Ezeli, who has missed the past five games because of the knee injury, was ruled out until after the All-Star break last week. The third-year big man is averaging 7.5 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 17.8 minutes per game this season.
The 46-4 Warriors should be fine without him, as they can slot Marreese Speights, Jason Thompson or Kevin Looney into Ezeli’s role (albeit not as effectively). If any contender can withstand an injury or two to its role players, it’s the Warriors. They have incredible depth.
Of course, with the injury history of starting center Andrew Bogut — he routinely misses a minimum of 15 games each season (and already missed seven this season) — one has to be concerned if Ezeli’s surgery keeps him out for a considerable amount of time.
If the Warriors lose their two primary centers for any period of time, it’ll be difficult for them to maintain their current 75-win pace. And if Ezeli’s injury bleeds into the playoffs, the Dubs would almost certainly lose their status as overwhelming favorites — if they’d be favorites at all (the injury could even the playing field with the San Antonio Spurs).
Ezeli is the team’s eighth man — behind the starting five and then Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston — and the Warriors will likely need him to win it all.
That’s the worst-case scenario, though.
The best-case scenario is Ezeli returns in a few weeks, the rest of the team remains relatively healthy, and the Warriors roll through the playoffs — with perhaps a speed bump against the Spurs and/or Oklahoma City Thunder — for their second-straight championship.
The latter scenario appears to be more realistic, but an updated timetable of Ezeli’s absence will shift those odds one way or another.
Jovan Buha covers the NBA for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter: @jovanbuha.