The Golden State Warriors enter the 2020-21 season with clouded expectations following an offseason of change.
From Klay Thompson's season-ending Achilles injury to the host of new faces in town, this version of the Warriors takes on a new look. But one thing is for certain, they will only go as far as Stephen Curry can take them.
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Curry himself is coming off a long injury layoff. He appeared in just four games last season before a broken left hand sidelined him for the remainder - minus one game - of the interrupted 2019-20 campaign.
Alongside a core of Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Oubre Jr., Draymond Green and the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft James Wiseman, even more will be asked of Curry as opposing defences zero in on the two-time MVP, who no longer has the release valve of multiple Hall of Famers on the floor with him.
Despite the increased responsibility on the offensive end, Curry showed in preseason that people might have already forgotten just how devastating he can be, regardless of who he's sharing the floor with. After dropping 10 points in Golden State's opener against the Denver Nuggets, Curry posted back-to-back 29-point games against the Sacramento Kings, pulling up from his usual defence-stretching 3-point range and looking a lot like his old self.
29 points. 28 minutes.- Golden State Warriors (@warriors) December 16, 2020
Stephen Curry got buckets Tuesday night. pic.twitter.com/76z7bu7MUM
In those five games last season, we caught a glimpse of what we can expect from Curry running the offence without a ton of help around him, posting his highest ever-usage rate of 33.6, up from 32.6 from his unanimous MVP season.
Can he keep up his wildly efficient scoring with an even higher usage rate?
While the three-time champion hasn't really got much left to prove in terms of winning in the NBA, pushing this revamped Warriors squad into the playoff conversation, or even into the top four of the crowded Western Conference, will be a test of his status as one of the game's top five players.
The real test will be his impact on his teammates, with the likes of Wiggins and Oubre Jr. unproven in winning situations, while Wiseman is still learning the ropes of the NBA game. But so far, Curry has already left an impression on his new teammates.
"He's an anomaly," Oubre Jr. said. "There's nobody else in the game of basketball right now like that ... he shoots the ball and you automatically just figure it's going in. When he misses, you're kind of surprised. He's just, he's a different talent."
Curry won't have to wait long for his first tough assignment with this new Warriors group as they face Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets on opening night, the first time he'll match up against his former teammate since he was a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2016.
Ahead of their opening night matchup, Curry praised Durant's impact on his game during their three seasons together as one of the NBA's best ever scoring duos.
"The great ones bring the best out of you," Curry said. "Hopefully, I did that for him, in terms of pushing each other. You're always competing against other teams, but you're also kind of competing against yourselves when you're in practice and doing shooting drills.
"You always kind of find yourself in awe of stuff he can do on the floor. I know he's commented on certain stuff about me. That was a big part of our success: kind of feeding off of each other, that energy and that pursuit of greatness every day. Seeing it up close and personal, you had no choice but to meet it every day."
The Warriors take on the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday, Dec. 22 at 7:00 p.m. E.T.
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