All things considered, Tuesday's news that Stephen Curry has not structural damage to the right ankle rolled in Monday's game against the Pelicans is great.
Curry's ankle, which swelled up to the size of a baseball (cankle status: Verified) will not let him play Wednesday against his hometown Hornets in Charlotte, and the Warriors announced that they will re-evaluate in two weeks.
This injury could keep Curry out weeks or even months – anyone who has ever rolled their ankle like Curry did you can tell you how temperamental that injury can be – but the important thing to Warriors fans is that he will return this regular season
It's ok to exhale.
But the show must go on for the Warriors, even if they do not have the man who turned around the franchise via two MVP seasons.
So what can we expect from the Warriors with Curry out, and when can we expect him back?
I'm glad you asked. Here are the five biggest questions facing the Warriors in the aftermath of Curry's injury:
How have the Warriors fared without Curry?
This season? Not great. Historically? Also, this year, the Warriors played three games without Curry – they went 2-1 (nice job) but had an overall plus-minus of those three answers (not so great).
This season, the Warriors are 1-1 without Curry, beating the Magic at home but losing to Sacramento when both Steph and Kevin Durant were out. (You might remember Klay Thompson's struggles in that game.)
The on / off court numbers paint a similar picture to the records: per NBAWow, the Warriors have posted to net rating of plus-1 when Curry is off the court this season. When he's on the court, the Warriors have a net rating of plus-16.
That's effectively the difference between being the best team in the NBA and being a team fighting for a playoff spot.
These numbers are flawed – They include garbage time, for instance – but the statistics augment s the game results and the eye test: the Warriors have not figured out how to play without Curry
Who starts at point guard in his absence?
Warriors coach Steve Kerr has two logical options and three off-the-wall ideas that he can steal from me – if he so desires.
The player most would presume would take Curry's starting point guard minutes is Shaun Livingston, the Warriors' backup point guard, but seeing as Kerr keeps a close eye on Livingston's minutes and loves his rapport with the second unit, it's quite possible that Patrick McCaw gets the start at point guard with Curry out.
(McCaw, who will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season, is about to make some money .)
There are other options: Quinn Cook is back with the Warriors after another short stint in the G-League – he is a quality NBA player who the Warriors were somehow able to get on a two-way deal who would be deserving of a showcase.
The Warriors could also start Andre Iguodala as a point forward in place of Curry. It's not like Iguodala could say "no" – I've just signed up to $ 48 million deal. If Kerr says he's starting, he's starting.
The third option is my favorite and it's a next-to-zero chance of happening: Nick Young, starting point guard. In these dark, Curry-free times, do not Warriors fans deserve 25 to 30 minutes of Swaggy P a night?
How much different will the Warriors' offense look?
In a word, the Warriors offense is going to look constipated.
We talk all the time about Curry's "gravity" – the attention he requires from a defense that must make him the first, second, and third priority every time he's on the court. Without that "gravity" and Curry's outside-in game, the Warriors' offense has looked stagnant and cramped this season.
It's not a new development, either – remember when Curry was injured in the 2016 playoffs? Without his legs under him, the Oklahoma City Thunder did not have to resent his shot from 35-feet out, so their defense was not stretched from the minute Curry crossed half court. Add in Curry's lack of explosiveness at the rim (for the same reasons) and you had a pedestrian point guard for a pedestrian defender, Russell Westbrook. Curry's lack of gravity in that series put Golden State in a 3-1 hole. He pulled out of it, as you well know, but it was touch-and-go there for a bit, and that's how Curry is the linchpin of the Warriors' operation.
The Warriors can also afford to play a center without a viable shot when Curry is on the court. It does not matter that the Warriors are playing 4-on-5 because the center is not a viable offense threat – Curry is constantly beating two defenders. That will have to change without Curry – the standard of the Warriors' center being a strong passer, good screen setter, and getting an offensive rebound every now and again will not be enough for Golden State to put 120 points on the board every night . Because of that, expect more David West, who I wrote Monday might be the Warriors' best center (not named Draymond Green) this season.
In many ways, this stretch without Curry will make the Warriors a better team. Curry creates so much for the Warriors just by his mere presence: Kevin Durant rarely sees double teams, Klay Thompson, one of the greatest shooters to ever play, gets wide open shots because Curry is pulling defenders his way, and Draymond Green can move with general impunity.
That's all going away. The Warriors are going to have a player that can stretch to defend the way only Curry can.
Defensively, I do not think the Warriors will be any worse – They might even be better – but they will be different. Curry is an underrated defender who can create chaos at an offense's point of attack. The Warriors will be longer without Curry, but the defensive scheme will change without him attacking players and passing lanes up top
Who will have to step up the most without Curry in the line?
Besides the centers? It has to be Klay Thompson.
Many people would think the answer to this question is Kevin Durant, but I do not think Durant's game is going to change that much without Curry on the court. Yes, he'll see more double teams, but he's going to continue to operate best on the block, and frankly, his game is quite immune to change. That's what being a 7-foot tall sharpshooter can do for you.
Meanwhile, Thompson is going to have less space to work and more defensive attention on him. Do not expect many wide-open shots for Klay in the next few games.
With Curry out, Thompson is going to show off those improved playmaking skills by putting the ball on the floor more often to help create more offensive opportunities for others. That's an intriguing proposition – Thompson is a catch-and-shoot player – but the guard's tremendous recent run of play should have fans: Thompson has a tremendous amount of momentum behind him as he's asked to take a step forward without Curry in the lineup
Most importantly, When will Curry return?
There's no good answer to that question. Ankle injuries are not binary. Add in Curry's right-hand injury and the Warriors' lack of a true need for Curry to play between now and February's All-Star Game and it's possible that Curry sits out for much longer than two weeks.
That said, if He does come back in two weeks, that brings Curry back to a seven-game homestead, and the Warriors' Christmas tilt against the Cavaliers is absolutely on the table.
It's also possible that Curry sits out until the new year. The Warriors play the Rockets on January 4 – might the day before in Dallas bring about Curry's return?
Again, I wish I had an answer – what we know is that he will not play the Warriors next six or seven games.
I'd be shocked if Curry was not on the court by Jan. 15, when the Warriors play the Cavs on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. If it gets that far, something is up – but do not expect this injury to linger that long.
Above all else, remember the most important thing: Curry will be back this season. That's not something anyone could have guaranteed Monday night.