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How big of a deal is Stephen Curry’s MCL injury? The timing couldn’t be worse

This isn’t the first time Curry sprained his MCL, and it surely isn’t a first among NBA stars.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Golden State Warriors Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Curry injured his knee on Friday and has been ruled out for three-to-six weeks with a Grade 2 MCL sprain. The news is particularly devastating for the Warriors: The playoffs are right around the corner but their two-time MVP probably won’t be ready for the first round. Each playoff round is about two weeks long. Curry’s injury will sideline him a minimum of three weeks. The playoffs begin on April 14.

The good news is Curry will make a full recovery, it’s just unclear when he’ll be back in playing shape. That definitely isn’t good news for a team whose throne is legitimately being challenged by the Rockets this season.

The Warriors will need Curry back, and better than ever, if they’ll have a shot at beating league-best Houston in the playoffs. But just how big of a deal is Curry’s MCL injury?

Well, history normally has the answers to the future.

What is the diagnosis?

JaVale McGee rose into the air for a block and fell right into Curry’s knee. Curry limped up and down the court before exiting the game in visible pain. His injury was originally called a left knee sprain. On Saturday, it was upgraded to a Grade 2 MCL sprain.

How quickly have other players come back?

Blake Griffin had a similar MCL injury earlier this season. He’s on the Pistons now, but before he was traded to Detroit, Griffin missed 14 games with an MCL sprain. The injury kept him out a month’s time, though he was expected to be sidelined twice as long.

Kevin Durant also suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain last season. Remember that huge chunk of games the Warriors played without him last season? That was because he had suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain exactly like Curry’s. Durant also suffered a tibial bone bruise along with that MCL sprain.

He missed 20 games while sidelined for over a month. Curry’s injury timeline will probably be similar.

Lonzo Ball also had an MCL sprain this season. Ball missed 17 games with what was deemed a minor MCL sprain in mid-January. The injury kept him out for nearly a month and a half. When he returned, Ball began posting better shooting numbers than he had in the first half of the season.

And Curry also suffered an MCL injury in the past. During the 2016 playoffs, Curry awkwardly slipped on defense near half court. He immediately grasped at his knee. It was a Grade 1 MCL sprain that sidelined him for two weeks.

How will this affect the Warriors?

Not all MCL sprains are created equal, even those of the same grade. There are variables to each player’s injury timetable. It’ll likely take Curry much longer than the minimum of three weeks to get back to the floor.

What’s certain, though, is that the Warriors will continue missing their two-time MVP and floor general out there on the court. Curry missed two stretches of games due to ankle injuries this season. In his first stretch out, Golden State won nine of 11 games. In his second, more recent stretch, the Warriors went 3-4, though there were several other players missing from injury, as well.

Even more concerning, the Warriors’ offensive efficiency plummets when Curry isn’t on the floor, according to The Basketball Economist. Klay Thompson, for example, has an effective field goal percentage (eFG%) nearly 14 percent worse when Curry’s off the floor. Kevin Durant shoots 7.5 percent worse, and the entire Golden State team shoots about seven percent worse.

Curry sets tempo for the Warriors offense. Without him, they’re almost a completely different team.

Curry’s injury timeline may be three-to-six weeks, but it’s unclear which end of spectrum he’ll return on. The NBA playoffs start on April 14. Curry’s injuries aren’t the only ones plaguing the Warriors, and the Western Conference playoff hunt has some tough opponents stacked between No. 1 and No. 8.

Kerr already said Curry wasn’t going to be 100 percent until he got time to rest this summer. Now, the Warriors are just hoping they have him on the floor to help them make a deep playoff run.