The Warriors got dealt the only news that could even remotely derail their season: that Kevin Durant will miss significant time. The NBA world turned on its head midway through a game between the Wizards and Warriors last night, with Durant getting tumbled into by Zaza, and going straight to the ground.
The result was a trip to the locker room, and then to a DC hospital. The NBA world feared the worst, as news broke that the Warriors were signing Matt Barnes and looking for more forward help.
BREAKING: The Warriors announced that Kevin Durant suffered an MCL sprain and bone bruise and will be re-evaluated in four weeks. pic.twitter.com/gQoE5Hipxk
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 1, 2017
But the news the Warriors got wasn’t the worst of news, with Durant’s prognosis looking like a month long absence, as opposed to a season long loss. But things are far from certain, with images of Durant today arriving in the Bay Area in a wheelchair. So what’s the injury mean, and does this open the door to a new challenger? Let’s look at the early scenarios.
Sources: Warriors, Kevin Durant’s inner-circle bracing for tough news on KD’s knee, awaiting MRI result. Fear is he’s out months, not weeks.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) March 1, 2017
Scenario A: Durant returns before the postseason
This is obviously the best option for the Warriors going forward, and the one their most optimistic to happen. A Durant that returns before the playoffs gives him time to shake off rust and get his form back. This scenario obviously keeps the Warriors the favorite, and moves them back toward what we all expected, so let’s move on from this one to the ones that aren’t so advantageous for them.
Scenario B: Durant returns rusty for the first round
This one is interesting. The Warriors worst case is obviously him missing prolonged time, but a rusty KD provides an interesting challenge. The starting lineup of Steph-Klay-Draymond and parts of that bench have some deep chemistry, and throwing a rusty and streaky KD into that mix could mess up the flow. If I’m the Warriors, I’m not sure I start KD and may consider leaving him on the bench until he gets his flow back. So let’s talk about the big ones:
RT if you live in the Bay Area and are willing to donate your MCL to Kevin Durant. pic.twitter.com/vkG7ytnFSj
— Warriors Talk (@JaeAzizi) March 2, 2017
Scenario C: Warriors Lose the One Seed
If Durant misses any time that will remove him from a series, that’s when things get interesting. Obviously, the Warriors are so far ahead of the pack that they realistically could only fall to the two seed during the regular season. But that matters big time if they drop that opening matchup with the Nuggets/whoever lucks into the eight seed.
That is the difference in a relatively easy win in the first round vs. getting Russ and the Thunder or the Grizzlies/Jazz. That would be a fight the Warriors will get some serious trouble with featuring a thinner roster than last year, and no KD to balance it out. Can you picture getting Russ getting a KD-less Warriors team?
Quick check-in on Russell Westbrook after hearing the Durant injury news pic.twitter.com/cG5Qq0YTb9
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) March 1, 2017
But the Spurs can really catch them, and that’s bad news. It’s going ot be a fight, and that means it’s time to load up on some buyout candidates and try and hold on. This is the most likely scenario going forward, as the Spurs can really catch the Warriors with only a 3.5 game gap.
Scenario D: KD Misses Second Round or Later
The Warriors, by all likelihood, can survive a first round matchup without KD. But with significantly less bench help, and a giant hole in the SF position, the real fear is if KD misses the second round or later.
A second round matchup with any of the Rockets/Clippers/Jazz/Grizzlies is a terrifying proposition without KD. James Harden and company could really scare the Warriors, and the Clippers are good enough to give them fits regardless.
And then of course, you’ve got the Spurs waiting in the conference finals. And even getting through that, Cleveland is MUCH better than a year ago.
It’s all speculative going forward, but the loss of KD is particularly heavy given what they had to give up to get him. The Warriors were great without KD, but sacrificing Bogut and that deep bench to land KD is going to kill them if he misses significant time.
Without having him, the Warriors are in serious trouble of an upset. While I still think they’re the favorite going forward, the injury to KD just made the Clippers, Rockets, and Spurs much less of underdogs, and made the Cavs the new title favorites.
Without Kevin Durant, the Warriors are a small finesse team. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green. No size and no bench. pic.twitter.com/wUmTdcAZQ7
— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) March 2, 2017
It’s early, but this injury could be the only thing that can bring down the once-unstoppable Warriors.