You hear it all the time amongst sports analysts where they give hot takes – choosing underdog teams – on not only who will reach the finals but also win it all, then conclude their prediction with “barring catastrophic injury.”
It’s right but it also comes with an obvious “yeah, no duh,” because it comes with the obvious assumption. If Tom Brady wasn’t able to play in the Super Bowl due to an injury then everybody would know they simply couldn’t win.
But one key injury to an NBA star made this playoffs exponentially more intriguing.
Before this playoff season, NBA superstar LeBron James made the Finals in eight consecutive seasons where he won three out of five.
There are certain staples that were consistent but even though James was and still is one of the best players in the world, he always had a legitimate shot of losing. And he did more times than not. Usually, it’s a coin flip – a straight up pick’em series.
That’s why everyone came down hard on former Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant when he left the small market in free agency to play with the 73-9 Golden State Warriors. It was a shocking move because the Thunder were winning the 7-game series (3-2) in the Western Conference Finals just a few months prior but then choked in games 6 and 7.
Kevin Durant may have just taken the proverbial crown from LeBron “King” James this year because he’s been playing lights out and has single-handedly carried the Warriors through these playoffs thus far.
Sure, there are a lot of great teams still left in the playoffs like the Houston Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers, Denver Nuggests and Milwaukee Bucks. But do any of them really have a legitimate shot at upsetting this Warriors team who have won the championship 3 of the last 4 seasons?
Kevin Durant left the game with what looked like a serious Achilles injury – Kobe Bryant had the exact same reaction in 2014 when he tore his, as if he was kicked – but is now being reported as a mild calf strain.
Durant will be reevaluated next week but that means he’ll miss at least games 6 and possibly 7 if the Rockets can squeeze out a win and extend the series.
But the question remains; can the Warriors win it all hypothetically without Durant?
Is it possible? Of course it is. They did it already a couple of years before Durant arrived with virtually the same roster; Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and Andrew Bogut. The only key piece they were missing from that championship squad was Harrison Barnes and nobody choked harder in the Finals more than he did – even after the win – which is why they let him go in free agency.
However, the Milwaukee Bucks are good. Really good. Giannis Antetokounmpo might already be the most unstoppable player in the NBA right now. Would the Warriors stand a chance against a Bucks squad that’s incredibly deep? Doubt it.
They’re going to need Kevin Durant back healthy soon if they want a shot at winning it at all this year.