Stephen Curry broke his left hand in the Golden State Warriors’ latest blowout loss, and it’s time for this fading dynasty to tank for the rest of the year.
In 1996-97, the San Antonio Spurs tanked their way to a 20-62 record as David Robinson missed all but six games due to a back injury and a broken foot. The Spurs lucked into Tim Duncan, the No. 1 pick in the 1997 NBA Draft, and never looked back, winning their first championship two seasons later, making the playoffs for 22 straight years and winning five titles in the process.
On Wednesday night, the Golden State Warriors may have taken their first step toward reenacting a similar scenario.
In a game that was already miserable enough, the Warriors’ entire 2019-20 season changed in the third quarter at the Chase Center. After the Dubs found themselves trailing the visiting Phoenix Suns by a 43-14 margin at the end of the first quarter and a 72-46 margin at halftime, Stephen Curry took a hard fall at the 8:31 mark of the third quarter.
Driving to the basket, the two-time MVP collided with Suns center Aron Baynes, who was trying to take a charge. Curry fell awkwardly, and Baynes landed on his left wrist.
While there’s currently no timetable for his return, and it’s currently unknown if he’ll require surgery, Curry’s broken hand — even his non-shooting hand — signals the effective end of the Warriors’ season.
Maybe a fully healthy Warriors team would have jelled over a couple of rough months trying to get back to their winning ways. After all, Wednesday night’s game was the first time Willie Cauley-Stein was in the lineup, and Kevon Looney has only played one game as well.
However, looking at the substantial evidence in both preseason and the first four games of the regular season, Golden State no longer looked like a playoff team. Klay Thompson wasn’t set to return until after the All-Star break if he returned at all, and the only reason it made sense to bring him back at all was if the Warriors were in the running for a playoff spot.
Four games in, the Dubs look more like a tank team than anything else, and that was with Curry on the floor. In its first game of the season, Golden State got thumped by the LA Clippers in a 19-point home loss. In their second game, the Oklahoma City Thunder thwacked the Warriors in the same way, serving up a 120-92 beat down.
The Dubs bounced back with an 11-point win over the New Orleans Pelicans, but they were missing rookie phenom Zion Williamson and All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday. With a much tougher and disciplined Suns team in town Wednesday night, Golden State once again looked like Curry, D’Angelo Russell, Draymond Green and a collection of G League talent and guys they pulled off the street. It wasn’t enough yet again, and Green also exited the game in the first half with a back injury.
In his first three games, Curry had averaged a good-but-not-earth-shattering 24.0 points, 6.7 assists and 5.0 rebounds in 30.3 minutes per game, shooting a meager 43.6 percent from the field and 26.7 percent from 3-point range. Wednesday night, he had nine points, six assists and five boards before being forced to make his exit, going 3-for-11 from the floor and 1-for-7 from 3.
It’s impossible to win the NBA with only 2-3 good players and a bunch of scrubs, even if those 2-3 good players are All-Stars. Based on the early-season evidence, Klay Thompson’s recovery process and now injuries to Curry and Draymond, there is absolutely zero reason to rush them back. The Warriors should spend this season giving developmental minutes to their young prospects like Looney, Jordan Poole, Eric Paschall, Jacob Evans, Marquese Chriss and Omari Spellman, just to see what they might have in them.
In the process, Russell can put up gaudy numbers on his own, Green’s minutes can stay down and the Dubs can quietly prepare for a monster bounce-back season in 2020-21, with the Splash Brothers healthy, Draymond motivated by a season of losing and ideally, a top-five pick in the 2020 NBA Draft joining the party. The team’s pick is owed to the Brooklyn Nets, but it’s top-20 protected, which means Golden State will keep it if it lands in the top 20.
It’s been tough sledding since the 2019 NBA Playoffs. The Dubs were favorites to three-peat as NBA champions until Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson both went down in the Finals. KD left town, Klay is still on the mend and the Dubs had to settle for a Russell sign-and-trade with little wiggle room to round out the rest of the roster, which lost Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.
There were questions about how this team would fare with Curry, Green and Russell having to lead a very thin team in the loaded Western Conference, and four games in, we got a pretty definitive answer. Now, it’s time for the Warriors to tank, add a top-five prospect to their elite development system, get everyone healthy, and bide their time until 2020, when they can remind the world the only reason this dynasty feel dead is because it needs to recharge for a year first.