Despite Talent Upgrades, Warriors Still Very Dependent on Stephen Curry

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Despite Talent Upgrades, Warriors Still Very Dependent on Stephen Curry
Rocky Widner/Getty Images
Stephen Curry is a bad, bad man.

When you look at the Western Conference, you see the San Antonio Spurs with their well-oiled system. You see the Oklahoma City Thunder with their dynamic duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. You see the Los Angeles Clippers and Lob City.

Then you observe the Golden State Warriors, a ballclub that could perhaps be the West's most unique team, and not because of their offseason pickup of Andre Iguodala or improvement of young guns such as Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes. 

It is because of Stephen Curry, and that's what—other than the fact that it looked absolutely terrible—made his head injury in the fourth quarter of the Warriors' 98-87 win over the Utah Jazz so frightening.

Curry took a tumble to the floor, and Utah forward Marvin Williams landed on top of his head, smashing the side of his face into the hardwood.

If you are squeamish, then I'd advise you not view the video of the injury below.

For now, Golden State and Curry are just saying that it is a nasty headache, according to Marcus Thompson of GSWScribe.

Let's hope that's all it is.

Raw, individual numbers do not truly demonstrate just how good Curry is or how much of an impact he has on the game.

Yes, his statistics are certainly impressive. The sharpshooter averages 19.9 points a contest and hits on 43.8 percent of his three-point tries. Throw in 8.7 assists, too.

It goes beyond that, though.

The Warriors are who they are because of Curry's dominance, because of the attention he attracts each and every possession when he is on the floor.

Curry is an opposing point guard's worst nightmare. If you give him too much room, he will assuredly pull up and fire a triple in your grill, and the chances of him making it are always great. On the flip side, if you focus too much on him, everything else opens up for Golden State.

Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Let's take a look at what happened in the Warriors' victory over the Jazz on Monday night.

This was a close game in the second quarter. That is, until Stephen Curry happened.

It started when Curry got loose on the right wing, saw a sliver of daylight and drained a trey, his first of the night. One possession later, he came off a screen and popped one from straightaway. Swish.

Engage Warriors rout.

Golden State then started getting out in transition, with Curry orchestrating the break. Is there a guy in the NBA you fear more on the break than Curry? Maybe LeBron James, but that's it, and you're about to find out why.

Curry is well known for possessing a deadly pull-up three. If you let him step into a look from long range, you can pretty much say goodnight. He is going to stroke it.

Because of that, defenses immediately flock to Curry whenever he is leading the break. It's not just one player that tries to contain him; it's multiple guys. That sometimes leaves his Splash Brother, Klay Thompson, salivating behind the three-point line on the other side of the floor. That's what occurred in the second period against the Jazz.

Curry drew multiple defenders and then swung the ball to an open Thompson. Bang.

Next thing you knew, the Dubs were up by 20, and it was all because of Curry.

Even when you defend Curry well, though, you're still not safe. Just ask Alec Burks.

On the play that Thompson of GSWScribe is referring to, Burks played outstanding defense on Curry, not biting on his fakes and forcing him to give the ball up. Curry then drifted to the corner, got the rock back and buried a contested three in Burks' face.

Check it out.

Curry is just too good, and as well as Thompson and Iguodala have been playing, he is still the engine that makes the Warriors go. 

As a matter of fact, let's examine how Curry's mere presence on the floor helps Golden State's other key players, one-by-one.

 

Klay Thompson

Thompson is a gifted shooter in his own right. There is absolutely no doubt about that; however, would he be as effective if it weren't for Curry sharing the backcourt with him? It seems unlikely.

As I explained earlier, Curry really opens up Thompson's game. Defenses simply cannot key on Klay due to the fact that they also have to worry about No. 30 dropping bombs on them.

See? Curry catches fire and goes for eight straight points, and suddenly, the defense gets lazy and forgets about Thompson. Big mistake.

Curry and Thompson comprise an absolutely deadly duo in transition. There really is no single sure-fire way to stop a Warriors' fast break. Most of the time, you just see the opponent scrambling, trying to reach whichever one of the two Splash Brothers is in possession of the ball beyond the arc.

Blitz one of them, and the other is almost sure to be open.

It's a double-edged sword.

Does Thompson help Curry in that regard, too? Yes, but Curry is the main man behind the operation. Coaches create game plans to stop Stephen Curry. If you cut off Curry, you are cutting off Golden State's offense at the neck.

Good luck doing that, though.

 

Andre Iguodala

Iguodala has never been known as an outside shooter. As a matter of fact, during his days with the Philadelphia 76ers, the home crowd would frequently collectively groan whenever he rose up to take a shot from behind the three-point line.

He's a career 33.3 percent shooter from deep who would occasionally bite off more than he could chew by attempting more triples than he should; perhaps the 76ers fans had a point.

This year, though, Iguodala is shooting 52.4 percent from long range. No; that is not a misprint.

Rocky Widner/Getty Images

You might find that mind-boggling at first, but when you take a second to think about it, it really isn't that strange.

It's obvious that Curry is getting Iguodala open looks. Iggy never had the luxury of playing with a knockdown outside shooter like Curry. Now that he does, defenses are ignoring him on the perimeter. They could live with Andre Iguodala launching treys if it means that Curry (and Thompson) were grounded.

So far, this has paid big dividends for the Warriors, and it has cost opponents dearly.

Against the Jazz on Monday night, Iguodala got three clean looks from downtown. He connected on two, and on that pair of three-pointers, he could have written a book in the time he had to set and fire.

It's the Curry effect. Once again.

 

Harrison Barnes

Although Barnes doesn't exactly utilize Curry to get open from distance, he uses the point guard's presence on the floor to augment his game in other ways.

Barnes isn't a shooter: He is a slasher, a guy who likes to cut to the basket when he's off the ball and either be the recipient of alley-oop lobs or crisp passes underneath the cup where he can easily finish.

Curry is the perfect guy to assist him with that on a consistent basis.

The reason? Defenses have to hug the three-point line so much against Golden State that it leaves ample room for Barnes to operate. Opposing defenses are not going to collapse against the Warriors. That is just too risky with the Splash Brothers on the floor.

That means Barnes can go one-on-one, or it means that he can lull his defender to sleep and cut baseline, as his man was caught paying too much attention to Curry.

You absolutely have to help on Curry if he gets a step on his defender. This leaves a player of Barnes' skill set licking his chops.

The young wing had 17 points off 7-of-10 shooting against Utah and is shooting 50.8 percent from the field thus far.

You know why. You just do.

 

Andrew Bogut

Andrew Bogut is really not much of a scorer, but it doesn't matter. Curry makes him a viable threat offensively.

Bogut is usually the man who sets screens for Curry out on the perimeter. When Curry comes off the screen, Bogut's defender must step out and provide adequate help. If not, you're leaving the Davidson product wide open for a triple, and you can't allow that to happen.

Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Because of that, Bogut is allowed to role to the basket virtually uncontested. If a defender comes over to help on Bogut, he simply kicks the ball out to the open man. If not, he has an easy bucket in the lane.

 

David Lee

That brings us to David Lee, a man who is grossly underappreciated in this league.

People have this idea that Lee is just a guy who gets garbage buckets, and that is so untrue. He has an offensive game, and a very good one at that.

Lee is a good jump shooter, has a low-post game and is a very, very good passing big man.

Obviously, Curry plays a part in ameliorating Lee's offense and bringing out the best in the forward.

Because of Curry (and Thompson) on the perimeter, Lee is able to go one-on-one in the post. Opposing guards would be out of their mind to help. If they do, Lee merely kicks the ball back out to one of his own guards for an open three.

If they don't, then Lee has a chance to use his strength and finesse for an inside bucket or draw some contact to get to the free-throw line.

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