The Golden State Warriors are perhaps the only team in the NBA that can survive an injury to a star player and be relatively unfazed.
It looks like the Warriors might have to put that advantage to use when the playoffs start with news coming out that Stephen Curry will be re-evaluated in three weeks after suffering a Grade 2 MCL sprain in his left knee.
The postseason begins on April 14, so it appears the earliest Curry could return to the court would be in the middle of the first round.
That seems optimistic, however, and a more realistic expectation would be Curry being back for the second round, especially with the recent history of players recovering from MCL injuries.
Blake Griffin, before he was traded from the Los Angeles Clippers to the Detroit Pistons, went down with a similar MCL sprain earlier this season and missed 14 games, which amounted to a little more than four weeks.
Curry’s teammate, Kevin Durant, had the same exact Grade 2 MCL sprain near the end of last season and that kept him out for 19 games, equaling more than five weeks.
Considering the abundance of talent on Golden State’s roster even without Curry, it’s likely they play it safe with their two-time MVP and ease him back into the mix during the playoffs.
Curry’s absence will have little impact on the rest of the regular season, with the Warriors pretty much locked into the two seed in the Western Conference, currently sitting 4.5 games behind Houston and 10 games ahead of Portland.
Regardless of who their first-round opponent is – right now it would be Minnesota, although the middle of the West standings are extremely fluid – Golden State shouldn’t have any problem advancing.
The Warriors’ offensive rating is a sky-high 120.4 points per 100 possessions with Curry on the floor this season, which is the highest rate in the past 20 seasons, so it’s no surprise they haven’t fared as well when he’s been out of the lineup.
In light of Stephen Curry's knee injury, here's Warriors' offensive efficiency with & without Curry this season pic.twitter.com/LO1ntDRO93— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) March 24, 2018
But while the team is 41-10 with Curry and 13-8 without him, four those eight losses came in games when at least one of Durant or Klay Thompson didn’t play.
There’s a strong argument that Curry is the most important player on the Warriors, even more so than Durant, but their star power is so bright that his absence shouldn’t hinder them from reaching the second round and maybe even the Conference Finals.
If Curry isn’t back to full strength before the presumed third round meeting with Houston, then Golden State could be in real trouble. The Rockets went 2-1 in the head-to-head series this season and have been far and away the best team in the league.
It seems like the Warriors have avoided a worst case scenario for now, but their margin for error may not be as wide as in recent years.
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