When Kevin Durant signed with the Warriors and Lebron James decided he was going to continue to play basketball, it was forgone conclusion in most experts’ minds that we would get a third straight installment of a Warriors-Cavs in the Finals this year. I was among those predicting that rematch. However, injuries are always the great equalizer and you never know what is going to happen. With about 20 games left of the regular season, this is what you need to know about the Warriors.
1-The San Antonio Spurs are the quietest 43-13 team that I remember. Duncan is gone, yes, but Kawhi Leonard is playing MVP-caliber basketball and the Spurs still have the league’s top defense. The worst Defensive Rating on the team is Tony Parker with a 109 (which is the same as Klay Thompson). The Cavs have 10 players and the Rockets have 7 players with a worse Defensive Rating. The Spurs also have the league’s second best scoring defense and Leonard averages just 33.6 minutes per game. No Playoff Team has all of their players averaging fewer minutes per game than the Spurs’ minutes leader. This is good news for the Spurs when Playoff time rolls around. Popovich will have the Spurs rested, ready, and motivated to win it all and he loves that nobody is talking about them.
2-The Cavs’ roster is loaded with experienced veterans with Playoff experience. Lebron complained about the Cavs roster and Cavs’ management brought in Kyle Korver, Derrick Williams, Deron Williams, and Andrew Bogut. With JR Smith slotted to be back soon, the Cavs will be deep and have the size, shooting, and versatility to play any style, against any opponent, and still be favored. Don’t forget that the Cavs just set a new NBA record when they went 25-for-46 from three-point range against the Hawks last week. That is a lot of firepower to surround the best player in the world.
3-Durant’s second degree MCL sprain is not as minor of an injury as the Warriors want you to believe. While the Warriors have every right to be relieved it was not more serious, Curry had a first degree MCL sprain in the Playoffs last year and never looked right the rest of the Playoffs. Rudy Gobert had a second degree MCL sprain last season, missed 5 weeks and 19 games and then didn’t play 40 minutes in a game until 7 weeks after his injury. If Durant is out for six weeks that puts his return date as April 11th, the day before the Warriors’ regular season finale. For the Warriors to be dominant in the Playoffs, they will need Durant at full-strength. For a player so reliant on explosion, cutting, and elevating, I just don’t see it happening.
4-Am I the only one that remembers that to get Durant the Warriors decimated their depth? Last year, the Warriors depth was one of its biggest strengths. To get Durant, the Warriors had to let Bogut, Barnes, Ezili, Barbosa, and Speights walk. Durant goes down, and second-round pick, Patrick McCaw gets the start? Yikes.
5-The Warriors have a rough March-schedule to navigate without Durant. Not only have the Warriors lost two of three without Durant (while scoring a season-low 87 points at Chicago), but this month they play: at Atlanta, the Celtics, at San Antonio twice, home-and-away with Houston and Oklahoma City, the Wizards, and the Grizzlies. That doesn’t look like a fun stretch without Durant.
6-Javale McGee, has started more games for the Warriors than he has in the last four seasons…combined. Just saying, during those seasons he played for the Mavs, the 76ers, and the Nuggets. I hope I don’t make him cry by saying this, but when Javale McGee is starting games for you, you may have a depth issue. Just ask Shaq.
7-Steph Curry just hasn’t been the same player this season. Last year he shot an astounding 50.4/45.4/90.8. Those numbers have dropped significantly to 46.4/39.9/91.1. That’s a decrease of four percent from the floor and five-and-a-half percent from three. He’s also down across the board in assists, rebounds, points, and offensive and defensive rating.
8-Draymond Green’s efficiency is also way down. Draymond was a huge key for the Warriors last year. He is down is scoring (-3.8), rebounding (-1.4), assists (-0.1), field goal percentage (-5.9%), and three-point shooting (-6.1).
9-If the Playoffs started today, the Warriors would meet the winner of the Jazz-Clippers match-up. The Clippers will be playing with urgency and have the roster to match-up. The Jazz are the team the Warriors really don’t want to meet because the Jazz have the defensive tools nobody else does to slow down that potent offense and always play them tough. If they survive that series, they are rewarded with the Spurs? Good luck!
While the Warriors were stacking up ridiculous offensive numbers this season, the Warriors lost depth, size, and (other than gaining Durant) efficiency, from last year’s team. If the 73 win-Warriors were not good enough to close out the Cavs last year, why should I believe that a Warriors team, without a healthy Kevin Durant and a depleted bench will have enough this year? Food for thought.