The Golden State Warriors have already been blown out 3 times in 4 games and, after losing Stephen Curry to a broken hand, the outlook is particularly grim.
Living as we do in the age of runaway hyperbole and social media trends, the overreaction is the rule of the day. In 99 cases out of 100, it would be too soon to draw any conclusions about an NBA team starting a season with three losses in its first four games. But the 2019-20 Golden State Warriors appear to be that exception.
Having already been blown out twice in the season’s first three games, the Warriors on Wednesday night lost the one player they could least afford to lose. Stephen Curry exited early in the third quarter of Golden State’s 121-110 in a game that was never as close as that final count would indicate.
The initial diagnosis was a fractured second metacarpal in his left hand. The club won’t set any sort of timeline for Curry’s return until after he undergoes a CT scan.
General manager Bob Myers also said Wednesday night that Curry will have an MRI on the injured hand, per Nick Friedell of ESPN.com.
Curry was driving to the basket when he collided with Phoenix center Aron Baynes, who was attempting to get set in Curry’s path to draw a charge. Instead, the big man fell on top of Curry’s hand while being assessed a blocking foul.
The Warriors trailed by as much as 34 against the Suns and were down 72-46 at halftime and 95-67 after three quarters before outscoring Phoenix 43-26 in the final period to make the final score somewhat respectable.
Curry came into the season with MVP expectations, but — like the rest of the club — has fallen well short during a dismal start to the campaign. In four games, Curry is averaging 20.3 points, 6.5 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 28.0 minutes per game, shooting just 40.9 percent overall and an ugly 24.3 percent on 9.3 3-point attempts a night.
But those numbers are either team-highs or close to that during a four-game span that has seen Golden State shoot 41.4 percent overall (25th in the NBA) and make only 30.4 percent of their deep attempts (26th in the NBA).
The Warriors are 12th in the NBA with an offensive rating of 107.0, but dead last at the other end, allowing 118.5 points per 100 possessions. They are the only team in the Association allowing opponents to shoot better than 50 percent (52.1 percent) and only the struggling Brooklyn Nets have allowed a higher 3-point percentage than the 42.9 mark Golden State has surrendered.
Losing Curry is just another injury blow to a team that entered the season without fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson, who tore his left ACL during Game 6 of last season’s NBA Finals. The Warriors are also without projected starting center Kevon Looney (neuropathy) and reserves Jacob Evans (adductor) and Alen Smailagic (right ankle).
They just did get free agent signing Willie Cauley-Stein back on Wednesday. He scored 12 points with five rebounds and a blocked shot in 12 minutes of play, going 5-for-5 from the field.
The problem going forward for what will likely be at least several weeks without Curry is that it will further deplete their depth at their weakest positions on the wings, because D’Angelo Russell — off to a slow start himself — will likely move into the starting point guard role.
Russell, acquired by the Warriors from the Brooklyn Nets in a sign-and-trade swap for Kevin Durant, is averaging 16.3 points, 6.0 assists and 3.8 boards in 29.8 minutes per game, but has shot just 39.0 percent overall and 33.3 percent on 6.0 3-point tries a game. Throw in an 11-for-18 start at the foul line and Russell hasn’t been terribly effective.
But compared to the rest of the guys Golden State has been using at the 2 and 3 spots, Russell has been a veritable superstar.
Glenn Robinson III, a journeyman on his fifth team in just his sixth season and one who has been waived once and never started more than 27 games in a season, is shooting 42.5 percent overall and 2-for-10 from 3-point range, averaging 11.3 points in 28.3 minutes per game. He entered this season with a career average of 4.4 points per game in 219 career appearances.
Could the Timberwolves, 76ers, Pacers and Pistons all have been wrong to let Robinson depart without compensation?
Jordan Poole, the Warriors’ first-round pick in June out of Michigan, has been thrown into the fire to the tune of 23.0 minutes per game and made his first career start on Sunday at New Orleans before returning to a reserve role Wednesday.
He has the dubious distinction of shooting better from long range (31,8 percent on 5.5 attempts per game) than 2-point range (2-for-18, 11.1 percent) through four games. That adds up to an overall mark of 22.5 percent. Not ideal.
Veteran Alec Burks made his season debut after missing the first three games with an ankle sprain and scored seven points on 3-of-6 shooting in 18 minutes. But after playing his first seven-plus seasons with the Utah Jazz, Burks is on his third team in less than a year after brief pit stops in Cleveland and Sacramento last season.
Golden State’s situation is further complicated by the salary cap. The Warriors are hard-capped because of the Russell sign-and-trade acquisition and no room at all (Golden State is currently nearly $6 million over the tax apron).
A trade could help alleviate some of that cap stress, but Thompson, Russell, Looney, Cauley-Stein, Burks, Robinson and Marquese Chriss are all under a trade moratorium until Dec. 15 as summer free-agent signings. Of that group, only Chriss is on a non-guaranteed deal, but it is at the $1.62 million veteran’s minimum.
Even making a trade could be difficult. The Atlanta Hawks are the only team in the NBA with any cap space remaining and that number is only $3.74 million. However, the Hawks are not hard-capped and still have a $4.77 million room exception to work with. Golden State has four players — Curry, Thompson, Russell and Draymond Green — who make more than Atlanta could absorb.
As far as wing depth goes, Atlanta would only have Evan Turner, Crabbe (coming off knee surgery and still out) or Vince Carter (the ultimate NBA veteran in his record-setting 22nd season) to send to the Warriors, as the rest of their wings are young pieces (rookies De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish and fellow first-contract guys Kevin Huerter and DeAndre’ Bembry).
So as loathe as I may be to come to a conclusion about a team’s outlook just four games into a season, the Golden State Warriors are in a dark place right now and the only light at the end of the tunnel is this factoid.
The odds of them losing that top-20 protected first-round pick to Brooklyn as part of the Durant-Russell swap are getting lower by the game.