May 29, 2017 | 11:23 am
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Can the Warriors carry on without Durant in the West?

On Wednesday of this week, the Golden State Warriors announced that their leading scorer, Kevin Durant, would be out indefinitely with an MCL sprain and a bone bruise. The injury occurred early on in the Warriors’ loss to the Wizards on Tuesday night. Warriors’ center Zaza Pachulia was fouled by Wizards’ center Marcin Gortat during a loose ball causing Pachulia to fall backward into Durant. It was initially believed that Durant’s injury was season-ending, but the Warriors now believe Durant will be back in time for playoffs.

 

 

Durant is averaging 25 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists per game for the 2017 season, and before his injury, he was shooting 53% from the field and 38% from 3. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson bring in around 25 & 22 points per game respectively so the Warriors will need the team to step up to try to compensate for the void left in Durant’s absence. Golden State sits four games ahead of the San Antonio Spurs for first place in the Western conference, and they’re coming off back to back losses for the first time in ages. They lost to the struggling Chicago Bulls on Thursday who held the super team to only 87 points.

So, what does this mean for the Warriors? There are a couple of scenarios to consider as the regular season draws to close. First, the Warriors could slip to second place in the Western Conference placing them in a first round playoff matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder. This would be a rematch of sorts of the WCF last season with the notable change of Durant now playing for the other team. The tension between Mr. Triple Double Russell Westbrook and Durant has been mounting all season, and it would be a basketball geek’s dream to see them face off in the post-season. Durant may or not be back by the first round of the playoffs, and the Warriors’ ability to adjust to being without him is in question. In order for this match-up to be a satisfying, score-settling showdown Durant will need to be back and ready to go. Selfishly, I would love to see these two teams take each other on to see what kind of drama unfolds.

Another scenario would be that the Warriors simply adjust to Kevin Durant not being on the roster and carry on in first place. After all, they still have the reigning MVP and his splash brother Thompson healthy and active so there is no reason they can’t get it together. In this scenario, the Warriors will move on to face the Denver Nuggets who currently hold the 8th seed in the West. Now, before you scoff and think that the Warriors will sweep the Nuggets keep in mind that Denver’s bench destroyed the Warriors in their healthy prime just a few short weeks ago. The Nuggets are still developing with their young roster, but they are showing serious signs of progress. Denver is a bit of a sleeper team at the moment and could easily give the Warriors a run for their money. The

The final, and least likely scenario would be a serious tumble by the Warriors into 3rd place in the West. The Houston Rockets hold the 3rd slot sitting 7 games behind the Warriors, and 3 games behind the Spurs. The Warriors would then move on to face the Memphis Grizzlies who hold the 6th position at 36-25. In this series, I would give the Grizz 1 and maybe, just maybe, 2 games tops with the Warriors easily capturing the win to move on. Again, I don’t see this as a likely scenario given how far behind Houston is, but like I said before—anything is possible.

If nothing else, I believe Durant’s injury will give teams the opportunity to level the playing field in the West. Without Durant the Warriors are still very much a championship team, they’ll just need to adjust to playing without their new big numbers guy. If you’re anything like me, you’re annoyed with the super team the Warriors have put together and you want to see the regime fall. However, I must give credit where it’s due and acknowledge Durant’s ability to be the leading contributor for the Warriors out of the gate. It’s never good to see a player sustain a serious injury, and if the Warriors do lose, I want them all to be healthy so they have no excuses to blame when it’s all said and done.

 

by Ashley Douglas

@AshleyNBAHoops

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