I cringe every time I hear an analyst say that Kevin Durant is the best player on the Golden State Warriors. There is simply no data to back that claim up. In fact, the analysis strongly points towards Stephen Curry being significantly more valuable than Durant. Those that support Durant in this debate might use his two Finals MVP awards, based on a small sample size of 9 games, or statistics such as scoring, rebounding, blocks, etc., but how the team performs with each player in and out of the game is ultimately more telling than a player’s statistics.
In the two seasons with Durant Golden State is 26-3 straight up and with an average scoring margin of +13.4 points in games that Curry played in and Durant did not play (8-0 SU this past season) while the Warriors are 23-10 with an average scoring margin of just +3.7 points when Durant has played and Curry did not play (21-10 SU this past season).
Golden State’s win percentage and average scoring margin with Curry and without Durant the last two years (26-3 is a win percentage of .897) is higher than the Warriors’ win percentage and average scoring margin in games when Curry and Durant have both played (107-26 SU is a win percentage of .805 with a scoring margin of +10.8). Also, remember that the Warriors had the best record in NBA history in 2015-16 before Durant joined the team and they were 82-15 SU (.845) that season when Curry played. So, in the last 3 seasons when Curry plays without Durant Golden State is 108-18 straight up, which is better than the 107-26 record in games when Curry and Durant have both played for the Warriors and much better than the 23-10 record in games Durant has played without Curry.
Using plus-minus analysis over the last two seasons makes my point that Curry is the straw that stirs the Championship drink even stronger.
This past season the Warriors outscored opponents by 501 points in 1702.4 minutes when both Curry and Durant were on the court at the same time (+14.1 points per 48 minutes). Durant’s overall plus-minus was +559 in 3132.5 minutes overall so he was just +58 points in 1430.1 minutes playing without Curry, which is an unimpressive +2.0 points per 48 minutes. Curry, meanwhile, had a plus-minus of +634 (which led the NBA despite missing a lot of games) in 2185.9 minutes overall so he was +133 in his 483.4 minutes when Durant was not on the court with him, which is +13.2 per 48 minutes and not much different from the +14.1 points per 48 playing with Durant.
It was the same story in the 2016-17 season. In that season the Warriors outscored opponents by 873 points in 1890.2 minutes when both Curry and Durant were on the court at the same time (+22.2 points per 48 minutes). Durant’s overall plus-minus that season was +890 in 2483.0 minutes overall so he was just +17 points in 592.8 minutes playing without Curry, which is just +1.4 points per 48 minutes – similarly unimpressive to the +2.0 per 48 mark for Durant without Curry this past season. Curry, meanwhile, had a plus-minus of +1270 (which also led the NBA) in 3121.6 minutes two seasons ago with a plus-minus of +397 points in his 1231.4 minutes when Durant was not on the court with him, which is +15.5 per 48 minutes.
In two seasons combined with Durant on the team, Curry has had a plus-minus of +530 points in 1714.8 minutes when he’s been on the court without Durant, which is an incredible +14.8 points per 48 minutes. Durant, on the other hand, has a total plus-minus of just +75 points in his 2022.9 minutes on the court without Curry the past two season, which is an unremarkable +1.8 points per 48 minutes.
People will point to Durant’s impressive statistics to argue that he is every bit as good, or better, than Curry has been, but outscoring your opponents and winning games is much more telling than the individual statistics of a player and Curry’s ability to help the Warriors outscore opponents and win games without Kevin Durant on the court with him definitively proves that Curry is the not only the most valuable player on the Warriors but the most valuable player in the NBA.
Note: Those that argue for Durant based on his statistics have no argument either, as Curry’s box-score plus-minus, which values a player based on all of his statistics on a per 100 possessions basis, rated Curry at +8.2 points in BPM in the 2017-18 season while Durant had a BPM of +5.8 points this past season (+7.1 for Curry and +6.4 for Durant in the playoffs). Curry also had a higher BPM than Durant in the 2016-17 season.
Another sign that Durant is overvalued by the public and even the odds makers is that the Warriors are 17-9-3 Against The Spread (ATS) in the games in which Durant has missed and Curry has played. Golden State is just 15-18 ATS in games that Curry missed and Durant played in.