Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant are superstar level players. Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are stars as well but to a lesser degree. Hypothetically, if we took each player from the Golden State Warriors — one at a time — and replaced them with a player at their position that’s considered average but most mirrors their game, how much worse would the Warriors be?
How much worse would the Warriors be without Stephen Curry?
Replacement: D’Angelo Russell
Even with Durant in the fold, Stephen Curry is still the driving force behind the Warriors all-time great offense. Swapping him out for Russell would provide you with statistical decreases of -9.7 points-per-game (PPG), -1.8 assists-per-game (APG), -1.0 rebounds-per-game (RPG), -9.4 player efficiency rating, -.106 true shooting percentage (TS%), -.194 win shares per 48 (WS/48), and -5.5 value over replacement player (VORP).
So, yeah, strictly from a numbers perspective the Warriors would lose A LOT if they swapped out Curry for an average player of the same position. But, this doesn’t even account for what Curry does in terms of the immeasurables. Curry is a gravitational force for defenders. He forces the opposition to account for him even when he doesn’t have the ball, which makes him that much more valuable.
Oh, I almost forgot! Curry’s +17.4 on-off was the best in the NBA this season. Even in a down year, he’s still one of the most valuable players in the league.
This conclusion is admittedly arbitrary but when factoring in the numbers and looking at all Curry does for the Warriors, it’s reasonable to assume the Warriors would experience a major decrease in wins if Curry was swapped out for a lesser, more average player.
Curry’s worth on the Warriors: 15 wins
How much worse would the Warriors be without Kevin Durant?
Replacement: Harrison Barnes
There’s a lot of irony in this one and I swear I didn’t even really do this on purpose. I mean, I am authoring the article so, I guess, I kind of did but I didn’t necessarily want to.
The way I went about finding each replacement was looking at PER for each position. Since 15 is considered average, I found players in that range and chose the one that was most comparable in terms of playing style to the player they’d be replacing. For Durant, that just so happened to be Barnes.
The ironic thing is we’ve already seen this movie. The Warriors won 73 games last season with Barnes in the mix, but they won only 67 this season with Durant. So, it’s settled, right? Barnes is actually worth six more wins than Durant.
Not so fast.
While the Warriors did experience a decrease in wins this year, it’s not as black and white as Barnes going and Durant coming. A myriad of things went into the Warriors reduction of wins.
For starters, there have been obvious chemistry issues between Durant and Curry. Any time you put two ball-dominant top-five players together, it’s going to be hard to net a seamless transition. Curry and Barnes, on the other hand, had played together for years and Barnes was more accepting of a smaller role than Durant ever will be.
Also, the Warriors bench is worse due to the addition of Durant. You’ve got to spend money to make money and the Warriors did that by acquiring Durant. They gave to get. The Warriors stellar 2015-2016 bench is what helped to generate that gap — and probably more — between Barnes and Durant in wins.
With all that said, if Durant were to be given the same bench and years to build chemistry that Barnes was allotted with, it’s reasonable to assume he could’ve won the Warriors 78 games last year (I know, it sounds ridiculous but think about it). This means Durant is actually worth 5 more wins than Barnes is worth *ON THE WARRIORS.
*It’s important to point out: All of these projections are based on these players playing on this current Warriors team in this current Warriors system. Obviously, if Durant and Barnes went to, say, the Sixers, the projections would be much much different.
Durant’s worth on the Warriors: Five wins
How much worse would the Warriors be without Klay Thompson?
Replacement: J.J. Redick
In the past, I’ve dubbed — no pun intended — Klay Thompson “Mr. Irreplaceable.” I stand by this. Now, this is not to say that Thompson isn’t a really good player, but rather that he’s replaceable — the explanation is as simple as the name reads.
I’m really glad J.J. Redick was around the league average PER because he’s always been the player I’ve used when explaining why Thompson is replaceable. Redick is a quality player and — on a game-to-game basis — I’d actually argue he’s a little more consistent shooting wise than Thompson.
Thompson is streaky as hell. As I’ ve explained before, he has three personalities. He’s either bad, good, or INFERNO. His highs are really high and his lows are really low.
Redick has actually outshot Thompson from three (percentage wise) each of the last three years. I know, Redick is getting great looks because he plays with Chris Paul, but can you imagine the looks he’d get on the Warriors with all the focus on Curry and Durant?
Don’t come at me with defense either. Redick and Thompson have posted almost the same defensive box plus minus each of the past two years and Thompson’s defensive rating during this time frame is only marginally better. “But, Thompson draws the tougher assignment.” That’s fine but (1) he doesn’t do all that well with said assignment and (2) he’s got Draymond Green behind him to fix his mistakes if and when he makes them.
As I said above, Thompson does seldom enter INFERNO mode and when he does, the Warriors are unbeatable. This has only happened three times, however. And, it’s only been the difference between the Warriors winning and losing once — Game 6 of the 2016 Western Conference Finals — in Thompson’s tenure with Golden State.
Thompson’s worth on the Warriors: I’m tempted to give Thompson a goose egg here but out of respect for his WCF Game 6 performance, he gets a one.
How much worse would the Warriors be without Draymond Green?
Replacement: Amir Johnson
Everyone watched Game 1 between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Golden State Warriors, right? If not, here’s what Green did:
We’re already up to one win in the win reduction tally! Green literally eviscerated the Trail Blazers in Game 1. He was drilling threes, dropping dimes, and grabbing boards. And these feats weren’t even his most impressive. He dominated, I repeat, DOMINATED the Blazers on the defensive end
I sound like a broken record but he does this every single game. He is so f****** valuable. Would everyone like to hear the list of players who have averaged what Green averaged this year? No? I’m going to list it anyway:
- LeBron James
- Magic Johnson
- Michael Jordan
- Larry Bird
- Grant Hill
- Fat Lever
- James Harden
- Russell Westbrook
- Jason Kidd
Pretty prestigious, huh? And the funny thing is, numbers don’t even do Green justice. Sure, his triple-doubles, steals, and blocks get tallied, but his defensive intangibles are world class. He always knows where to be and he’s always there. He deflects balls and disrupts opposing offenses like no one else. Green’s impact on offense and defense make him the Warriors second most valuable player. The Warriors would have won only 55 games with Johnson in his place this year, but it would’ve been a really challenging 55.
Green’s worth on the Warriors: 12 wins