Will Kevin Durant’s Knee Injury Derail The Warriors’ NBA Title Hopes?
As of about 48 hours ago, it looked like the Golden State Warriors were locks to secure a berth in the 2017 NBA Finals. They weren’t going to have a cakewalk to the championship—the San Antonio Spurs are still in existence, after all—but they were going to be favored to win all of their matchups during the Western Conference Playoffs due to the overwhelming amount of talent that they have on their team. No one was going to be able to shut down Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Kevin Durant in a 7-game series once the postseason started. So most NBA fans felt comfortable penciling the Warriors into the Finals.
That all changed on Tuesday night when Kevin Durant went down with what could turn out to be a game-changing knee injury. Durant suffered an MCL sprain and a bone bruise in his left knee when his own teammate Zaza Pachulia fell awkwardly after getting fouled during a game against the Washington Wizards and landed on Durant’s leg. Durant had to undergo an MRI a short time later, which revealed the damage that was done. And while the injury could have been much worse—initially, the Warriors feared Durant might be out for the rest of the season—it’s still pretty bad. It will force Durant to miss at least four weeks, and even then, there’s a good chance he’ll be forced to sit out more time after that. At best, he’s probably not going to be back and ready to go until the first round of the playoffs.
This is problematic because the Warriors really mortgaged their franchise to land Durant’s services last summer. They parted ways with Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, and pretty much all of the depth they had on their bench to get Durant. So they’ll be shorthanded once the playoffs start and forced to play guys who don’t necessarily have a lot of playoff experience. That might be enough to beat some of the bottom-feeders in the playoffs, like the Sacramento Kings or New Orleans Pelicans, but it probably won’t be enough to knock off tougher teams like the aforementioned Spurs. And it could leave the Warriors on the outside looking in when the Finals start.
As we mentioned, the good news is that Durant should be back on the court at some point for Golden State. He probably won’t have to miss the Warriors’ entire playoff run. But it’s going to be interesting to see what adjustments the Warriors make to deal with not having Durant in the lineup. They still have more than enough firepower to win the top seed in the playoffs and get through the first round unharmed. But after that, they’re going to need Durant to get back into the mix. Otherwise, they’re not going to be a lock to make it back to the Finals again.