Golden State Warriors: Title Contenders Without Steph Curry?

Golden State Warriors: Title Contenders Without Steph Curry?
Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors | Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

With 73 wins in the regular season, the Golden State Warriors secured their place in NBA history as one of the best teams to ever play the game. While that’s the case, the ultimate goal of this powerhouse team is to successfully defend their title from last season. However, as the postseason prepares to enter its second round of action, the Warriors will miss their MVP superstar for the foreseeable future.

In Golden State’s victory over the Houston Rockets in Game 4, Stephen Curry injured his knee, an issue that sidelines him for at least the next two weeks (or longer). With a 3-1 advantage over the Rockets, the Warriors took care of business on Wednesday night to advance to the conference semifinals.

Now, though, the loss of Curry makes their ability to continue advancing uncertain. If Curry is out for an extended period of time (say, the entire Conference Semifinals), can the Warriors get past the second round of the postseason? If he continues to be out past that series, are they still a threat to reach the NBA Finals? Here, we break down Golden State’s remaining playoff road.

Conference Semifinals

Golden State Warriors: Title Contenders Without Steph Curry?
The LA Clippers’ Jamal Crawford and DeAndre Jordan | Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

With the Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers still in their first-round tilt, it’s tough to project who the Warriors will face in the Conference Semifinals. However, with news that Blake Griffin is out for the remainder of the playoffs and that Chris Paul may be out for at least a month, the door is wide open for the Blazers to take advantage of a suddenly depleted Clippers team.

Should Portland advance, they would provide an interesting challenge for Golden State. They routed the Warriors in their lone win against them earlier this season while losing the three other meetings, but that was all with Curry on the court. With the best case scenario being that Curry can return late in this series, Damian Lillard and company can certainly give the Warriors all they can handle in a seven-game set.

Golden State still has the talent of Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others to advance to the Conference Finals — even if Curry doesn’t take the floor for the length of the series. If LA manages to advance instead of Portland, this would be a more favorable matchup for the Warriors at this point.

The Clippers would miss their two superstar leaders and that is simply too much to overcome against an experienced and deep club like the Warriors. Golden State could very well take care of LA in five games in their current state — even without the MVP.

Conference Finals

Golden State Warriors: Title Contenders Without Steph Curry?
San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge | Christian Petersen/Getty Images

If things go well for Curry in his recovery process, he should be healthy for a Conference Finals matchup against either the Spurs or the Thunder. Knowing how well the Warriors played against those two upper-tier teams this season, they would have the obvious edge in a series — should their leader be on the floor and playing a critical role.

If Curry’s recovery doesn’t go according to plan, Golden State would have a tough time winning four games against either team. Potentially, Oklahoma City might benefit more from a Curry-less Warriors squad. They would have a distinct advantage at point guard with Russell Westbrook, which would be enough to push them over the edge. Of course, the Thunder have to deal with the Spurs first, which will be no easy task.

San Antonio could beat the Warriors in a seven-game series even if Curry is on the floor. If his injury turns out to be more serious though, you can almost book the Spurs’ ticket to the Finals if they get past OKC. Essentially, it would be surprising to see Golden State reach the Finals without Curry during the Western Conference Finals.

The success of their 73-win campaign spans beyond the brilliance of Steph, but he is the most valuable player in the league for a reason and their title aspirations basically pend on his health. However, they still have enough talent to make make a series competitive with either the Thunder or Spurs, meaning that an NBA Finals appearance wouldn’t be entirely out of the question.

NBA Finals

Golden State Warriors: Title Contenders Without Steph Curry?
LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers | Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

If Golden State managed to reach the Finals without Curry, and the Cleveland Cavaliers are there waiting, it would be hard to imagine LeBron James and company being defeated by a team that isn’t at full strength. When you consider the meeting between the two sides last season, the incentive for the Cavs to capture their first ever championship is higher than ever this season.

Again, Golden State wouldn’t be favored in this series if Curry isn’t able to play, but it’s not to say they would get blown off the floor. With Thompson, Green, Harrison Barnes, Marreese Speights, Andre Iguodala, and others, the Warriors have depth and are extremely well-coached (Steve Kerr did win Coach of the Year).

They have last season’s experience to fuel their push and if their MVP misses the rest of the postseason, the adversity created from that situation would give them an added edge. It’s unlikely that they could repeat as champions without their leader, but it certainly isn’t impossible.

So, even with Curry’s health in doubt moving forward, it would be foolish to discount Golden State as title contenders. We can only hope that Steph returns before too long, but should his injury turn out to be more serious, seeing how his team responds in his absence will be a story worth following over the next several weeks.

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