2. Golden State Warriors
Is it heresy not to put the defending champions atop these power rankings? It would be if Stephen Curry’s postseason availability weren’t in doubt, but the two-time MVP is currently recovering from a Grade 2 MCL sprain in his left knee that he suffered in late March.
Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr told reporters “there’s no way [Curry is] playing in the first round,” as he’s set to be re-evaluated right when the playoffs begin. As Jeff Stotts of In Street Clothes noted on Twitter, Grade 2 sprains typically sideline players for around six weeks, which would likely put Curry back somewhere in the middle of the Western Conference Semifinals.
The Warriors are world-crushers with Curry on the floor, as they’ve outscored opponents by an average of 14.7 points per 100 possessions in his 1,631 minutes this season. With him on the bench, however, they’ve only outscored opponents by 2.9 points per 100 possessions, which would have them tied with the Thunder for eighth in terms of season-long marks.
No one should feel sorry for the Warriors, as they still have three All-Stars in Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green surrounded by capable role players such as Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and Quinn Cook. But Anthony Slater of The Athletic noted, they went 7-10 over their final 17 games (during which Curry played only 25 minutes), finishing with a point differential of minus-62 and a net rating of minus-2.2.
If the Warriors advance past the Spurs in the first round and get a fully healthy Curry back by the conference semifinals or finals, they’ll be in strong position to win their third title in four seasons. In the meantime, Curry’s absence reduces their margin for error, as one cold-shooting night from Durant or Thompson could help an opponent swing a playoff series in their favor.
Next: 1. Houston Rockets