Was Kevin Durant’s Injury a Blessing in Disguise for Golden State Warriors?

Noah Graham/Getty ImagesErik MalinowskiGolden State Warriors Lead WriterApril 10, 2017

OAKLAND, Calif. — With Kevin Durant behind in their starting lineup, a Golden State Warriors are once again whole and banishment during full capacity, as evidenced by their Saturday night thrashing of a New Orleans Pelicans, 123-101. 

But as a Dubs conduct for what they wish will be another long, low playoff run into June, they also find themselves in a position of carrying to adjust to Durant’s reintegration into a rotation, that has found an considerable balance during this 14-game win strain that’ll be tested Monday during Oracle Arena opposite a Utah Jazz.

This widespread widen of play aside, there is no trustworthy evidence to be done that a Warriors are worse off with Durant, who was putting adult MVP-type numbers before spraining his right knee opposite Washington behind on Feb 28.

Regardless, it’s value examining initial where both a Warriors and Durant are, respectively, before we consider about what a subsequent few weeks competence entail.

Objectively speaking, this final month or so has constructed a best widen of postulated basketball of Golden State’s season. Its historically good offense went down a parasite or two overall, yet a invulnerability indeed played stingier in Durant’s absence, even if some of that was due to a soft-ish schedule.

The Warriors still lead a joining in blocks and steals and are still a top-10 resilient team. Stephen Curry has been personification like a two-time Most Valuable Player that he is (even if he still doesn’t get a calls that one should). Andre Iguodala has once again turn the matter that elevates this team to another level. Klay Thompson lifted roughly all of his anniversary averages with Durant out, and Draymond Green radically cemented his box for Defensive Player of a Year by leading a NBA in Defensive Win Shares over that time.

Noah Graham/Getty Images

For Durant, a time off was (by his possess admission) profitable for him. “I didn’t consider about basketball a lot,” he pronounced after scoring 16 points on 6-of-15 sharpened and corralling 10 play in a team-high 31 mins on Saturday. “I consider that was good, only to get away, kind of have a mental vacation from it all. And when we got to a gym, we only focused on removing better, removing healthy. That was my categorical concern.”

Even if his shots weren’t descending with their common potency Saturday—Durant was putting adult a best loyal sharpened percentage of his career until he went down—that will lapse with time. Despite Curry sitting out, Durant still got one open demeanour after another and was means to keep subdivision from defenders.

Of course, his initial shot of a game, a nifty baseline asperse that was set adult when a assistance invulnerability widespread too distant to a perimeter, was a certain pointer that Durant is peaceful to play for contact, to conflict a edge when he eyes an opening, and to lift defenders into his orbit, so potentially formulating opportunities for his teammates.

Late in a game, as Steve Kerr was merely perplexing to pull Durant’s conditioning and see how distant his All-Star tiny brazen could go in his initial night back, it was calming to see him peaceful to pierce in on shots only to get a feel for a rhythms of a game.

Stepping in on that jumper is not Durant’s many fit play, yet as he pronounced after a game, “To see a round go by a rim, that felt good.”

With dual games left to play until a Warriors start their playoff run after this week—most expected on Saturday afternoon against a Portland Trail Blazers, nonetheless a report is not finalized—they only need to get some-more of a same out of Durant.

Staying healthy is paramount, as Golden State saw firsthand a stipulations of a discontinued Curry in a Finals final year, yet as prolonged as Durant’s knee binds adult (or even gets stronger and behind into diversion figure during a initial integrate of rounds), a Warriors will be only fine.

If anything, there were innumerable positives from Durant’s deficiency that competence compensate dividends. Patrick McCaw, yet not adding a lot to a stat sheet, played pivotal starter mins that he wouldn’t have otherwise. Matt Barnes valid that he can be a net certain if need be, even once a playoff rotations tie up. And David West became a legit second-unit leader, whose mid-range jumpers and apt flitting have him looking some-more like a some-more flexible Mo Speights with any game.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Durant’s not endangered that his common shots didn’t tumble on his initial night back. “All that things will come around,” he said. And this kind of shot origination is what can take vigour off his teammates in purchase scenarios.  

For now, Durant is only perplexing to find his personal comfort turn again, and a display opposite a Pelicans was as good of a initial step as a Warriors could’ve hoped for.

It was a lapse to normalcy that Dubs fans have been praying for given Marcin Gortat threw Zaza Pachulia into Durant’s reduce physique five-and-a-half weeks back, yet now a Warriors competence be a stronger group for it.

Durant couldn’t repudiate a complacency of being behind out there in an differently incomprehensible game. “I felt good putting my jersey on, using out with a team, going by a layup lines. It only felt normal again,” he said. “I’m a basketball player. we adore personification basketball. That’s my favorite thing to do. So to feel like I’m partial of a team, to feel like I’m a partial of this appetite that we have feels great.”

He kept that jersey on for a good half-hour or so after a game. During that time, he came out of a locker room to cuddle and lick his mother, even with huge ice packs strapped to any knee. He afterwards sat in his locker case holding three-month-old Draymond Green Jr. and beaming.

When he did finally flay off a jersey, showering and get dressed, he put on a denim coupler with a assent pointer patch only off his right shoulder.

And after 39 days of doubt and finally returning to a Warriors only in time for what competence cap in his initial career NBA title, Kevin Durant looked like he had found a magnitude of peace.

Warriors Insider’s Notebook

JaVale of a Time

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

What Warriors lineup has been a best this season? Well, a starters—the 4 All-Stars and Pachulia—have posted a net rating of 23.1, that is seventh-best among all lineups that’ve played during slightest 125 minutes. Not bad!

And a Death Lineup? Also flattering great. Swap out Pachulia for Iguodala and now you’re looking during a 23.9 net rating.

But if we barter in JaVale McGee—the final actor to make a Warriors register out of training camp—with Curry, Durant, Thompson and Green, we get a net rating of 32.1, that is the best symbol in a NBA, and that’s over remarkable.

The hapless thing is that McGee, for as most alleviation as he’s exhibited from Oct to now, substantially won’t see all that most personification time once Kerr tightens adult a rotations in a playoffs.

As of Saturday, David West total to be a primary large entrance off a bench, and Green (whose small-ball core mins have been minimal given a new year) total to get most some-more time fortifying normal bigs.

Throw in whatever mins Pachulia gets only from being a starter—Andrew Bogut averaged 16.6 mins opposite 22 playoff games a year ago—and that doesn’t leave most personification time to spare.

But if there’s a blowout along a approach and Kerr is looking to dull a dais in rubbish time, we can gamble McGee will get a possibility to chuck down a few lobs.

Erik Malinowski is the Golden State Warriors lead author for B/R. Quotes performed firsthand unless differently noted. You can follow him on Twitter (@erikmal) and his stirring book on a Warriors is now available for pre-order. All stats via NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com.

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