The Golden State Warriors got off to a slow start this season. This isn't a big surprise; Kevin Durant is gone, Klay Thompson is hurt, D'Angelo Russell is still getting acclimated, and they're coming off five very long seasons. Unfortunately, the doomsday scenario arrived for Golden State on Wednesday night, as Stephen Curry broke his hand in a blowout loss to the Phoenix Suns and is out indefinitely.
This was supposed to be Curry's renaissance year, where he would light everyone up as the first option for the Warriors. That doesn't seem like it's going to happen now, and Golden State is now left with Russell, Draymond Green, and a handful of rookies to lead them for most, if not all, of this season.
But there is a potential bright side to all this. Curry's absence will hurt them on offense, but his broken hand changes nothing about the fact that the Warriors have looked really bad on defense, especially on the interior. It's not out of the question they end up losing many games due to their defense and lack of go-to offensive options other than Russell. Thinking about it, it has shades of a certain San Antonio Spurs team that kicked off their dynasty in a similar manner.
Let's take it back to the 1996-97 season, where people would look at you weird if you said the word Twitter and Michael Jordan was in the middle of his second three-peat. The Spurs were regularly in contention behind "The Admiral", David Robinson. That year, though, Robinson struggled with foot and back injuries and played all of six games. As a result, the Spurs went 20-62, ended up with the first overall pick of that year's draft, and selected none other than Tim Duncan and vaulted themselves into the championship conversation for the next 15 years.
The Warriors have now been handed an opportunity to do the same. Right now, there doesn't seem to be a Duncan-like prospect who could come in and immediately make an All-Star team while averaging 21 points per game, but the general principle remains: the Warriors could be really bad this year and end up with a No. 1 talent on a rookie contract for the next four years.
Rolling into next year with, at minimum, Curry, Green, a healthy Klay Thompson, and the 2020 No. 1 pick isn't the worst outcome in the world, even if this season is a wash. And it's too early to completely commit to that plan; Curry broke his off hand, rather than his shooting hand, and could conceivably come back in time to save the season. Same goes for Thompson, who tore his ACL in June and could come back in time for a playoff run. Once Steve Kerr gets in the lab to cook up schemes, Russell could hold down the fort on offense while Green holds it down on the other end.
But that's a lot of "coulds". The Warriors' best bet very well may be to shut down Curry for the season, push back Thompson's return until a year from now, and play the lottery. That isn't what anyone was expecting out of Golden State, but sometimes the universe deals you a hand that you have to take. This seems like one of those times. I'm sure every Golden State fan in existence would readily agree to five straight Finals appearances and three championships in exchange for bottoming out the following year in pursuit of long-term success.