At the end of February, the Warriors’ successful season seemed like it might be in jeopardy when Kevin Durant headed to the locker room with a serious leg injury. After spending almost five weeks on the sidelines, Durant has announced that he is ready to come back this Saturday in the Warriors’ match up against the Pelicans.
New to the Warriors’ roster this year, Durant was adopted into the lineup with ease quickly becoming the leading scorer for the season. Up until his injury, he was averaging 25.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game at 54% from the field and 38% from three. After Durant’s injury, there was some concern that the Warriors would quit performing at the level they had been, and might lose footing in the Western Conference standings. While the Warriors haven’t had the season they did last year, at the end of February this year they had only lost a total of ten games with the Spurs not far behind.
Well, all the concern was for naught as the Warriors went 15-4 while Durant was away, safely maintaining the lead in the Western Conference standings 4 ½ games ahead of San Antonio. The Warriors are slated to face the Portland Trailblazers in the first round of the playoffs, and with the recent injury of Portland’s center Jusuf Nurkic, the Warriors should be able to move into the second round with ease.
So how will Durant’s reappearance impact Golden State? Judging from how easily he fit in, and how easily the Warriors maintained without him, my guess is there will be little to no issues with his return. It will undoubtedly be a relief to his teammates because the playoffs are a grueling physical challenge after a long season. Durant’s return will allow the Warriors’ to cycle through more players and keep everyone healthy for what will likely be a very long playoff stint.
The Warriors are mostly the same team they were last season in terms of personnel so as they move through the post-season they will be able to rely upon the contributions of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala to name just a few. I personally think they will have a very difficult time making it past San Antonio in the Western Conference Finals, but if they do they will likely come away with yet another championship given the recent struggles the Cleveland Cavaliers have been experiencing.
For the first time in a long time, I’m actually far more interested to see what might take place in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but one thing is for certain: Few will be impressed if the Warriors walk away with a title this year because they stacked their team with superstars, but if they lose they will never live it down.