The NBA season just passed half way and the spots of postseason positions were starting to figure themselves out…..until recently when a rash of injuries appeared which could ultimately change the entire landscape of the playoffs. How major are they? There’s one that could knock one upper echelon team out of home court for the playoffs (not Golden State), another that deflated the entire franchise for now (and possibly years to come), another that severely changes the Finals probabilities, and another that, if severe, could result in someone else dethroning the king. Anyways, here goes:
Kyle Lowry – Toronto Raptors
Looking at the standings and the roster, it’s hard to imagine the Raptors falling too much, but it still could happen. Hopeful to return for the playoffs, yes hopeful, Lowry was piece number 1B on an offensive system that didn’t rely on anything 2 and beyond. In fact, the offense went through them so much, that Carroll and Valanciunas became obsolete this season and a distant thought in the offensive zone. Without their key part of the team, they ARE in trouble. Sure they signed Ibaka, who has been paying dividends defensively thus far, and they do have Tucker, who is limited defensively and should help on the second unit, but they NEED more scoring. You cannot win the NBA with one superstar! That said, their schedule doesn’t look too tough and they should still make the playoffs, but I don’t see them having home court to start.
Kevin Durant – Golden State Warriors
What a devastating blow to the Warriors and their diehard fans…..not the bandwagoners that started following after Mark Jackson’s departure. The Warriors gave up A LOT for the right and the room to sign Kevin Durant, and have to go without the likes of Harrison Barnes, Shaun Livingston, Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli, Maurice Speights, Leandro Barbosa and more. If you don’t agree with that statement, then you are giving far too much credit to the stars of that team and should be expecting a parade come June. I don’t…..know, to be honest. Since the injury, the Warriors have NOT played good basketball, and look to be reeling. The trade deadline has already passed, meaning assets will be hard to accumulate. Furthermore, the Spurs seem right behind the Warriors as Kawhi Leonard is having an MVP caliber season. All in all, they could drop down from first and possibly play an angry Russell Westbrook first round. OUCH.
Joel Embiid – Philadelphia 76ers
This injury has less to do with success this season, but could alter the look of the franchise for years to come. “The Process” has brought about a fountain of youth that seems determined to win later. However, recent moves suggest otherwise, as the 76ers seem to be…..treading water. They traded away Noel to the Mavericks for seemingly nothing, and stuck themselves with Okafor, who forgot how to play defense last week. He is definitely NOT in their long range plans and will probably be moved as soon as he can be. They have a nice forward in Saric and have Ben Simmons awaiting in the wings, so “The Process” probably includes a combination of Embiid and Simmons. Great. But, here’s the catch: Embiid has only played in 31 games in THREE seasons as a member of the 76ers. He was having one hell of a season and his per 36 numbers were off the chart, but if he continues to stay injured, he will NOT be a part of their future either. One cannot live off potential alone.
Kevin Love – Cleveland Cavaliers
This one has been around for awhile, and the rumors are that he will be okay come playoff time, but, one never knows. As a two man show with LeBron and Irving, the Cavs are good. In fact, they’re very good. But, they’re not elite. They need that third option, and having a big man who can rebound and stretch the floor from his position, is a necessary commodity in the NBA, especially come playoff time. This season, he was recording some of his best numbers, not just as a Cav, but also as a player, so his injury is a bit of a setback. Luckily for Cleveland, their GM has been able to snag Deron Williams, Derrick Williams and Andrew Bogut from obscurity, and they also have JR Smith coming back from injury, so they SHOULD be okay to escape the Eastern Conference….but a meeting with the Warriors or Spurs (or how about ‘dem Rockets?) could be a lot more difficult with Love.
And there you have it.