Can the Warriors stay golden without Kevin Durant?
Durant is out indefinitely after suffering a grade 2 MCL sprain and tibial bone bruise Tuesday night against the Washington Wizards. With Durant having missed the last two games, the Warriors have dropped two in a row for the first time since 2015. Having lost to the Washington Wizards and the Chicago Bulls on their Eastern Conference road-trip. Coincidence? I don’t think so. After struggling Thursday night against the Chicago Bulls, are the Warriors in trouble without Durant?
Over the last three games, Steph Curry has shot an unreasonable 4-31 from three point range, well away from his season average of 40 percent. Curry also registered an 0-11 effort against the Philadelphia 76ers, followed by going 2-11 versus the Wizards. Klay Thompson has struggled as well since the Durant injury, connecting with only 4-24 three pointers in the last two games. Currently, Curry and Thompson are averaging 46.6 points per game, down 6 points from their 2015-2016 average. Without Durant, they will have to increase scoring, almost like he was never there. The key concept to remember in situations like this, is that stars go through hot and cold streaks, which this possibly could be. But, in situations where your superstar(s) are struggling, your role players must shoulder the load to keep you afloat.
Contributing Factor: The Bench, Draymond Green
The main difference between this Warriors team and previous ones, is the depth of their bench. To create room for Durant in the offseason, the Warriors cleared their bench, letting go of Leandro Barbosa, Festus Ezeli, Marreese Speights and Brandon Rush. Also in the move, starters Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes were shipped off as well. Thats a loss of 41.8 points per game, a large margin that was in different ways replaced by Durant. This year their bench produces 35.6 points per game, a huge drop-off from the previous year in terms of production.
Draymond Green is one of the cogs that keeps the Warriors going with his high motor and defensive prowess. Last season Green averaged 14 points, 9.5 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game. This season he’s dropped to 10.2 points and 8 rebounds per game. Without Durant, the play of Green will have to elevate back to his 2015-2016 level to pick up the loss of production. That won’t be easy, Durant is leading the Warriors in points (25.3), rebounds (8.2) and blocks (1.4) per game this season. I don’t believe it is time to panic for the Warriors, they have three all-stars and a bench that can help them hold onto the top seed in the Western Conference. But, these next couple of games will determine the effect of the Durant injury, and the rise of the other players. The stars will bring their A-game, it all depends on will their role players match their intensity.