We all know about the Warriors’ ridiculous star power, but how crucial are each of them to the team’s success?
Over the past half-decade or so, the Golden State Warriors have undoubtedly been the NBA’s most successful team. With three championships in the past four seasons and the team’s heavy status as a favorite for this year, their fall from power doesn’t seem to be coming soon.
However, the team recently had a rough patch while superstar point guard, Stephen Curry was sidelined, which included their longest losing streak during the Steve Kerr era. Considering this recent struggle without one of their best two players, where does each Warrior rank according to their importance to the team?*
*Note: This is not a ranking of each individual player, but rather their essentiality to the team’s championship aspirations.
1. Stephen Curry
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Despite the acquisition of the uber-talented forward Kevin Durant during the summer of 2016, Curry’s position as the Warriors’ best player has never truly been in question. Over the course of last season and this year, the Warriors have an overall record of 22-20 when Curry does not play, which is very far off from their normally astounding winning percentage. That the Warriors become a mediocre team when Curry is not playing proves the overwhelming value he provides to them. While some may consider Durant a more talented player than Curry, the point guard’s unique contribution to their offense is what makes them so difficult to handle.
Curry’s ability to operate as a dynamic scorer within the paint and behind the three-point line has not only magnified the Warriors’ offense to astronomical levels, but has revolutionized basketball as a whole. Mike D’Antoni preaches this shot selection philosophy to his entire team, while Atlanta Hawks rookie Trae Young has appeared to model his own game after the superb scorer.
His unheralded shooting ability, which many believe is the greatest ever, establishes himself as a scoring threat almost as soon as he passes half court. In addition to his ability to hit distant threes, his efficiency from all over the court is what truly separates him as a scorer, as he shot more than two percent better than the league average inside the paint, almost nine percent better from beyond the arc, and 18% better from mid-range last season.
The biggest reason why Curry is most essential to Golden State, however, is not entirely based on his on-court play. It’s centered around the fact that he is the longest tenured player among their stars, and essentially created what was (and is) so incredible about the Warriors. His status as one of the most exciting players to watch in the NBA has magnified fans from around the world to become fans of both him personally and the Warriors as a team. The bond he has created with the Golden State fans is something that none of the other Warriors’ stars could do without him, and is the main reason for the team’s absurd popularity and awareness level, both on and off the court.
2. Draymond Green
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Although Draymond Green never puts up the gaudiest numbers among the Warriors’ main brass (he’s the only one without a 50-point game this season), the effort he brings to the defensive end is irreplaceable by almost any other player at his position. In each of the last four seasons, Green has finished in the top 15 in defensive real plus-minus, while finishing in the top three from 2014 to 2016. With Green, the Warriors don’t have to spend big money to pay for a rim-protecting center, and can pay their most talented offensive stars knowing they have an anchor for the defensive end.
Further, Green’s versatility as a fourth option in the team’s offense is where much of his value lies, as well. Although he has never averaged more than 15 points per game in a season, the Warriors already have plenty of volume scorers, and Green focuses his game on distributing the ball and working within the offense.
Considering he’s averaged over seven assists per game for each of the last four seasons, Green essentially acts as a point forward in an offense that already has a point guard who can distribute the ball to Curry, along with another talented passer in Durant, making unselfishness on a star-studded squad that much easier. Even though he doesn’t put up big numbers like his talented peers, he fills in the gaps that those players can’t provide with their scoring ability, acting as the glue that holds much of the Warriors’ dominance together.
3. Kevin Durant
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While many consider Durant to be the second best player in the league behind LeBron James, his necessity to the Warriors is less than his superb talent level. This is less a knock on Durant than it is a testament to the Warriors’ insane versatility on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor, especially considering his tremendous value on both ends. While Durant has been one of the greatest scoring machines of all time, Curry’s presence in the offense is more valuable than his. And although his length and shot-blocking ability make him an exceptionable defender, it is still anchored by Green.
Also, Durant’s fit with the Warriors is still somewhat awkward since they already had a big three in place before he arrived there. Curry, Green, and Klay Thompson created a championship formula on their own, and Durant was essentially the icing on the cake to that formula, which has made them virtually unbeatable. So while his individual skill level is probably better than any other player on the team, he can never be the most valuable on it (which is ironic considering he has two Finals MVPs and Curry has none) because they don’t need him to compete for championships.
4. Klay Thompson
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Klay Thompson has the most defined and consistent role for the Warriors. He essentially has filled the Ray Allen mold for the team as an elite 3-and-D player who can score in isolation, as well. However, that also means his talent can be replaced to a certain extent, especially considering the increased prevalence of three-point specialists in the league today.
And despite Thompson’s ability to erupt on any given night, he’s still only the third most talented scorer on the offense (and possibly fourth most if DeMarcus Cousins comes back healthy). He’s also the only member of the Warriors’ brass without a passing pedigree, making it more difficult for him to create looks for his superstar peers.
That said, his unique presence on the team as a three-point specialist is undeniable. He’s consistently been tops in the league in three-pointers made. The self-proclaimed splash brothers of Thompson and Curry have revolutionized the NBA through their ability to regularly attack opponents from deep at an efficient rate, and has been a huge part of Warriors’ potent identity.
Despite the Warriors’ recent skid without Curry, they are certainly not suffering from an identity crisis, and will continue to torture opponents now that he has returned. But it has revealed which players mean the most to the team, and this relationships will continue to show when All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins returns to the team later this year.
With their incomparable amount of superstars on the roster, the Warriors have become a sort of case study for the rest of us to observe, as their players’ talent level discrepancies do not necessarily equate to their value of the team’s contention status. It will be interesting to see how these relationships play out beyond this season, especially if Thompson, Green, Durant, or a combination of the three leaves in free agency, and the team is forced to re-evaluate its power structure.
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