When Kevin Durant went down in Game 5 of the Golden State – Houston series, it was thought by many that the demise of the Warriors might finally take place.
The many who shared those thoughts may want to revisit their thinking. Here we are, a few weeks later, and the Warriors haven’t even lost a game, much less a series, without Durant in the lineup. This fact has changed the dialogue to assessing Durant’s importance to this team.
I look at it like this. Golden State is essentially impossible to beat with Durant when the games mean the most (i.e. playoffs). He gives the Warriors the best one-on-one offensive players in the game. But I do think they are a better team without Durant.
I base my claim on the numbers. In the last 25 games where Durant has sat and Steph Curry has played, Golden State has a 24-1 record.
I also base it on the eye test. The Warriors were such a groundbreaking success back in 2015, in large part because of their motion offense. The offense was built around Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. Due in large part to the shooting range of Curry and Thompson, there was plenty of open space for cutting teammates to score off passes from Curry and Thompson. Durant thrives in a slow down isolation based offense. And he can be unstoppable. But his presence on the court slowed down Curry and Company. The Warriors team we are viewing now simply reverted back to their old offense and have yet to be beaten since Durant went down. It’s the same system that allowed them to set an NBA record with 73 regular season wins.
Think of it like this. Durant won’t let Golden State lose, but they can and will win without him. As I write this, the Warriors have already advanced to the NBA Finals and are awaiting the winner of the Milwaukee/Toronto series. Durant still has over a week to recover from his calf injury. It really does not matter at this point if he does see the court again. The Golden State dynasty continues.
Crazy Zion Talk
It all started moments after the NBA draft lottery took place last week. Talk of how Zion Williamson, the presumed No. 1 pick in the NBA draft next month, should say no to lottery winners, the New Orleans Pelicans, and return to Duke for another season.
Zion has since shot this storyline down. I just find it funny how the very same sports media pundits who questioned the wisdom of Williamson returning to the court for the NCAA Tournament a few months back after suffering a sprained knee, now are making statements of how and why the NCAA Player of the Year should return to school.
They questioned why would Zion risk injury and millions of NBA dollars for a few NCAA Tournament games. Now they are advising him to risk NBA dollars for between 30-40 college games. What sense does that make?
Zion did the right thing by returning to his Duke teammates and compete for a national title. And it is my hope he does the right thing and embraces the city of New Orleans.