The Teams Most Affected By Kevin Durant's Injury
Writer: Caleb Akpan
Kevin Durant’s ruptured Achilles injury in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals had obvious and immediate repercussions on the series that closed out on Thursday night, but what could be more damaging is the effect the injury has on the league as a whole. Achilles injuries are serious and Durant’s entire career trajectory may have just shifted before our eyes…...shifting the future of the league along with it, especially for these teams:
The Golden State Warriors
Golden State is obviously the team most affected by KD’s injury with his free agency imminent and the injured Klay Thompson also coming off the books. In most scenarios, an injured player with a $31.5 million dollar player option like the one Durant has on his contract would opt-in for the next season, heal up, and then sign a long-term deal, because no team would offer them that same level of money in free agency. The problem is that Kevin Durant would seem to be an exception to that rule. Considered by many to be the best player in basketball, you would have to think that teams would be willing to risk spending max money on his talents, even if he may be out for an entire season, and never truly be the same player once he returns.
If this is the case, the question asked becomes whether or not the Warriors should let Durant walk in free agency? He’s led them to their last two championships, but if any team could lose Kevin Durant and still compete, it’s Golden State. Even as Klay Thompson fell Thursday to a torn ACL, the team still stands with Stephen Curry and Draymond Green as all-star talents. Their roster is light after those all-stars, but their all-stars are good enough to allow them to compete against almost any team. Add this to the fact that re-signing an unhealthy Durant and Thompson would yield the Dubs a luxury tax bill nearing $200 million dollars next year, and you might say the Warriors have that many reasons to let their ailing MVP go. Durant makes them the obvious champion, but they most likely do not need him to win a title in the future if they resign only Thompson and he returns to form. Just ask Draymond Green…….
The New York Knicks/Brooklyn Nets
These two New York-state teams are rumored to be after Durant in free agency. Both are now losers in the Anthony Davis sweepstakes, losing out to the Lakers, never fielding offers as strong as Los Angeles could. Both also have been tied to the free agency of players like Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler.
With Durant down, do these two teams try to sign Irving and Butler instead of trying to pull in Irving and Durant as multiple reports have suggested? Or do they still go after Durant in free agency, potentially losing a year of contention in the process?
For months, it’s been Durant that the two teams seemed to covet most. With his injury, does that opinion change, when you could possibly acquire a healthy alternative? Or, with Durant and Irving seemingly spending the past year discussing joining forces for the past year, do you make that happen at all costs? Whatever decisions are made in the Big Apple, they will ripple, both in the state, and in the league.
The Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers never seemed to be serious contenders for Durant in free agency and his injury does not change that. What could possibly change is the Lakers’ title chances for next season, especially now that the team has acquired Anthony Davis. The storied franchise is reportedly not done seeking star pairing Davis with LeBron James, and that duo alone immediately gives L.A . title chances, whether Durant is healthy or not.
Durant being out would just make the Lakers having a roster similar to Golden State all the more likely, accelerating a team that was unable to make the playoffs this year to a position that would seem on-par with the Western Conference’s dominant force, after faring well against them last season, even with their at times lackluster roster. If Durant resigned with Golden State but was out for the year, you would think Los Angeles would go all-in on surrounding James and Davis to win in what would seem to be a small window where Golden State was weakened; either way, Durant being out leaves the door open for not just a strengthened Lakers team, but for any contending franchise to overtake Golden State as the league’s dominant power.
For the past five seasons, Golden State has clearly been the best team in basketball, but Durant’s injury, along with Thompson’s, could potentially create a somewhat free-for-all scenario for the 2019-2020 season. Of course, a healthy Durant could’ve done this himself by leaving Golden State in free agency, and that’s what’s possibly the most sad about the injury. Kevin Durant is an amazing basketball player, and in the blink of an eye, fans of the sport may have been robbed of a 2019-2020 season that had the potential to be the most pivotal of the star’s legendary career.