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Thursday, May 09, 2019

No More Excuses Left for Houston

The Houston Rockets are built to beat the Golden State Warriors, or so they have declared for the past several years.

There are no more excuses left for Houston. Kevin Durant missed the fourth quarter of game five due to injury, and he is out of action indefinitely, with his strained right calf to be reevaluated next week. That means that he will not return to action until at least the Western Conference Finals, assuming that the Warriors advance to the next round.

If the Rockets are indeed built to beat the Warriors, this is their best--and perhaps last--chance to do it.

Durant's injury-induced absence impacts multiple narratives:

1) Who is Golden State's most valuable player--Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry?

2) How valuable is James Harden when it matters most?

3) How insane is it to pay nearly $160 million in a four year span to Chris Paul, an aging, small, injury-prone point guard who has a long history of playoff failures?

4) Are the Rockets well-built to beat the Warriors?

If you do not already understand that Durant's size and skill set provide value that Curry cannot provide, nothing is likely to change your mind. If the Warriors are eliminated by the Rockets, then you will cite Curry's finger injury, or the difficulty of trying to make it to five straight NBA Finals (a feat no NBA team has accomplished since Bill Russell's Boston Celtics made it to 10 straight NBA Finals from 1957-66) rather than concede that the reigning two-time Finals MVP is Golden State's best player. The Warriors won one title and had a record-breaking 73 win season (culminating in a Finals loss) without Durant, but with Durant they have become a team for the ages, now just nine wins away from their third straight title and their fourth title in a five year span. The playoffs are what matters most, and Durant has been at his best when it matters most. Curry is a great regular season player, a very good playoff player and a member of three championship teams for which he has not won a single Finals MVP. Has there ever been a player who was the best player on a three-time champion who never won a Finals MVP since the award was first handed out in 1969?

Harden is not valuable when it matters most. We already knew that, dating all the way back to when he was the choking third option on Oklahoma City's 2012 NBA Finalists. We have seen Harden benched in the fourth quarter of a key playoff game (the "sin" that played a major role in Kevin McHale being fired the next season), we have seen Harden's numerous brickfests in elimination games and we have seen Harden set playoff records for most turnovers. So, it is not at all surprising that with Durant out of action and the series up for grabs--game five winners in 2-2 series win the series over 80% of the time, though Harden found a way to be on the wrong end of that statistic last year--Harden attempted just one field goal down the stretch in the fourth quarter. Of course, the "stat gurus" will love Harden's "efficient" production of 31 points on just 16 field goal attempts--but "efficiency" is not the answer to everything and is not always the recipe for championship success. Harden needed to grab that fourth quarter by the throat, assert his dominance and make sure that his team won. Instead, he was passive and did not have an impact when it mattered most. That mentality--not just in one game but over his career--is Harden's defining legacy unless and until he changes that mentality.

The answer to question three is simple: 11 points on 3-14 field goal shooting. That is what Paul produced in the must-win game five, with Durant out of action, Harden drifting out of view and the Rockets' realistic chance to win the series on the line. At least we don't have to hear any more nonsense about how Houston would have eliminated Golden State last year if only Paul had been healthy. Read that again: 11 points on 3-14 field goal shooting. The "stat gurus" have always placed a high value on Paul's "efficiency" but his "efficiency"--which, by the way, often disappears at crucial times--is as meaningless as Harden's.

It is no accident that both Paul and Harden are strangers to the NBA Finals despite spending most of their careers on excellent teams (yes, Harden has one Finals appearance as a bricklaying caddy for Durant and Russell Westbrook); "efficiency" is important but the most important trait for a great basketball player is the ability to rise to the occasion and dominate when the stakes are the highest. When Bill Russell was a color commentator on CBS' NBA telecasts, he used to say that it matters more when you score than how much you score. When you score is also often more important than how efficiently you score. There is such a thing as a bad 10-16 shooting performance, and a good 9-23 shooting performance (and vice versa); context matters, so a player who shoots 9-23 but is aggressive and contributes in other ways (i.e., Stephen Curry last night) is more valuable than a player who shoots 10-16 but disappears in the fourth quarter with the game on the line (i.e., James Harden last night).

Are the Rockets well-built to beat the Warriors? Read the above with understanding and you know the answer. That being said, it is possible that the Rockets can win two games against a Warriors team that is without the services of Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins, that has seen Stephen Curry disappearing for significant chunks of time and Klay Thompson not looking like himself. The Rockets should beat the Warriors, particularly if they even close to as good, smart and tough as they tout themselves to be.

The Rockets may very well protect home court in game six, and then game seven becomes a 48 minute crapshoot. However, I expect Golden State to win a close game six or, failing that, a not so close game seven. Harden and Paul have not developed a championship mentality yet, and it is unlikely that they will develop it now.

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posted by David Friedman @ 6:19 PM

30 comments

30 Comments:

At Thursday, May 09, 2019 8:10:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

"If you do not already understand that Durant's size and skill set provide value that Curry cannot provide, nothing is likely to change your mind."

On the other hand...

...if you do not understand that Kevin Durant shoots astronomically better when he shares the floor with Steph Curry than at any other point in his career...

...if you cannot recognize that the Warriors with KD/no Steph are a roughly .500 team but the Warriors with Steph/no KD are a 60+ win team...

...if you do not remember that Steph Curry has won a ring without KD but KD has not won a ring without Steph...

... if you forgot that Steph beat KD on one good leg despite KD being up 3-1 on him....

... if you are willfully ignoring the easily trackable and historically relevant impact Steph's mere presence has on his team's offense....

... if you choose not to remember that the Warriors with Harrison Barnes in KD's place won 73 games....

...if you haven't noticed that teams that play the Warriors try to play to take away Steph, not to take away KD...

... if you think On/Off numbers are some kind of elaborate alchemy of advanced statistical lies rather than a simple reporting of what happens on a basketball court...

...if you are willfully agnostic to the idea that Steph makes his teammates better in spite of significant statistical and eye-test evidence...

... if you think it's mere coincidence that Curry has posted superior +- numbers to Durant every game of this series despite a career-worst shooting performance...

... if you likewise think it sheer coincidence that Durant shoots 36% against the Rockets without Curry on the court but 49% with him...

... or if you care about the box score and only the box score...

...then nothing is likely to change your mind.

David is absolutely 100% right that KD's and skillset provide value that Curry doesn't. What I think he may be missing is that Curry's range, off-ball movement, and gravity provide a different (greater) value that KD doesn't.

 
At Friday, May 10, 2019 11:13:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am writing this with 9:46 left in the 4th quarter of the crucial Game 6.

Curry has 12 points on 4-13 shooting (1-6 from three).

And it is not the first time he has disappeared in a key playoff game, in fact it is more like the norm at this point.

And it's the usual story again -- he got injured, not too bad to prevent him from playing but probably enough to affect his game, the defense is manhandling him and he is not getting any calls, and then he is getting overpowered when he is defending too.

Physicality matters in the playoffs. A lot. That's just how it is.

The fact that the best shooter of all times (which he indisputably is) is struggling so much every year is one of the best illustrations of that fact.

 
At Friday, May 10, 2019 11:59:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And then Curry proceeded to score 21 points the rest of the 4th...

But the points I made are still valid -- the Rockets should have been up by 20 given how bad Curry was playing, yet it was a tied game. That's on the Rockets.

 
At Saturday, May 11, 2019 12:13:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Anonymous-

That post didn't age great, did it?

 
At Saturday, May 11, 2019 1:03:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Nick:

I rest my case after your first comment: anyone who cannot understand why a 7 foot, multi-faceted player is more valuable than a 6-3 shooter/passer is not ever going to be convinced that he is wrong, and I am not going to waste my time debating the point. Curry is a great player. Durant is a better player. Durant carried the Warriors to two titles, and he carried them during a nine game stretch prior to his injury, during which he put up insane scoring numbers on insane shooting percentages. Durant averaged 45 mpg versus the Rockets, even though he missed the entire fourth quarter of game five (during which he would have added to his minutes total had he not been hurt). If Durant is not the team's best player someone should let Steve Kerr know, as generally coaches give the most minutes to their best player.

Curry had a monster second half to help Golden State win a game against a team of proven chokers. Curry did what a two-time MVP is supposed to do in that circumstance, and it does not change a thing about his skill set versus Durant's.

Back to the main point of the article: I predicted a close Golden State win in game six because Houston does not have a championship mentality, and we saw ample proof of that down the stretch. From the moment that Harden arrived in Houston I have insisted that he is not well-equipped to be the best player on a championship team, and we have seen that proven over and over and over and over again in the playoffs.

It is a travesty that Harden's gimmicky game has garnered one regular season MVP already and it will be a disgrace if he is given the award this year over Antetokounmpo.

 
At Saturday, May 11, 2019 1:06:00 AM, Blogger Awet M said...

Should?

The Rockets "shoulda" beat the Warriors without Kevin Durant tonight.
They also "woulda" have beaten the Warriors if Paul didn't go down in game 5 of the 2018 playoffs.


There is no "shoulda, coulda, woulda" in life. Only "is" and "was."

Now, it's beginning to look like Bucks-Warriors for the Finals, provided that they take care of the Raptors/Sixers and Nuggets/Blazers in their respective conference finals.

 
At Saturday, May 11, 2019 2:21:00 AM, Anonymous Yogi said...

Man, this is unbelievable. I was reading this article the other day and I said to myself "David, as much as I admire your basketball acumen, you have finally gone off the deep end ... because no way the Rockets lose to the Warriors on their home court this year, without Durant and with their short bench."
And yet, here we are. I think this also says a lot about D'antoni. How many times have his teams lost this way at the higher levels? I mean the bad, lazy defense, short bench, tired stars, low team basketball IQ. We've seen all this time and again. D'antoni's teams play with a lot of flash in the regular season, but in the playoffs this inevitably turns out to be a flash in the pan.

 
At Saturday, May 11, 2019 12:37:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

".... is not ever going to be convinced that he is wrong...."

That's just flat-out not true. I could definitely be convinced, but I would need Durant's alleged superiority to start being reflected in the impact metrics and/or eye-test, rather than just raw scoring numbers. Alternately, if he leaves GSW and outperforms them after (betting against this), that would at least be worth considering.

As is, though, he is so valuable to GSW that without him they still scored 118 points against a team designed specifically to stop them. They were able to do this because even in a scoreless first half, Curry effectively can create a 4-on-3 situation at will, and even guys like Kevon Looney and Shaun Livingston can score at a pretty solid rate under those circumstances. Then Curry had his Isiah Thomas moment, gutting his way to a monster fourth quarter despite an injury.

"If Durant is not the team's best player someone should let Steve Kerr know, as generally coaches give the most minutes to their best player."

By this logic their best player last year was Draymond Green, I suppose. To say nothing of the '09 Lakers led by Pau Gasol, Tony Parker's '05 Spurs, Kobe Bryant's '01 Lakers, etc. And who could forget the great Byron Scott's '88 Lakers?

Pretty sure Durant's minutes advantage over Curry has more to do with Curry's foul trouble than Durant's supposed superiority, especially since I'm quite confident Steve Kerr has noticed that the team's fortunes correlate far more strongly to Curry's presence than Durant's.

Ultimately, Curry is to offense what a great big man is (or at least was until very recently) to defense; he fundamentally alters the opposing team's defensive principles and effects every single possession while he's on the court. No other offensive player in the league right now has that kind of every play impact.

There is certainly a case to be made for Durant based mostly on his superior defensive versatility (and the Warriors did miss him on that end at times last night), but for my money Curry's outsized offensive impact is further ahead than even Durant's than Durant's defense is ahead of his. +-, On/Offs, Net-RTG and basically every other metric you can look at for overall team performance back me up on this. Durant makes great plays; Curry makes a great team.

I of course agree with your overall analysis of Houston and Harden, and I don't see things getting better for them now given their cap situation. Their best bet I guess is to try and find a sucker to take Capela so they can reload their forward positions, but even then next year Paul will be a year older and slower, and Gordon and Tucker aren't exactly Benjamin Button either.

 
At Saturday, May 11, 2019 6:12:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Last night’s game was a microcosm of a big chunk of the discussions we’ve had on this site. One thing I want to say up front Nick, when you listed Klay Thompson in your top 10 or top 15 or whatever, I did a double take. Even had a bit of a discussion with you about it.
Removing KD and running their more egalitarian offense really put Klay’s value on display. Curry’s getting all the shine, but the truth is, Klay was a monster last night too (and, Draymond as well). We determined he’s a better Reggie Miller, and I said he doesn’t have the swag. But, let me say, dude’s got plenty of swag. He just isn’t as flamboyant as Miller was. Defensively, there’s zero comparison.

David, I do believe that KD is better in the sense that he has no skillset weakness, especially when compared with Curry, who due to size and athleticism, just can’t compete with Durant as a defender or rebounder. But, basketball is a team sport, and what Nick discusses regarding Curry’s gravity ultimately making him the better player (or, more precisely, more conducive to winning basketball)…well, it’s hard to argue. And not just because of his brilliance in the fourth quarter last night.

I still worry about Curry’s ability to stay healthy. Nick pointed out that Durant has sat out nearly as many games as Curry over the past couple of seasons, but Curry is older, smaller and throughout his entire career, has proven to be injury-prone (those ankle injuries seem like some other lifetime, but they were very real, and ultimately were the reason the Dubs were able to get Durant thanks to Curry’s slightly above midlevel type deal he signed). While I think Curry’s game will age incredibly well (though he’ll have to morph into a Klay Thompson/Rich man’s JJ Redick as he gets older and slower), if his ankle flairs up again, or if he loses any quickness, then the “best player” argument will go away. I think even Nick would agree with that.

However, in the here and now, I’m going to have to echo Nick in saying Curry is the best player on the Dubs. In some ways, the Dubs may be even better without KD. Now, the team should do everything they can to bring KD back (since Curry is 31, Dray is 30, Klay is 29), but if the team can play like they did last night, they may actually be better off not locking up KD to a monster contract, and instead focusing on getting younger potential talent.

Harden warps defenses, but he only does so when he dominates the ball. Same with Lebron. Same with Kobe. Same with Michael Jordan. Curry warps defenses and impacts the game and doesn’t even have to make a shot. The Rockets were trapping him nearly every time he touched the ball.

@anonymous
Last night sums up why a lot of us on here don’t trust Harden and our criticisms of him aren’t “hate”. He’s a brilliant offensive player under today’s rules, but…just doesn’t have the mentality to be the best player on a championship team.

 
At Saturday, May 11, 2019 6:29:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

There's a lot of unnecessary editorializing in this piece, but the key takeaway is relevant. Chris Paul is such a goon: https://www.cbssports.com/nba/news/chris-paul-kicked-steph-curry-off-court-on-the-eve-of-game-6-and-now-hell-have-the-gym-to-himself-all-summer-long/

 
At Saturday, May 11, 2019 6:54:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Jordan-

Always appreciate your take.

Klay is so hard for me to evaluate for stuff like "Top 10", just because we've never really seen him without Curry (and what we did see earlier this year wasn't super encouraging). It reminds me a little of some of the discussions about Tim Duncan we've had over the years (we never saw him without Pop). I do think that in his current ecosystem, he's one of the 15 best players in the league (and pretty cleanly the best "true" 2-guard), but I am not sure one way or the other if that would be as true in another environment. I think he'd still be awesome... but I also think he percentages would go down, and I'm not sure how severely.

I agree that injuries and age could absolute remove Curry's "best in the world" qualifications. He may be able to maintain his "stretch the defense to 40 feet" ability all the way to the end, but the things he's able to do both on and off-ball to create numbers advantages and favorable switches are extremely reliant on speed and agility.

I do think he's better than KD now, but I would be surprised if he is still better than KD in five years for the reasons you listed.

Regarding the Warriors and Durant, I don't think losing him actually allows them to go get anyone else (assuming they pay Klay), does it? I don't think he's staying, but I think if they can keep him they absolutely should; he's still a Top 5 player in the league regardless of whether or not he's better than Curry, and he gives them serious injury insurance, and a bonafide force multiplier against trapping defenses designed to slow Curry (as we saw in the early games of this series) that bully teams into trying to cover him one-on-one with an entire side of the court to himself.

I will differ with you slightly in that I think if Jordan played today he'd have the ability to warp defenses off-ball (though he couldn't draw them out to 35 feet or whatever). He was a lethal off-ball mover in his own right, and I think teams would panic-double him on off-ball screens the same way they do Curry rather than risk him catching the ball with a head of steam and too to do something about it. Teams were terrified of Jordan (rightly) and just couldn't load up on him that way due to illegal defense rules. If the '96 Bulls played today I imagine Jordan would basically always be doubled and teams would take their chance with Rodman or Longley being semi-open.

Who do you think would be a bigger threat to GSW next round? Portland or Denver?

 
At Sunday, May 12, 2019 12:14:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

1) When Stephen Curry wins two Finals MVPs and when Stephen Curry averages over 30 ppg in a postseason while also spending significant time guarding the opposing team's best player (as opposed to being the Golden State player who is regularly targeted by the opposition as a weak link defensively), let me know and we can have a serious conversation. Right now, taking Curry over Durant makes about as much sense as taking Wade over LeBron James or Gilbert Arenas over Kobe Bryant or any number of other nonsensical "debates" that I foolishly wasted my time on over the years, when all I had to do was just sit back and let events prove me right (or let other people continue to fail to understand basketball).

2) As for Curry being better than Jordan and/or Bryant, those comments belong on the Bill Simmons website or wherever Mike Wilbon is writing nowadays. That is less serious of a conversation than Durant versus Curry.

3) Curry has a dislocated finger on his NON-SHOOTING HAND. Let's pump the brakes a bit on comparing his situation to Isiah Thomas playing on a severely sprained ankle. A severe sprain can actually be more serious than a broken ankle. I have personal experience with both injuries and it is not even close which one has a greater impact. Kobe Bryant won a Finals MVP with an avulsion fracture to the index finger on his shooting hand, in addition to dealing with knee and ankle maladies.

Curry had a great second half, no doubt about it. He had a great fourth quarter in game five as well. So, kudos to him for showing up at an MVP level for three quarters in a six game (24 quarters) series. Unfortunately for Curry, the Warriors would probably have been eliminated before games five or six if they had been without Durant that entire time.

As for Golden State's prospects moving forward without Durant, certain victory against Denver or Portland becomes much more problematic--and I would rate Golden State as an underdog against Milwaukee in the NBA Finals, should Golden State and Milwaukee make it that far.

The Warriors COULD win eight more playoff games without Durant but it is unlikely that they will, and even if they do that does not prove that Curry is better than Durant, because the Warriors COULD also win eight more playoff games with Durant and without Curry if that would have been the scenario.

 
At Sunday, May 12, 2019 12:45:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Yogi:

Yeah, that game went about as I expected it to go. No one can predict specific details like Curry competing with Harden for top choker honors in the first half only to take over in the second half, but I felt confident that the Warriors would keep the game close and find a way to win. They are a championship team with a championship mentality. The Rockets are whiners, floppers and losers. Chauncey Billups said that he cannot stand to watch them play and I agree; it has been a long time since I was this happy to see a team eliminated. The Rockets brand of basketball is ugly, it will not lead to a championship and it is not nearly as savvy or "analytically correct" as it is purported to be, unless one believes that paying nearly $160 million to Chris Paul is some kind of brilliant stroke of basketball analytics and/or economic planning. The smart coaches/execs get rid of even great players a year too soon as opposed to a year too late (think Bill Walsh, Bill Belichick, etc.). Houston locked up Chris Paul for so long that his hamstrings will be fossilized relics by the time the Rockets are free from that contractual albatross.

I am not sure if this year's playoff flop is enough, or if the rest of the basketball world needs to see one more flop from Harden to figure out that I was right about him all along. "Foundational player," indeed!

 
At Sunday, May 12, 2019 1:02:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

David-

1) Ok. When Durant wins a title without Curry, or leads his team to 73 wins, or when his team performs better with him on the court than with Curry, let me know. So far all he's done is frontrun his way onto a pre-existing juggernaut and rack up easy numbers against defenses too preoccupied by Curry and to crowd the lane against him. If Bernard King joined the mid-80s Lakers he'd probably lead them in scoring, too, but he wouldn't be their best player.

KD also rarely guards the other team's best player (Iggy (47.5) and Klay (17.2) had the highest percentage of Harden's possessions in Games 1-5, per Five Thirty Eight. I don't know what Durant's percentage was but it was less than 17 (and I'd be shocked if it wasn't also lower than Draymond's). He didn't see a ton of time on Paul, either. He seemed to mostly be on Capela and Tucker.

Make no mistake, Durant still has more value defensively than Curry. But you're over-selling him on that end.

Additionally, by just beating the drum of Finals MVP (a subjective award selected by the same media members you love to hate) or raw scoring numbers, you're not really engaging with what the rest of us are looking at here, which is that Curry does not *need* to score 30 points because he can score 25-28 (on slightly higher efficiency than KD) and then create a few dozen easy opportunities for his teammates (including Durant) without needing to dominate the ball by creating havoc with his off-ball movement or drawing a double-team 35 feet from the hoop and letting Draymond, Iggy, or KD attack 4-on-3.

2) I don't believe anyone said Curry was better than Jordan or Bryant. Jordan noted (rightly) that Curry warps the defense as an off-ball threat in a way that no one else in NBA history does, but he stopped (rightly) well-shy of claiming anything beyond that.

3) Come on, man. You know enough to know that the guide hand is extremely important for long-range shots, and that those are the shots that haven't been falling for Curry. He shot 57% on two-point shots in the series. It was his long-ball that was the issue, and it's his long-ball that's the backbone of his whole game. Losing that weapon is obviously a huge deal for a player like him.

I disagree that the Warriors would have been eliminated if not for Durant. We saw in Games 5 and 6 that the offense works fine without Durant by going back the pick-and-roll/extra pass roots that dominated the league before he got there. He's a massive asset to be sure but nobody came anywhere close to sweeping the Warriors before he got there and I think it's pretty disrespectful to not only Curry but also Klay, Iggy, Draymond, and Kerr to suggest that anyone, let alone Chris Paul and James Harden, could do it now.

"the Warriors COULD also win eight more playoff games with Durant and without Curry if that would have been the scenario"

There is... little supporting evidence for this claim. They went 5-9 this season in games Durant played without Curry this year (and a lot of those were not against WCF or Finals level competition). Their entire offense is predicated on what Curry opens up for KD (and others), and Durant shoots like crap when he isn't on the floor (12-33 against Houston with Curry on the bench and a +- of -15 over 43 minutes).

 
At Sunday, May 12, 2019 1:26:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Nick:

I don't like how Durant fled a title contender in OKC to build a Death Star in GS but that is a separate issue. I also don't like what LeBron did when he left Cleveland but I never bought the nonsense that Miami was Wade's team because Wade was there first and had already won a title. That is just nonsense. The Heat started winning titles when Wade flat out told James that James is the best player and that he must play like it, with everyone else following behind. That is what happened in GS after Durant arrived, though without the need for conversations and ego-tripping because Durant and Curry are wired differently than James and Wade.

In the real world, Durant has clearly been the best player on two championship teams and was correctly recognized as such (even the media gets things right, sometimes). Curry has three championships and no Finals MVPs. Is there any other player who is demonstrably as great as you claim Curry is who has won multiple titles and never won a Finals MVP?

Durant took the challenge of guarding Harden on multiple possessions down the stretch in several games in this series, and that was by intent/design, not Houston's choosing (which is the only way that Curry would be anywhere near Harden on defense).

Curry is not "warping" anything better than Jordan or Bryant did. Sorry, not buying that idea for one minute. The Pistons had the Jordan rules, Bryant's opponents had similar rules even if they never were given a catchy name. Durant is the primary offensive threat for Golden State, not Curry.

Yes, I know plenty about long-distance shooting, and I have made plenty of three pointers in my day. Give me a choice of a severely sprained ankle and a dislocated finger on my non-shooting hand and that is an easy choice. If you've played the game, and shot contested three pointers then you understand. Bryant had to fundamentally change his entire shot due to his damaged index finger on his shooting hand. Curry can tape two fingers together and go on about his business. I would expect the injury to possibly affect his ballhandling more than his shooting, thought I cannot speak from personal experience since I have never been a primary ballhandler and I certainly never did as much dribbling with my off hand as Curry does.

If the only thing that changed was Durant and his 35+ ppg being out, then yes the Warriors would have been down 3-0 at least. Now, maybe GS would have played differently if Durant had been out and maybe Curry would not have disappeared to the extent that he did in the real world, but Durant carried the Warriors through the first four-plus games. That is indisputable.

The Warriors' offense hardly looks "just fine" without Durant. The Warriors needed a 21 point first half from Thompson to stay close and then a near-record setting second half from Curry to win. A steady diet of that to win eight more playoff games against teams that are better than Houston is not likely, to say the least. Again, it COULD happen, but it is not nearly as likely as a Golden State title with Durant as the best player.

I don't care what the Warriors' record was in regular season games that they did not care about. I care about the fact that the 2017 and 2018 Warriors were dominant playoff teams with Durant leading the way, while the 2015 and 2016 Warriors were not nearly as dominant in the playoffs, with Curry also not clearly the best Warriors' player during either playoff run.

You and I are living in fundamentally different realities. In my reality, a 6-3 guard must have a significantly greater skill set than a 7 foot forward to be more valuable than that 7 foot forward. You can talk about "warping," space creation, On/Offs and anything else but none of that changes the basic realities of basketball.

 
At Sunday, May 12, 2019 1:29:00 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

@David,

Just to be clear, never said Curry is better than Jordan or Kobe. Just talked about the manner in which Curry warps the defense and how it is extremely different from the greatest players of the last 25+ years because half of it is done without the ball. Not sure if your point 2 was directed at my post or not. Curry is not better than either and I don't think there's any reason for me to explain as you know this too.

Durant is better than Curry for all the reasons you state and I've either reiterated or stated outright myself. However, I believe Curry is more impactful on winning in today's NBA. You may think that's asinine or unfounded, but there is a bunch of evidence from eye test, advanced stats, and logical standpoints that supports this belief. I trust your overall basketball philosophy (which is why I've come here for the past 12+ years) and respect the hell out of your knowledge of the sport. Still, I don't think it's a hot take to posit that in today's NBA, Curry is more impactful to winning basketball games.

Wade was never better than Lebron, but the argument at the time was that Wade was the alpha on the team. He should not have been, but Lebron just did not have the mentality in year one of the Heatles. That turned out to be true as they didn't win it that year and Lebron pulled a Lebron (big stats, little impact on the outcome of the game). I don't think any of us that visit this website, thought Arenas was anywhere close to Bryant. There was no evidence to support it. That was an ESPN/Bill Simmons/Henry Abbott hot take.

Those examples, I think, are not relative to the topic of Curry vs. Durant. Like my last couple of posts have been saying, it's possible that you and Nick are both right. Durant is a better basketball player. No skillset weakness and his game would have transcended any era. That said, in today's NBA, under today's rules and style of play, Curry is more impactful.

@Nick, you're right, if Durant leaves, they can't just spend that money on other players. What I meant was, they're better off not locking themselves into 4 bloated contracts on a team that is already showing signs of winning fatigue and just, you know, regular fatigue. Not sure how the Warriors are going to structure the deals for Green and Thompson, but mining youth and potential is the right way to go since all of their stars are 30+.

Thanks for the link to that story. The best part for me, is the idea that for 3 1/2 quarters of the game, Paul was smirking inside thinking, "Bwahaha. My pettiness paid off." Only to walk off the court 8 game time minutes later with no more games left to play this year. Color me satisfied.

Yah. Not gonna argue that Jordan wouldn't be impactful off ball. But, you said it yourself, he wouldn't have been 35 feet from the hoop. To me, nuff said.

I think Denver is the bigger threat. Centers are their Achilles heel. Denver's best player is Jokic. Also, Denver's offense is more potent (and less reliant on 2 players) and therefore has a better shot of keeping pace. Dame is the next closest player to Steph. Nobody on Portland is anything close to Kevin Durant (assuming he's healthy). Portland is a player or two away and/or a McCollum trade away. I love organizations believing in the players they've drafted and helped grow. But if we're going to collectively dump on Morey for tripling down on his beliefs, I think it's fair game to criticize Neil Olshey. Portland can't win it all with two undersized, mediocre-to-bad defensive guards leading the team.

 
At Sunday, May 12, 2019 1:49:00 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

@anonymous,

I love ya bud and appreciate your POV, but have to admit I literally guffawed reading Nick's response right after the game.

 
At Sunday, May 12, 2019 2:16:00 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

@David, just want to chime in with that last part. The Warriors did look fine without Durant. Thompson gets more shots and more shots in rhythm because he becomes option 1A. Green handles the ball a lot more because he isn't ceding offensive control for a huge chunk of possessions to both Durant and Curry. Iggy starts and gets to make more plays off ball as a purely complementary option (which is where he absolutely shines). How many wide open threes did he get (and sink)?

The bench gets to play more consistent minutes. It's tough for a guy to come in cold, play a couple minutes, then sit for an actual hour and a half, before getting back in for another couple minutes. That changes when the guy knows he's going to get a set chunk of of minutes each half.

The only thing that went horribly wrong is Curry got in (dumb) foul trouble and missed all of his shots. If he was you know, even less than average Curry (instead of as bad as we've ever seen Curry), the Warriors would've been up 5-10 points at half.

I mean, game six was actually just an above average Curry game. He went 9-20, 4-11 from 3, 11-11 from the stripe, and posted a 33/5/4. Read that stat line and that stat line alone, and you think, nice game.

It's just that the law of averages unfolded in epically dramatic fashion.

 
At Sunday, May 12, 2019 2:27:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

David-

"Is there any other player who is demonstrably as great as you claim Curry is who has won multiple titles and never won a Finals MVP? "

No, but then Curry's career isn't over and there isn't exactly a huge sample size of guys who won multiple titles alongside another MVP, either. And I'm still not buying that media opinion is suddenly valid evidence when it agrees with you but they're a bunch of amateurs and morons when they don't.

"Curry is not "warping" anything better than Jordan or Bryant did. Sorry, not buying that idea for one minute. The Pistons had the Jordan rules, Bryant's opponents had similar rules even if they never were given a catchy name."

As an on-ball threat I agree that Jordan and Kobe warped defenses. But off-ball--which is what we're talking about-- they could not draw two defenders nor could they get the other team's best defender or rebounder switched onto them and then drag him out to 35 feet.

"Curry can tape two fingers together and go on about his business. "

So it's a coincidence that a carer 44% three point shooter suddenly lost twenty points off his 3pt% after injuring his fingers, then? That's really the thing that seems more plausible to you? Is that the take? Because if not whatever injury you, Dr. Friedman, think is more severe, it's clear that the finger injury dramatically limited Curry's primary weapon, and he went on an Isiah-like binge anyway (though he got two fewer points in his quarter, fair play to Zeke).

"Bryant had to fundamentally change his entire shot due to his damaged index finger on his shooting hand."

Ok? Who said anything about Bryant's injury? All I said that was Curry playing through an injury for a massive fourth quarter playoff binge reminded me of Isiah.

"The Warriors' offense hardly looks "just fine" without Durant. The Warriors needed a 21 point first half from Thompson to stay close and then a near-record setting second half from Curry to win."

They got 60 total points from their two best scorers. That's good, but hardly an aberration for a title contender. It was unusual that most of Thompson's came in the first half and all of Curry's came in the second half, but the final statlines were pretty standard stuff. Again, they scored 118 points. That offense is A-Ok.

Also, for the series (not just Game 6), here's how the offense looked:

With Durant: 45.9% FG, 32.1 3pt%, O-RTG 110.3, 14.6 TO%, -1 +1
Without: 50% FG, 40% 3pt, O-RTG 119, 12.5 TO%, +12 +-

The offense literally performed better without him for the series by every metric. They shot better from everywhere on the court, scored more points per possession, and turned the ball over less.

"You can talk about "warping," space creation, On/Offs and anything else but none of that changes the basic realities of basketball."

Buddy, I hate to break it to you, but those are the basic realities of basketball, especially in 2019.

 
At Sunday, May 12, 2019 2:31:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Sidebar: Even putting aside the spacing/creation (which is Steph's most valuable asset, make no mistake), how much better is a scorer than Steph is KD, really? He's taller, certainly, but let's see what the stats say about which of them can actually really get you a bucket when you need it:

For all KD's rep as an ISO-killer, he's gotten more than half his buckets (58.2%) in this year's playoffs from assists. Curry, by contrast, has gotten only 44.6%. Turns out this is a bit of a career-long pattern.

Playoffs buckets assisted:

2019 KD: 58%
2019 SC: 44.6%

'18 KD: 43.4%
'18 SC: 43.8%

'17 KD: 56.4%
'17 SC: 37.7%

You'll note they're almost tied in '18, but that's probably because Steph missed the first bunch of games and wasn't around to set KD up/create the 4-on-3s that make it easier for other people set him up.

What about prior to teaming up?

'16 SC: 39.2%
'15 SC: 45.5%

'16 KD: 53.1%
'14 KD: 59.8%

So, yeah, despite KD's rep as "the guy who can break down the defense and get his against anyone" he's historically had a lot more of his makes fed to him than Curry has.

Additionally, for all KD's rep as their closer, Steph's actually scored both more total and more efficiently in "clutch" situations as the NBA defines it (within 5 points, 5 minutes or less in the 4th or OT). Here's their points, FGA, and +- for playoff clutch situations:

'17 SC: 5.3 PPG on 2.0 FGA (+6)
'17 KD: 4.7 PPG on 2.0 FGA (+4.3)

'18 SC: 3.2 PPG on 2.2 FGA (+2)
'18 KD: 2.0PPG on 1.4 FGA (+1)

'19 SC: 3.1 on 2.4 (+1.6)
'19 KD: 3.2 on 2.8 (+-0)

So, in practice, reputations aside, Steph's been their closer. Let me pre-empt the idea that Steph is benefitting from the defensive attention KD draws in that scenario by looking at their pre-team up stats (using '14 for KD's second one since OKC wasn't in the playoffs in '15 and he was out hurt anyway) :

'16 KD: 1.5 on 1.9 (-1.1)
'14 KD: 4.0 on 2.7 (+1)
'16 SC:4.5 on 2.8 (+2.5)
'15 SC: 2.9 on 1.3 (+0.8


Steph's clutch numbers were arguably better pre-KD, while KD's were a lot worse pre-Steph (as teams would just crowd the paint on him and dare him go 1-on-3 or pass out to RWB).

KD scores more than Steph because he shoots more than Steph. But he only shoots more than Steph because Steph provides more off-ball value than he does. Steph gets more of his own buckets than KD does, and more crunchtime buckets than KD does.

 
At Sunday, May 12, 2019 2:38:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Jordan-

I see what you mean. I agree that GSW should be mining for youth and potential to the extent they can without moving their key pieces, but I'm not sure how they do that.

The funniest (never gonna happen) outcome would be them resigning KD, then trading him once he's locked into a long-term deal to some terrible team for a bunch of youth and role-players. KD to Miami for Richardson/Winslow/Adebayo/future 1st/Dragic*, for instance, is a deal that would probably actually make both teams better. But sending him to Cleveland or wherever would be funnier.

*Sadly probably more-or-less a role player now, but he could at least keep the offense humming during Curry's breaks.

Glad you enjoyed the Paul story. Got what he deserved.

I agree that Denver is the scarier opponent. Dame might be able to play Steph to a statistical draw but that's still a loss for the Blazers as the rest of the Warriors are a lot better than the rest of the Blazers.

I do feel like Lillard and McCollum are improving and it seems a little unfair to judge them without their starting center, but you might be onto something. Even with Nurk they didn't feel like a threat to a healthy GSW team, though perhaps too high a bar for any time (read: not Houston) who hasn't loudly claimed they can clear it.

 
At Sunday, May 12, 2019 10:35:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Nick:

Yeah, Durant for a package of your hero Dragic and other assets--that is Golden State's best option. Dragic in Miami sure turned out to be everything that you predicted in our previous conversations--best guard in the league, led Miami to championship contention and so forth. Yeah, I was just dead wrong about that, and then I doubled down by thinking that Durant is more valuable than Curry. What kind of fool am I?

Why do you bother visiting here? You clearly know SO much more about basketball and about medicine than I do. You know what matters in modern basketball and how much each kind of injury affects each player. I cannot possibly compare, so I give up and will not further engage with you.

Enjoy the rest of the playoffs.

 
At Sunday, May 12, 2019 3:29:00 PM, Blogger Al Fahridi said...

So basically what some people are saying here is that Durant was the best player on the court over the past two nba finals, and yet being the best player on the court didn't make him GS's best player. Speculatively interesting.

 
At Sunday, May 12, 2019 10:22:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

@David,

Want to reiterate what Nick said. I visit here because I very much value and appreciate your basketball mind. For the past dozen or so years I've been frequenting this blog, you have consistently put out high quality, non-media driven content that can't be found anywhere else. You don't re-vomit out hot takes and sensationalism. Instead, you provide insightful commentary that often goes against the media-focused narratives, and has time and time again turned out to be right.

What I want to add is that your writing/posts have given birth to something I have found to be nearly as valuable (imo). Because you actually take the time to respond and engage (and re-engage) with those who comment here, the comments section has added a wealth of extra content that has been just as fun and interesting to read.

You attract a readership that both understands what you bring to the table and also quite often brings their own unique thoughts and insights to further and/or add to the discussions you present.

I value Nick's insights, even when I don't agree with him. I hope you reconsider your non-engagement with Nick moving forward. As a former sports editor, I always (eventually) found value (though not always in the moment) when other smart minds questioned me. It pushed me to be better. Nick isn't a troll. I've seen him actually change his mind when someone presents a solid case against something he initially believes. Yes, I've seen him get a bit snarky (we all get that way from time to time), but overall, he's been a robust and positive contributor to 20secondtimeout. Please don't ice him out.

@Nick,

I hope you keep posting. The comments of this blog are typically excellent. Whether we all agree or not, everyone that posts here brings a unique perspective that is typically well thought out. I'm always super excited whenever David posts something new. And, then I get nearly as excited when I see that first comment pop up (since, you somehow are always the first one :)

 
At Sunday, May 12, 2019 10:50:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

@Al Fahridi,

Not really. If we're going for the TLDR version: Kevin Durant won finals MVP the last two years, but the space that Steph Curry provided/provides is the thing that made/makes the Warriors offense work. Durant is an overall better basketball player in a vacuum -- size, athleticism, length, defense and zero skillset weaknesses. However, Steph Curry is a more valuable player in today's NBA not because of his skillset or size, but because of the space/gravity he provides/creates by simply stepping 40 feet from the hoop. No one else in the NBA comes close to having the same impact on winning. Eyes, advanced stats, boxscore stats, and opposing teams (who gameplan specifically to stop him) all show this.

 
At Monday, May 13, 2019 3:57:00 AM, Anonymous CyberGlion said...

I'm of the belief that Durant is the better player especially in a playoff setting but Curry is more valuable to the Warriors. I think that can be attributed to how the Warriors operated before KD which is where they are at their most comfortable and also just how big their offense is reliant on motion and ball movement which KD kinda messes up.

On most teams I think KD would be more valuable but the Warriors are built around Curry's skillset. Durant is more important for key matchups, however, as they needed him vs LeBron and will need him vs Giannis or Kawhi. I honestly think they have a chance even with KD but without him it's hard to see GS beat the Bucks or Raptors. We'll see I guess

There is little doubt that Curry warps defenses off-ball in ways we haven't really seen, but I watched game 6 of LAL vs DEN WCF last night and I noticed a few plays where a Lakers player scored an easy bucket off of Kobe's off ball presence. So while Curry may have a greater off-ball gravity I don't think it's significantly higher from other great players, I think a lot of it has to do with the era we're in as well as how the Warriors utilize Curry, but it is indeed noticeable.

I also think having a comparable shooter alongside him in Klay also has a huge hand as even Klay creates gravity for everyone else involved, you don't want to leave either guy open which creates openings for the frontcourt players to exploit. Warriors are just a perfect storm of 3 AS caliber players (and a former AS in Iggy) having skillsets meshing so well with each over, Durant again is an awkward fit but that's my theory as to why they play so well without him. At the end of the day they've become a more dominant playoff team with him and that's ultimately why they got him.

Nick, while I don't always agree with you I respect your views. Hope to still see discussions from both of you, or at least hope to see you still contribute. It's one of many reasons why I love checking this site so much.

Jordan, I normally agree with you but I have to disagree with your last post. I might be premature but I truly don't think anyone impacts the game like Giannis Antetokounmpo. I think he is the hardest player to gameplan around because of what he does on both ends and how physically there really isn't a player that matches up well with him. Even just going by the eye test I have often seen 3-4 defenders near him even with shooters spaced out because he's almost impossible to stop otherwise. Defensively teams move the ball away from him and as a guy that often plays free safety that really distorts the other team's offense; teams often aim to abuse Curry on that end because of his limitations but you simply can not do that with Giannis, so I believe he's #1 in terms of impact on winning games although Curry probably has the biggest offensive impact

 
At Monday, May 13, 2019 5:10:00 AM, Blogger Al Fahridi said...

@Jordan, thank you. I truly believe this is an interesting case and agree with you on most points.
However, I have to object on KD having no skillset weaknesses. If we take elite all-around players (Lebron - although here: mindset weakness: check -, Kobe, MJ) we see that their playmaking skills are/were a very important factor behind their ability to carry their teams. I don't think KD playmaking ability is elite, and this is possibly what prevented him from being more successful in OKC (here there's also maybe the question of overlapping skillsets with RW). In GS, this lack of ability/relative weakness is almost irrelevant, because the "system" provides it for him - and, as you and Nick pointed out, the "system" is mostly Steph.
So I think these two guys are rather complementary, and if we leave aside for one moment the obsession to pick "who's best" maybe we can see things more clearly here. In a way, it is specifically this pairing (KD and Steph playing together) that allowed KD to be the magnificent finisher he was in the last two editions of the finals. That said, it's going to be interesting to see how things unfold for GS going forward in the playoffs.

 
At Monday, May 13, 2019 1:29:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

@cyberglion,

To me, Giannis is the best player in the NBA. In another post when we were going over our top 10 or whatever, I ranked him number one. I agree with you that his two-way impact makes him the best in the business. He's Shaqlajuwon. His one skillset weakness, his inability to shoot, is almost a non-factor because of how dominant he is everywhere else. If Giannis won both DPY and MVP, most people who have watched him play this year, wouldn't bat an eye. He's that good. Curry isn't even on the same planet defensively.

And yet, I stand by my last post (though, I embellished a bit with "no one else in the NBA comes close", I re-read that and would change it to, no one else has the same impact). I stand by it, even though I don't think Curry is better than Giannis. Giannis can and has been game-planned against. It'll be interesting to see how the Bucks do against a cohesive / veteran defense with multiple players with size, athleticism and defensive acumen who are also well-coached. I may be wrong, but I think Giannis can and will be game-planned for and we'll see it as soon as this series with the Raptors.

The Nets were a terrific story and have a much brighter future than most thought coming into the season, but they were a bubble playoff team and ill-equipped to defend at an elite level, let alone against elite competition. The Celtics were a cluster-F this season and, even if they were on their A-game, didn't feature the size or length to bother Giannis (though they did prove that they could stop him, at least for a game).

The Raptors have Green, Kawhi, Siakam, Ibaka, (even Anunoby) and are backed by Gasol. I think Giannis is going to look vulnerable/stoppable at multiple points during this upcoming series.

Curry's impact both as an on-ball creator and an off-ball decoy, is unlike anyone else we've seen. I am the biggest Kobe Stan alive, watched nearly every single game of his career (save the last couple of seasons, as that's when my daughter was born). And Kobe's off-ball impact isn't nearly what Curry's is. You said it yourself, in this era, under these rules, Curry's unique skillset mixed with his otherworldly efficiency (that isn't gimmicky like Harden's) makes him the most impactful to winning. Nick's spent a good deal of time this year providing oodles of evidence to back this up, but that evidence stretches back across the past 5 years, the entirety of the Warriors Dynasty.

Now, I honestly believe that if prime Kobe played today, he'd have similar impact offensively both on and off ball, since he'd adopt the three point shot (he held the record (tied) for most 3s in a game before Curry) and being bigger, and a far more impactful defensive player, the efficiency advantage Curry would have over Bryant wouldn't separate them. Curry isn't a player that transcends eras. He'd be good, but not MVP-worthy back in pretty much any other era. His impact would be especially mitigated pre-3. But, in today's NBA? With these rules? I'll repeat, nobody impacts winning like Curry.

You bring up good points regarding Curry's teammates, especially Klay. And, yes, to an extent, Klay has his own gravity as an off-ball floor spacer and decoy. But the knock on Klay (that will remain until he gets a team of his own and proves he can do it) is that he's not an on-ball offensive threat. The perfect example of him is in his 60-point, 3-quarter massacre. He touched the ball all of 90 seconds.

The Warriors operated the way they did before KD, because of Curry. You could pair Damian Lillard with Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, and the results wouldn't be the same. Replace Curry with Harden or Westbrook or Lebron or Paul George or Kawhi, and the results wouldn't be the same. He does so much, even when the boxscore shows him doing very little.

 
At Monday, May 13, 2019 1:46:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

@al Fahridi, you are correct about KD. What I meant is he doesn't have skillset weaknesses compared to Curry. While he's vastly improved his playmaking, it is still closer to above-average than elite. I don't like to get into who is better either, as basketball is a five-person sport and filled with so much nuance, it's really impossible to determine an absolute metric for value. I think a player that excels at setting screens is highly undervalued by pretty much everyone but coaches. Think Bogut or Kendrick Perkins or Vlade Divac.

But, these types of conversations pop up all the time and it's important to draw from all areas to make educated evaluations of what is happening on the basketball court and why. You are right that pairing KD with Curry has allowed KD to rise to finals MVP.

But, that is exactly what I mean by value. You remove KD and plug in Paul George or Kawhi Leonard or Giannis or...Andre Igoudala...and Curry makes them Finals MVP too. We've already seen KD not able to win it all, let alone get out of the Western Conference despite playing with multiple all-stars and another MVP.

Curry made it possible.

Meanwhile, Westbrook helped KD win an MVP and George finish as a top-5 MVP candidate. KD didn't bring out the best in Westbrook. In fact, Westbrook played better and won an MVP without Durant. One could make the argument (I won't), that KD held Westbrook back, and not the other way around.

KD also hasn't brought out the best in Curry as Curry's overall production/counting stats have taken steps back (while his efficiency has remained the same, or gone down slightly since Durant arrived). Curry won a chip and 2 MVPs without Durant. How then, can anyone justify Durant being more valuable or more important or even "better" when he doesn't make others better to anywhere close to the same degree? Durant gets hurt, and the entire team "steps up" or returns to 2015 with Curry leading them. I don't think it's coincidence.

 
At Tuesday, May 14, 2019 4:38:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

@Jordan and CyberGlion

Thanks for the kind words. Nice to know not *everyone* finds me aggravating.

I feel a little awkward posting at the moment-- I feel a little unwelcome here given the tenor of David's last comment--but since you both asked me to keep at it, I'll at least briefly weigh in on a couple of the things being discussed....

*I'm not sure who's more valuable between Giannis and Curry, but I feel pretty strongly they're the Top 2. I can't quite put my finger on exactly how high Giannis' defensive value is (he makes more defensive mistakes than your "average" DPOY but he can also do more different things defensively than pretty much anyone since Hakeem), but I know that it's very high. It remains to be seen if his offensive production can hold up against elite playoff defenses, but going through Kawhi Leonard and then (presumably) the Warriors' four headed Dray/Klay/Iggy/KD monster will be an excellent test case.

For now, I think I have to side with Curry as much on body of work as anything else. We haven't yet seen Giannis under the very brightest lights, though, and he may yet force me to change my mind.

*I watched most of Kobe's career myself (though I certainly didn't see "nearly every game" so deferring to Jordan there) and I don't recall him breaking defenses off-ball to the extent that Curry does. He was always covered and teams were reluctant to help off of him but he rarely if ever flummoxed two defenders into simultaneously chasing him away from the play and he certainly didn't drag guys out 35 feet.

He was a pretty deadly cutter when he wanted to be, particularly in the Shaq era, but that's just not the same kind of every-play impact Curry offers. When you're talking about off-ball value, there's Steph Curry, then there's everyone else. Lillard is trying to reach that Curry level, but so far defenses aren't respecting him the same way, and he isn't quite the shooter or passer to punish them the same way Curry does when they don't.

The closest we've seen was Reggie, who could pull off the "draw two defenders" trick occasionally (though much less frequently than Curry), but even Reggie didn't have the tremendous range that Curry did, and even ignoring that not even Reggie could match Curry's ludicrous combination of volume and efficiency, so defenses--while certainly keyed on him--were less terrified of him breaking free than they are of Curry doing it.

* Kevin Durant is a good passer, but not a great one. His height affords him a lot of angles that your average player doesn't have access to, but his vision and decision-making are relatively average. He consistently makes good, simple passes, but he rarely makes more challenging reads or precision feeds.

* Klay definitely has tremendous gravity but it is more similar to Reggie or Ray's than to Steph's, as he is not a 35-foot threat and teams rarely double him on off-ball action the way they do with Curry.

* I agree with Jordan's idea that a Kawhi or Giannis type being added to the Warriors instead of KD would have had functionally the same results (albeit perhaps with a slightly stronger defense and a slightly weaker offense).

* I think the two most important questions for the Warriors moving forward this post-season are Steph Curry's health and KD's health, in that order. If Steph returns to even just his usual playoff averages, the Blazers are toast with or without KD. If he keeps shooting 25% from deep, however-- or if he remains determined to get into foul trouble every game-- then the Warriors would certainly benefit from having KD as the point of the spear.

I think at least one of those two scenarios (healthy Steph or healthy KD) will come to pass in fairly short order, so I'm taking the Warriors in.... let's say 5, but 4 or 6 wouldn't shock me.

 

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