NBA: Durant Absence Endangers Warriors’ Finals Chances

WARR contributor Josh Hicks offers his thoughts on the Chicago Bulls and the NBA

When Kevin Durant went out of the lineup due to knee injury, everybody questioned whether the Warriors’ chances at a run back to the Finals can still become a reality. Some critics believe that this does not hurt their chances, noting that they won 73 games without Durant last year, so the current situation will not be much different. However, I disagree, and here is why:

The Warriors are not the same team they once were without Durant due to their lack of depth. Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezili represented the core of last year’s bench. And with those three players departing, the Warriors current bench is not as strong as it used to be. Not to mention that in recent games this year the bench has not been as productive in regards to offensive efficiency.

According to Sports Illustrated’s Ben Golliver, The Warriors offensive efficiency drops from number one in the NBA to number ten when Durant is not on the court, with a net rating drop from 23.1 to 6.6 when Durant is not in the “big four” according to NBA.com. The Warriors lost a lot of backup plans to get the second best player in the league, but now that he is on injured reserve in one of the most crucial parts of the season, the Warriors bench production is now being tested at a level that not even last year’s team experienced.

Potential opponents for the Dubs have also increased their strength. The Cavs upgraded their roster by adding veteran guard Deron Williams, he gives the extra edge LeBron James has been looking for, not just for his offensive skills, but also the ability to run an offense and let Kyrie Irving have opportunities to play his style of play at the shooting guard position.

The Spurs have been on a tear as of late, winners of nine games straight (prior to falling against Oklahoma City Thursday night) and performing at an elite level, both team and individual. Team wise, they are currently second in the NBA defensively only allowing 98 points a game and scoring over 105 points during the stretch. Kawhi Leonard is also performing at an elite level on both ends of the court, averaging 26 points and two steals a game, and has become an efficient closer in late game situations.

San Antonio sits at the second seed in the West, and with the Warriors sliding back little by little due to Durant’s absence, it increases the likelihood of them taking the number one seed come playoff season.

Also, with the Warriors currently not being as versatile as once before, even with a sub-par healthy Durant, the possible ultimate match-up nightmare will not be maximized, forcing the team to play more small ball. That can give the edge to the Spurs due to their current size in the big man department for rebounding and can also help offensively with Lamarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol being stretch big men.

The Warriors are in more danger than they think, and with the number one seed slowly getting out of their grasp, this will be an interesting last games stretch heading into the playoffs.

Joshua M. Hicks is a sports writer and broadcaster and a recent graduate of Roosevelt University, follow him on Twitter @jhicks042

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