Exploring the best case scenario for the Warriors this postseason
One of the biggest criticisms throughout the Warriors reign of the NBA is the lack of “real adversity” they faced. But I’d beg to differ. In fact, Since they began their current run of making the playoffs in 2013, Golden State has instead turned their misfortune from water into wine. From not trading Klay Thompson for Kevin Love to signing Kevin Durant after blowing a 3-1 lead in the Finals, time and time again they’ve had the best case scenarios play out in their favor. But with all of the injuries of late, the worst being Steph Curry’s MCL strain, we should explore possible positive of their most recent slump.
The best thing going for the Dubs comes down to two words: Kevin Durant. The reigning Finals MVP was brought to the Bay for moments like this. It was reported Durant would be returning to the court Thursday against Milwaukee, but we saw exactly what KD can do without Steph during his first injury stint earlier this season. The Dubs defensive rating was tops over that period of time, and Durant locked himself in on both ends, subsequently drawing tons of Defensive Player of the Year buzz.
His versatility also shine through in their change of pace. While he's deadly on the break, he’s still the best iso scorer in the league, equipped with innumerable ways to get buckets. Surely they’ll get KD post touches and let the teams off ball movement create mismatch opportunities to attack.
Something to look for as Durant, and then later, Draymond and Klay return, is how the Warriors step up defensively. Golden State needs to conform to a more appropriate system without Curry. Without Steph heading the snake that is the Warriors’ offense, they’ll need to focus on the possession game, and stops on defense will hold even more importance. They’ll also hope to get good minutes from the young guys.
Pat McCaw has still struggled mightily on both ends, but as Omri Casspi losses his spot in the rotation, rightfully so, McCaw could find his rhythm and gain the confidence he’s flashed every so often. Jordan Bell could make a Javale McGee-esque impact on offense on lob attempts, but will need to calm down on defense being that his last few injuries have come from reckless shot-block attempts.
Surprisingly their most important young player may be Kevon Looney. His style of play would be perfect for a Steph-less team, good at rolling and popping on offense, and moving with patience on defense. It’s when the pace speeds up that Looney begins to struggle.
Quinn Cook’s play will also play a huge role. There just isn’t another point guard on the team that can space the floor and who’s willing to shoot the ball and keep defense’s honest. Hopefully, he gets in a good enough flow that he becomes their backup point guard for good, as it seems as though Shaun Livingston may have run his course as a key rotation player. For years Golden State has searched for their backup PG, and Cook's game just seems to fit the role.
While they've already clinched a playoff spot, the Warriors still need to tread water. As their injured stars begin to trickle back to the court, the ultimate hope is for them to be fully healthy come May and June. At this point, the playoffs won’t mean anything if their key players aren’t able to get in the games. If Durant can keep the team afloat sans Draymond and Klay, the team may want to keep the two stars sidelined until absolutely necessary. The #1 seed is surely Houston's, so a final push for home court advantage shouldn’t be on their mind, just get their guys back when the time is right.
Should Curry miss the first round, who would the Dubs want to face? Oklahoma City currently sits at 4th, but are still liable to drop into the 7th seed. Without a healthy Andre Roberson, Russell Westbrook would be guarding the point guard, but without Steph, Russ will have even more time to rest on defense, which would be a huge benefit for OKC. Their biggest strength in the matchup without Curry on the court would be their staunch defense. Without the pace that Curry brings on offense, OKC will have a much easier time getting stops, and creating fastbreak opportunities, of which Westbrook and Paul George would salivate for.
Utah, Minnesota, New Orleans and San Antonio just don’t have the star power to match ¾’s of Golden State's. They’ll also lack the all important wing defender to try to stop Durant. If the Wolves can get Jimmy Butler back, it could smell trouble, but it’s no sure thing that he would be fully healthy. So to revisit those two all important words I noted up earlier, it’ll all come down to Kevin Durant.