The Warriors have been the NBA's model of consistency for half a decade, but things are going to look much different this season.
With Klay Thompson rehabbing from a torn ACL and Kevin Durant doing the same from a ruptured Achilles as a member of the Nets, Golden State enters coach Steve Kerr's sixth season in an uncertain position. The Warriors still have two-time MVP Stephen Curry, however, and perhaps no player in the league will have a bigger effect on their team's fortunes than Curry.
"I think the biggest variable in the NBA right now is what that No. 30 does this season," NBC Sports NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh said on NBC Sports' NBA Season Tip-Off Show on Tuesday. "How many games does he play? How much load management is he going to see in the regular season this year and how many games is he going to take off? Because in the preseason, he was on fire."
As Haberstroh noted, Curry averaged 39.5 points per 36 minutes during the preseason. Haberstroh predicted Curry would win the scoring title in his season preview column, and Curry's preseason total easily would have led NBA players who played at least 1,000 regular-season minutes last season. This preseason provides a small sample size, but Curry was similarly explosive away from Durant in the last three seasons and before he joined the Warriors in the first place.
"[If Curry's] going to win the scoring title and the Warriors win 50 games, I think he's going to be in the MVP conversation," Haberstroh said.
Fifty wins will be a tall task, given how loaded the Western Conference is and how much learning-on-the-fly the Warriors will have to do following an offseason of change. NBC Sports Bay Area Warriors Insider Monte Poole noted that Curry will have to get to know a new backcourt partner in D'Angelo Russell, but he will also have to contend with opposing defenses' undivided focus.
"I think, when you look at Steph, he's going to get a lot of attention this year," Poole said. "Teams are going to basically say, 'You know what, don't let Steph beat us. Anybody else? Fine. But don't let Steph beat us.'"
Curry undoubtedly is used to the spotlight, but how he responds to a brighter one during his 11th NBA season will determine the Warriors' fortunes in 2019-20.