Three more months … There are still approximately three months until the start of the NBA Finals, but this week gave a clearer indication of a new, overwhelming favorite to win it all.
On Feb. 28, Golden State Warriors star forward Kevin Durant suffered a Grade II MCL sprain during the team’s 112-108 loss to the Washington Wizards. It’s not guaranteed that Durant doesn’t return to the court at all this season. However, in all likelihood, he’s probably done for the rest of the regular season. The average time of recovery for players who suffer this injury is 21 games and the Warriors had 22 regular season games remaining at the time that this news surfaced.
Having Durant return in the playoffs is going to take adjustments from everyone on the Golden State Warriors from head coach Steve Kerr all the way down to newly-signed forward Matt Barnes. Last postseason, Stephen Curry’s battle with a back injury he suffered in the team’s first-round series against the Houston Rockets drew more attention to the shooting struggles he had, with the exception of the memorable fourth quarter and overtime performance in Game 4 of round two against the Trailblazers. If Durant rushes back for the postseason, he definitely won’t be the usual efficient player he is, which can also cause friction with some of his teammates at the wrong time. In the first week without Durant, the Warriors lost their first pair of consecutive regular season games since April 2015.
LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers added quality players to their depth chart this week in the midst of the Warriors’ uncertainty. The 2011 No. 2 draft pick, Derrick Williams, is set to sign with the team for the rest of the season, while the 2005 No. 1 draft pick, Andrew Bogut, and former All-Star Deron Williams joined the Cavaliers backup help, as well. In the final weeks heading into the postseason, the Cavaliers also look forward to the returns of Kevin Love and J.R. Smith to go along with another recent addition, Kyle Korver.
In a league in essentially a two-team race for the championship, one could argue three when considering the San Antonio Spurs. The Cavaliers have now made the correct moves to become the lone team in position to win the 2017 title.