Could Kevin Durant’s Long-Term Injury Woes Actually Help Golden State?

Kevin Durant Injury
Sometimes, I feel like too much of a hype-man. An exaggerator in print.

Example – I might describe a prep-school athlete to excited local fans as “100% all talent!” even though on a wider scale it is plain that the student does not possess all of the talent. He or she might not even reach the pro level or a Division 1 college. Relative to the competition, in the here and now, they are seemingly made out of pure talent…which allows me to get away with the inaccuracy.

Heck, sometimes I even think I’m exaggerating other people’s exaggerations. I might say, “the Milwaukee media has absolutely trashed the Bucks following a loss last night” when really it’s just a hot-shot columnist hunting for attention, or a loud minority on Twitter…hardly making-up everyone in Wisconsin with a sports-journalism degree.

But I’ll never feel like I’m the one going over the top. Never again.

Not in the aftermath of the Golden State Warriors’ elimination loss to the Toronto Raptors in Game 6 of the NBA Finals this season.

The doomsayers are out in full force. Oakland’s proud dynasty has been declared “dead and buried,” and the injuries to Kevin Durant and others are being looked at as near-unrecoverable blows to the franchise.

I’m as disappointed that the Warriors lost as anyone. Golden State was my lock-down, take-it-to-the-bank futures pick of the entire basketball season, and to lose by a point in the penultimate battle was a blow to my prognosticator’s pride. I can only imagine how many hearts have broken in California. But to consider a great team dead-and-gone because of some injuries or a tight loss in the NBA Finals? That’s actually sort of bonkers. It’s not just Fake News…it’s Fake Analysis.

If you think I’m exaggerating, consider what was said on Fox Sports’ Handicapping the Headlines over the weekend. “Golden State is going to be a shell of itself with the injuries,” one so-called handicapper said.

Let’s examine that statement.

Golden State Injuries: How Bad Has It Gotten?

Obviously, the Achilles injury to Kevin Durant – who may or may not have been wise to take the court in Toronto for Game 5 – is at the forefront of Warrior fans’ minds.

The initial prognosis on Durant’s malady was that the superstar power-forward could be out for “up to 12 months.” A rehab of 10-to-12 months would have potentially put KD back on the court in time for the NBA Finals next season.

Since his surgery, fans have learned the awful truth – that Durant will miss the entirety of the 2019-20 season.

Meanwhile, Klay Thompson – one of a triumvirate of legendary outside shooters throughout the Golden State dynasty years – has also suffered a long-term injury. Thompson was all class after blowing out his ACL following hard contact from Danny Green of the Raptors, telling Green immediately that nobody on the Warriors considered it a dirty play at all.

Klay also returned to the floor to sink 2 free-throws on 1 good leg. Like. a. Boss.

Thompson is expected to rehab fully by February or March. One topic of concern is that the veteran guard’s surgery has not yet taken place, but forget the Bleacher Report headline – it’s just a blogger looking for attention, and Klay is right on schedule. At least basketball is over for a while.

But Durant’s injury might have complications beyond simply his rehab and eventual anxious return to the court. The club is taking criticism over allowing KD to take the floor a final time in 2019-20, 3 time zones from home against a hostile crowd and a physical opponent and without a clean bill of health. There is no suggestion that Durant holds any grudge against team trainers. He could have opted not to play without any further pressure from Steve Kerr or the Warriors. Rather, the controversy seems to be in other people’s minds only as social media labels Durant and the franchise “controversial.”

Thompson’s injury doesn’t affect the long-term outlook much if at all. Stephen Curry is healthy. The nucleus that brought a maiden NBA championship to Oakland is still there.

As John Madden once said, it’s never as good as you think it is when you win, and it’s never as bad as you think it is when…the Golden State Warriors lose by 2 after a barely-missed 3-pointer from Steph Curry as the 4th-quarter clock ticks to 00:00.

Durant is Just One of the Puzzle Pieces

Prognosticators are speaking gloom-and-doom because of a 2-point losing margin and subsequent Game 7 chance that never came. It’s just a season, a single year of NBA hoops, and the sting of defeat is still fresh in the minds of west-coast bloggers and podcasters.

Curry’s miss was a bad outcome to a do-or-die moment for the Golden State Warriors…in 2019. It wasn’t a do-or-die moment for the team or the franchise or the dynasty. If an assassin shot an arrow at Steph’s chest and he had to dodge out of the way, that would be a do-or-die moment for a dynasty. Curry’s skills and leadership form the glue that holds not only the squad but Steve Kerr’s game plans together at the seams. Other players may not be expendable…but they’re not irreplaceable.

On to the question we promised to answer in today’s headline – the long-term implications, problems, even benefits that could come to Golden State thanks to KD’s injury.

I understand the temptation to call it a blessing in disguise. NBA speculators considered it likely that Durant would seek other opportunities if he finished-out another championship season at Golden State without a prohibitive injury.

KD’s career-altering wound will make it unlikely that anyone would write him a big check in the free-agency market right away. But as his rehab progresses, there will certainly be interested suitors for the 2020-21 season. Not just the Golden State Warriors.

The timing could be wrong. As Durant’s prognosis has worsened that his prospects to play next season dim, Warrior fans are starting to realize the bitter truth – that a major injury to a crucial cog is simply not good news no matter how you slice it.

The one thing that could bring KD back is the lure of playing with Golden State’s storied starting lineup and having yet another insta-contender scenario to walk into.

I doubt that the Warriors are going to slip in the standings or the postseason too badly over the next season and a half. In fact, there are so many assets still available to the club that it should only take securing 2 or 3 of the puzzle pieces for another elite roster to fall into place.

Boogie Cousins may choose to re-sign with Golden State. Draymond Green is still there. Thompson will be ready to go all-out over a ½ season in 2020, especially if the team is surging. Finally, Kerr and the front office do a good job of maintaining organizational focus on the reserve ranks at center and other key bench positions. The Warrior bench took criticism in 2019-20, but the club’s unique style of play makes even marginal guards and forwards look good if they protect the basketball.

Forecasting Futures Markets on the Golden State Warriors

If you see any prop betting odds on “Kevin Durant to Start XYZ Games in the 2020-21 NBA Season,” the “Yes” market is likely worthy of consideration for a long-term investment. Achilles injuries have ruined many careers that were built around brute strength, speed and stamina. For a big man, Durant’s game is not built around sheer athleticism so much as versatility, decision-making, and scoring touch.

But how are NBA betting site clients feeling about the Warriors’ chances to maintain a dynasty? And what direction are the club’s futures odds likely to go in prior to the 2020 playoffs?

MyBookie is giving the Warriors around 8-to-1 odds to win the next NBA title, a line that I probably would have forecasted to be about where it is as of early summer.

Look for the market to shrink a little bit in price following the NBA Draft and training camp, then expand if Golden State happens to slump or suffer another rash of bruises in late 2019.

Over at BetOnline, however, the odds-managers have the audacity to put double-digit payoff odds on the Warriors with a 2020 market of (+1000).

I don’t care how little action the house is taking on the most-consistently successful NBA franchise of modern times to prevail next season.

10-to-1 on Stephen Curry to win any title – except for the annual Slam Dunk contest – is a sacrilege and a form of treason.

Especially so close to the 4th of July.

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