Steph Curry is Warriors' breaking point


Draymond Green and Kevin Durant have made it clear. They’re moving on from last week’s profanity-laced incident and as a team, the Warriors hope to do the same.

But there’s a reason this cut so deep, and why Green’s scathing words might linger. Strip away the expletives and you’ll see there’s some truth to what Draymond shouted at KD. 

“We don’t need you. We won without you. Leave,” Green brandished at Durant, according to Yahoo! Sports.

There’s more than a kernel of truth in those first two sentences. But the Warriors might not know how true they really are -- especially for this iteration of the team -- without a closer look at the team’s track record.

Green, and the rest of the Warriors, already know they won the 2015 championship without Durant. Green was also the fiery fulcrum of the record-breaking 73-9 team that beat Durant and Russell Westbrook in the 2016 Western Conference Finals en route to the 2016 Finals.

But what Dub Nation might not know is just how declarative the numbers are on this subject. There’s a mountain of evidence that Stephen Curry, not Durant, is what makes this team special. And with each passing day, that mountain is only getting bigger.

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One way to see Curry’s greatness is to see what the Warriors do without him. This season, it hasn't been pretty. Secondly, you must understand how dominant the Warriors are no matter who is next to Curry.

It’s no coincidence that Green and Durant’s argument bubbled to the surface when Curry was sidelined. They're struggling without him. The Warriors, with three All-NBA players suiting up, probably shouldn't have needed a last-second bucket to top the Los Angeles Clippers in the first place (they lost by five). Nor should they have gotten blasted 107-86 on national TV by the Houston Rockets, who entered with a 6-7 record. 

So far this season, the Warriors are 2-4 without Curry, but that follows a larger trend that’s becoming harder to ignore. Since 2014-15, Golden State is just 23-22 without Curry in uniform, outscored by a troubling 53 points in the middle of a dynasty.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you go deeper into the numbers with regard to Curry's presence, that’s when things go from interesting to downright fascinating. 

You can pluck All-Star after All-Star off the court like flower petals, and the Steph-led Warriors will still dominate like a champion. He's that transcendent of a player.

Since KD arrived at the start of the 2016-17 season, Curry, Thompson, Durant and Green have played 1,921 minutes as a group on the floor, according to the powerful database. During that span, the Warriors are plus-16.9 per 100 possessions with that foursome on the court. When people complain that the Warriors are unfair, this is what they’re talking about -- a plus-16.9 point differential is the stuff of legend. (For reference, only three teams in the past decade have crossed the double-digit zone for a full season: the 2015-16 Warriors (who won 73 games), the '15-16 Spurs (who won 67 games) and the '14-15 Warriors that won (67 games).)

Now, let’s call back to Green’s outburst and examine the Warriors when we take Durant off the floor. What happens? Probably a big drop-off, right? I mean, the guy's an MVP, two-time Finals MVP and fifth all-time in career scoring average. 

Actually, without KD, the Warriors are still super dominant. Golden State is plus-14.8 in 672 minutes with Curry, Thompson and Green playing without Durant. 

We don’t need you. We won without you. Leave.

But Durant is not the only pending free agent in the Bay. Klay Thompson is headed to the open market in July, as well. What happens when you also remove Thompson and sit him on the bench next to Durant? 

Same result: The Warriors are still juggernauts, registering a plus-13.9 in 526 minutes with Curry and Green on the floor without the help of Durant or Thompson. 

Now comes the mind-blowing part -- let's take Draymond out of the equation and leave Curry by himself a cast of role players. No Durant. No Thompson. No Green.

With Curry rolling solo, the Warriors are still plus-14.3 in 216 minutes of action. That’s without the help of an MVP, a former Defensive Player of the Year and perhaps the second-greatest shooter ever not named Stephen Wardell Curry. The offense scores 116.6 points per 100 possessions in these lineups, which would be the league-leading offensive rating this season. 

To recap, the Warriors go from plus-16.9 to plus-14.8 to plus-13.9 to plus-14.3 as you keep removing an All-Star from Curry. But as these numbers show, Curry is impervious. He's teammate-agnostic. For those that think Curry would struggle in another organization or in another system, it’s clear: He is the system.

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Now, let's take Steph off the floor. What happens when Durant, Thompson and Green go without him? Uh, oh ... plus-4.9 in 591 minutes without Steph. So, you take Durant off the floor and the Warriors are still juggernauts (plus-14.8). But you take Curry away from the equation? They go from dominant to merely solid.

What if we looked at what happens with a solo Durant? If he truly is a better all-around player than Curry, it would stand to reason that he’d be able to fill in more gaps without stars around him. Remember, solo Curry still obliterated opponents without the help of other stars.

The scoreboard with solo Durant: Minus-0.5 in 417 minutes. Yes, a negative point differential. And that makes sense given the loss of starpower, but Curry has shown he doesn’t need others to win.

It gets even more stark when we isolate the Warriors’ four superstars. To fully capture the power of Curry, here’s the scoreboard with each Warriors solo act:

Lineup Net Rating Minutes
Solo Steph Plus-14.3 216
Solo Klay Plus-4.3 402
Solo KD Minus-0.5 417
Solo Draymond Minus-2.0 209

Each one is playing around .500 ball in their minutes -- except Curry. For those that believe Curry wouldn’t be Curry if it weren’t for the stars and system built around him, it’s hard to make a case considering opponents can’t stop him no matter who is flanking him.

Don’t believe these in-game lineup numbers? With Curry active and no Durant over the last three seasons, the Warriors are 24-3, outscoring opponents by 353 points for an average win margin of 13.1.

Remember when the Steph-led Warriors uncorked a 13-game win streak when Durant hurt his MCL in 2016? Believe it or not, that win streak is still rolling. In fact, the Steph-led, sans-Durant Warriors have won 21 straight games, with 16 of those victories registering by double-digit margins.

We don’t need you. We won without you. Leave.

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The Warriors, of course, should want Durant to stay. This is Kevin freakin’ Durant. He won two Finals MVPs and has been a very public part of the organization’s run-up to the Chase Center’s grand opening next season. Some might argue that the Warriors don’t win the last two Finals without him. Green might argue otherwise. (It’s worth noting that Green’s public statement did not include an apology for what he said.)

But there’s a pile of evidence that, for the Warriors, Durant is a luxury, not a necessity. These last few games are a reminder that Durant-centric teams aren’t nearly as dominant as the Curry-led formations. If Durant leaves as a free agent, the organization can rally around the fact that they’re running it back, like the good ol’ days. That might be refreshing reset for a Warriors fan base that has used #StephBetter as a rallying cry over the last few seasons. (And yes, the postseason numbers show the same on/off ultra-dependence on Curry).

There was truth in Green’s words. The Warriors have won without Durant. They don’t need him. What’s been clear this year, and every year of this dynasty, they need Steph.

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