The rich get richer on Saturday, as Kevin Durant is set to make his return for the Golden State Warriors.
Durant will have three regular-season games (and a couple of easy playoff series) to knock off the rust and stop all the "The Warriors are better without KD!" talk we've heard for the past month.
With that said, Golden State was fantastic during Durant's absence. They'll be happy to have him back — but they don't necesarily need him to win the 2016-17 NBA title.
Here are four reasons the Warriors should be considered championship favorites even if KD isn't 100 percent by the time the Finals roll around.
Stephen Curry is the game's best scorer when he's the focal point
This isn't a judgment of the Warriors or an argument Golden State never should have acquired Kevin Durant. The team is at its very best with both of its offensive superstars playing together, even if they each take a step back individually.
We saw that very same thing play out in Miami, and it worked out just fine for the Heat, I'd say.
However, there's no question Curry turns into an active volcano of 3-point-shooting molten lava when he has the freedom to run the offense as he sees fit, without Durant taking up precious possessions. And when Curry plays like that, Golden State is borderline unstoppable.
You can point to last year's Finals as proof of how the Warriors can be beat without Durant in the lineup, but that ignores the reality. Curry himself wasn't 100 percent last year, no matter what he might have yelled in Portland.
This year, he'll be ready to unleash hellfire on the Cavaliers, and there's nothing Cleveland can do about it.
Kyle TeradaKyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala are defensive geniuses
We expected the Warriors to miss KD most on defense, and we were dead wrong. They were fine— better, even — while Durant recuperated.
That's thanks to Iguodala, who's back to his NBA Finals MVP form, forming the Association's most dynamic defensive duo along with Green.
In fact, Green can thank Igoudala for the former's status as Defensive Player of the Year frontrunner. The Warriors forward probably isn't quite as valuable individually on that end as Utah's Rudy Gobert, yet when he combines forces with his LeBron-stopping teammate, opponents surrender.
That's really the key: although no one player can limit LeBron, no pair has more success against The King than Green and Iguodala.
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The Cavaliers are vulnerable — especially against the Warriors
Obviously, increased effort from LeBron James in the postseason will help the Cavaliers, but too many of Cleveland's key players are lost defensively. They make boneheaded decisions against the slightest offensive wrinkle, and there's not a whole lot of reason to expect that to change over the next two months.
Oh, and Cleveland's other big problem is stopping teams in transition. You know which team is in prime position to exploit a defense that can't stop a fast break and loses track of shooters coming off of screens, no matter how good that opponent might be on the other end?
Exactly. This version of the Cavaliers defense could end up in shreds against the Warriors, with or without KD.
The Warriors are the smartest team in the NBA
Here's the thing about that "light years ahead" quote that made the Warriors owner the subject of much ridicule: he's right. From the front office to the coaching staff to the players, Golden State is the smartest team in the Association.
Most teams would struggle to add KD back to the mix, especially if he's not immediately his old self. The Warriors are not most teams. In the same way you can count on the Cavs to flip a switch in the playoffs, rest assured Golden State will make it work no matter what Durant has to offer.
As Draymond Green explained when asked if KD would disrupt the Warriors:
"Hell no, absolutely not,''Green said earlier this week. "He'll fit right in, but we don't need him to fit in. I think that's what people kind of get mixed up. He wasn't brought here to fit in, he was brought here to stand out. I think that's what's important. We don't need him coming back trying to fit in with what's going on. We need him to come back and be KD. And that's what he'll do. It'd be foolish of anyone, especially us, to think that we're a better team without him or we'll do whatever we want to do."
He's absolutely right: the Warriors are at their best with Durant, but they don't need KD to fit in to win a championship.