The Golden State Warriors and all their fans were left terrified last night when Zaza Pachulia fell awkwardly into Kevin Durant, forcing the former MVP to limp to the locker room. Fearing the worst, the team got good news today: it’s just a sprain.
However, Durant has been ruled out indefinitely and will be reevaluated in four weeks. KD is eyeing a return this season, but nothing is certain with this kind of injury.
What does this do to Golden State’s championship hopes? The Spurs only trail them in the standings by four games, with two meetings scheduled this month. If Durant doesn’t return, can the Warriors defend their Western Conference crown? Can they win their second title in three years? Find the odds below.
Golden State’s 2017 title odds
Golden State’s current 2017 title odds: 3/2 (down from 1/1)
Golden State’s 2017 title odds assuming Durant returns: 1/1
Golden State’s 2017 title odds assuming Durant does not return: 5/2
Kevin Durant was leading Golden State in scoring, rebounding, and blocks. Yes, the 2015-16 Warriors won 73 games without Durant. But that team had major contributions from Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, and Marreese Speights. This year’s team was struggling on the glass and getting exposed in the paint with KD. Golden State allows an average of 11.5 offensive rebounds per game (second-worst) and 44.8 points per game in the paint (tenth-worst).
Durant’s absence leaves the Warriors with some tough decisions to make. The loss of length provided by the 6’9″ forward may cause Steve Kerr to play Zaza Pachulia or JaVale McGee more, which will hurt the offense. If not, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala are going to be forced to play even bigger than they already do. Golden State does not possess the depth they did last season, and they will feel this loss. However, Steph Curry is an elite scorer, and Klay Thompson is capable of taking on a bigger role in the offense. The Warriors remain the favorites, just not as big as before.
Other contenders’ title odds post-Durant injury
Cleveland: 3/1 (up from 7/2)
San Antonio: 9/1 (up from 12/1)
Houston: 16/1 (up from 22/1)
The only teams that see a significant bump in their title odds are the Cavs, Spurs, and Rockets, i.e. the teams whose title chances were being kept long by Golden State’s dominance. Squads like Boston, Utah, and Washington are a notch down from that trio, meaning the majority of the roadblocks on their road to a title are still firmly intact. Their odds improve marginally, sure, but not significantly.
I see San Antonio benefiting the most. The Spurs are the fourth-best rebounding team in the league (+2.8 rebounding differential). KD’s injury will give them an even bigger edge on the glass. Their offense will get more second-chance opportunities now and the D will put a ton of pressure on Curry and co. to connect at a high clip.
Odds on when Durant will return
April 2nd: 33/1
Before the end of the regular season: 4/1
During the first round of playoffs: 1/2
During the second round of playoffs: 14/1
During the Western Conference Finals: 66/1
During the NBA Finals: 75/1
Next season: 99/1
An April 2nd return would mark the best-case scenario. Funny enough, the Warriors will be hosting the Wizards that night. Don’t get your hopes up for an early return, though. We are exactly six weeks away from Golden State’s final regular season game (April 12), which is generally the time-frame for recovery for a sprained MCL. The playoffs are scheduled to begin on April 15. The Warriors could probably handle the seventh or eighth-seeded team without KD. But I would expect Kerr to want Durant back in his groove before a matchup with someone like the Jazz or Clippers. Just remember, Warrior faithful, it could be worse.
2017 MVP odds post-Durant injury
James Harden, Rockets: 2/1
Russell Westbrook, Thunder: 5/2
Kawhi Leonard, Spurs: 7/1
LeBron James, Cavaliers: 9/1
Steph Curry, Warriors: 12/1
I doubt this is news to anyone, but Kevin Durant was not going to be named MVP. He did possess the best odds of any Warrior, though. Without him in the lineup, Steph Curry is going to have more pressure on him to score, and sees slightly shorter odds to win MVP as a result. The reigning back-to-back MVP has 22 games to make a lot of noise on the stat sheet, because that’s what it’s going to take to even be considered alongside James Harden and Russell Westbrook right now.
In short, the only changes to the MVP race involve a slight bump for Steph Curry.
Photo Credit: GAMEFACE-PHOTOS (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/].