Can Chef Curry cook up any more recipes for victory? Or is the Warriors’ golden dynasty doomed?
The Golden State Warriors have undeniably been the most successful franchise in the sport over the last decade. Having brought in three championships in four years to the Bay Area, making the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals five years in a row and setting the new benchmark for the best team of all time with a record of 73 wins and just 9 losses in the 2015-2016 season, there is no denying the team’s dynasty. And despite basketball being very obviously a team sport, it’s hard to imagine this success without one single player: Wardell “Stephen” Curry.
The Warriors today look a bit different than they did in years prior. Losing all-stars such as Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Andre Iguodala to free agency and injury, Steph is much more short-handed compared to the league-wrecking teams that he led not so long ago. This has brought in much speculation towards whether or not Curry can lead his team back to the playoffs on his own, which was only emphasized by a slow start from the Warriors into the 2020-2021 season. Still, if there is one basketball player on the planet that has proved us wrong before, it is Stephen Curry; he will do it again, this time leading a relatively mediocre supporting cast to the playoffs amidst a heavily contested Western Conference.
The man has single-handedly changed the game of basketball in just over a single decade that he has utterly terrorized the league. Curry was the frontman in a revolution towards positionless basketball that ushered in the game that we all know and love today. This playing style often features a big man bringing up the ball in transition or a team attempting more three-point field goals than shots within the arc. In fact, before Curry’s first Most Valuable Player (MVP) season in 2015, teams across the NBA shot on average just below 20 three-pointers a game. Just five years later, and after three Stephen Curry championships, that total has increased to nearly 35 a game, completely changing the way that the game of basketball is played forever. So how did one baby-faced man accomplish this feat? To put it simply, by defeating all odds.
In 2013, following multiple ankle surgeries and a second-round exit to the Tim Duncan-led Spurs, the Warriors were ripped apart by analysts, critics, and fans alike after signing Curry to a four-year $44 million contract. The main argument with this signing is that he was extremely overpaid for a young player with “paper ankles.” In hindsight, that contract might have been one of the greatest moves that the Warriors have ever made, likely only coming in second to drafting him. Just two years later, Curry was named the NBA’s first-ever unanimously voted MVP, after leading the league in scoring on unparalleled 50-40-90 shooting. The man shot from half-court like it was a layup, and it did not become long until Steph Curry was a household name on the international level.
As for this season, we should expect no less. It is easy to forget the man that once was after missing the greater part of the 2019-2020 season, but it would not come as a surprise if he emulated his MVP years. Of course, he will not have all the help that he has in years prior, but when you dig deeper into the superteam that consisted of Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Steph Curry just two years ago, you might find that Curry’s impact was heavily understated.
When you look at the Golden State Warriors +/- per 100 possessions (a statistic used to measure point differential when players are either in or out of the game) throughout 2016-2018, the results are staggering. For instance, say you take Kevin Durant, who many saw as the Warrior’s best player during this time, off the floor. According to Basketball-Reference The Warriors are still one of the most efficient teams in the league with a +/- per 100 possessions of 15. If you take EVERY ALL-STAR besides Curry off the floor, then that same +/- per 100 possessions only drops to 14! To put this into perspective, as soon as you take Curry off the floor, leaving all-stars in Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, that +/- per 100 possessions drops to a dismal 5!
This is a dynasty that many believed “took the fun out of the NBA” because things were just too unfair when the Warriors played against opponents; in reality, one relatively small man was to blame for all of this unbalance. And although he is not getting any younger, Stephen Curry surely is not getting any less lethal with the ball in his hands. He is still the best shooter the game has ever seen, and as long as he is healthy, the Warriors should never be dismissed in the eyes of any opponent.