curry, but he'd likely have more control as the fulcrum of the offense.

We saw that in the win over Houston, when Green racked up a career-high 16 assists. Look at the play below. It starts, as so much of Golden State's offense does, with Green at the arc with the ball. The dribble handoff to Klay Thompson seals off James Harden, and the Rockets choose to switch Clint Capela onto Thompson. The ball comes back to Green in the high post, something you'll see a lot more of if Curry misses games. From that point, Green hits Shaun Livingston on the cut for the bucket.

As an aside, it's hard to learn much from the Rockets game because their defense was comically awful. Still, the game gave us some insight into how the Warriors plan to use Green and how they reshape the offense when Curry's not available.

First off, Golden State runs more sets in Curry's absence. Roughly 60 percent of Golden State's offense is improvised, a fast read-and-react approach predicated on Curry's creative genius and ability to create openings. When he isn't present, the Warriors must compensate with planning. That planning would revolve around Green, who, ironically, hates plans.

"I hate running plays," Green once said when I asked him about his offensive philosophy. "I love when we just get the ball and go."

In the Kerr era, Green has evolved into "Dray Magic," a creative fast-break artist who pushes the pace. Unfortunately, without Curry, "get the ball and go" isn't a viable option. Unless you're playing Houston's awful transition defense, of course.

What do the Warriors look like without Steph Curry? Worse, obviously, and more like an average basketball team. If Curry were merely the best player on an offensively loaded super team, it wouldn't be too difficult to make decisions about his health -- sit him and wait till he's fully healthy. Instead, he's so integral to his team's success that there's a strong incentive to risk starting him.

Now, after using the Steph Curry cheat code for so long without incident, Golden State must grapple with some difficult questions going forward.