The Golden State Warriors visit Chicago to take on the Bulls Thursday night in their first game since Kevin Durant suffered a sprained MCL and bone bruise earlier this week.
While the Warriors undoubtedly remain one of the best teams in the NBA without KD, they'll have to make some pretty big adjustments during his absence over the final month of the regular season. Here's how Durant's injury will affect each of Golden State's major rotation players.
Derick E. HingleDerick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Stephen Curry, PG
The obvious answer with Curry is the correct one, certainly: "He'll score more!" Curry's going to chuck a ton of 3s with Durant on the sideline, just like you expect.
Yet as our Chris Broussard pointed out on his In The Zone podcast this week, there's no guarantee we'll see "The Old Steph." Curry stopped deferring to Durant months ago, and he's only been able to capture a small sliver of that old MVP magic.
Then there's the question of opposing defenses, which will key in on the Warriors point guard for the next month. Remember, Golden State might not have had Durant last season, but Harrison Barnes knew how to stand in the corner and force his defender to stay honest. With Durant out and Barnes long gone, there won't be nearly as much daylight. That could turn Curry into a decoy and playmaker, opening things up for ...
Copyright The Associated Press. All rights reserved.AP
Klay Thompson, SG
The idea Thompson would lead the Warriors in scoring this season was always kind of silly, but Durant's injury now provides the Golden State shooting guard with an interesting opportunity. Assuming Curry and Draymond Green (whom we'll get to in a moment) run a ton of pick-and-roll for the next month, Thompson's going to be the beneficiary of a lot of wide-open looks in the Warriors' new-old offense.
Golden State lacks depth behind its stars this season, true. There's still a ton of talent on the court for the Warriors, however, and very few defenses can guard Curry, Green and Thompson for a full 24 seconds. When the opponent finally breaks, Thompson will be there to bury them.
Draymond Green, F
As Golden State's most versatile player, Green will slide back into his pre-Durant role, doubling down as the primary playmaker and Curry's No. 1 pick-and-roll partner on offense.
More importantly, Green will have to fill in for Durant as the rim-protecting defender who cleans up all of the Warriors' defensive mistakes on the perimeter — and he has to do it all while keeping a level head.
The two-time All-Star currently has 12 technical fouls, and he'd be suspended for one game upon receiving his 16th. As depleted as this team is, Green's absence would loom large even for just a single night while Durant recuperates.
Andre Iguodala, SF
Iguodala is the player I worry about the most in Durant's absence. He'll have to toe the line between filling the void and staying rested for the postseason. The 2015 NBA Finals MVP is still the best option as the fifth player in Golden State's crunch-time lineups. Spending too much energy trying to help the Warriors to a few meaningless regular-season wins here and there could prove disastrous down the line.
JaVale McGee, C
Curry isn't the only one who will miss the spacing provided by Durant. With one less shooter on the court, McGee is going to find it quite difficult to navigate through the paint to the rim after setting screens — and if he's not able to dominate in the pick-and-roll, McGee may lose out on his already limited playing time.
Zaza Pachulia, on the other hand, is probably the Warrior least affected by Durant's absence. He'll play a few more minutes a game and keep doing exactly what he's been doing all season long for Golden State.
Shaun Livingston, G
The Warriors have a significant lack of tall, long players with Durant on the sidelines, and they need to figure out some way to maintain their ability to switch everything defensively when they so desire.
Although Livingston is by no means a small forward, Golden State might choose to go super-small for stretches against the right opponent with Curry, Thompson, Livingston, Green and a "true" big man at center.
And even if the Warriors don't go small, Livingston seems like a safe bet to take over a large portion of Durant's minutes for the next month or so.
Troy WayrynenTroy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
David West, PF
Durant's injury could be a bit of a silver-lining for a Warriors team that's earned a reputation as one of the softest squads in the entire NBA.
West is really the only viable backup power forward option on the roster behind Draymond Green, and he's anything but soft. Throwing out a few lineups with Green, West, Matt Barnes, Zaza Pachulia and any fifth player should go a long way toward adding some much-needed toughness to the Warriors.
Matt Barnes, SF
Barnes officially signed with the Warriors on Wednesday, and his job is incredibly simple.
1.) Set screens for Klay Thompson. 2.) Play defense. 3.) Don't bring out the worst in Draymond Green. 4.) Avoid fighting anyone in the locker room.
If Barnes can do all that, he'll finally be in position to win a ring for the first time in his career.
Sergio EstradaSergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
Patrick McCaw, SG/SF
McCaw has acquitted himself nicely in just under 13 minutes per game as a rookie, but that's an incredibly limited sample size.
He'll start for the Warriors on Thursday, though, and he'd be wise to emulate the aforementioned Harrison Barnes rather than trying to step into Durant's shoes.
Stand in the corner, shoot when you're open, and avoid careless turnovers and things will work out just fine for the former UNLV standout.