The Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors played a competitive Game 5 situation with the Raptors looking to close out. Golden State ultimately ended up winning the game and extending the series, but that wasn’t the main headline of the evening.
Kevin Durant suffered — what was called — a “lower leg injury” early in the second quarter. He was brought back to the medical area in Scotiabank Bank Arena for further examination. There were vague details about the injury in terms of specifics as the game wrapped up.
An emotional Bob Myers (GM of the Warriors), held a media presser to disclose that Kevin Durant suffered an achilles injury during the game:
"It's an Achilles injury. … He'll have an MRI tomorrow."— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 11, 2019
Bob Myers holds back tears as he explains the magnitude of Kevin Durant's injury. pic.twitter.com/glQ6j5hATe
This is something that will ultimately shake the NBA world and have drastic measures on what will take place in the summer and beyond.
Before I go in depth on some of the things that may change with this news, I think it’s important to remember that Kevin Durant is a human being. He’s someone’s son, friend, teammate, and more. While most of us know him as a basketball player that provides us entertainment, it’s important to remember that he is going through a very difficult and trying time in his life, and people should respect that.
An Achilles injury — for those who are unfamiliar — is very serious, and it has unfortunately ended some careers in the NBA. Former All Stars such as Kobe Bryant, Elton Brand, and DeMarcus Cousins have suffered from the same injury and never returned as the same player.
Regardless of what you think about him, the NBA is better with Kevin Durant in it. I’m hopeful he will break that trend of said players and return to his former all-star/MVP form.
Golden State’s Summer
This will ultimately affect what will happen with the future of Golden State Warriors’ dynasty. Kevin Durant has a player option worth $31.5 that he can choose to take and stay with the franchise. As said before, this is a very serious injury. Team’s may be wary to offer him a max contract with this injury.
If he does ultimately end up opting into his option, Golden State may struggle to retain Klay Thompson. Thompson is approaching unrestricted free agency and has been on the record numerous times saying he wants a max contract.
While it isn’t impossible to retain them both, it will ultimately become tricky in the long term to retain them both. If this happened, Draymond Green, who is a free agent next summer, would have a hard time re-signing with the Warriors for what he’s worth.
Kevin Durant could also opt out of his current contract and sign for a lesser and longer deal with the Warriors as they just received his bird rights. Bird rights give a team the right to re-sign a player over the cap if they’ve been with the team for three or more seasons.
If you’re an NBA fan, you know that Kevin Durant has been a hot topic in terms of the upcoming 2019 free agency class. There have been countless rumors and reports of him being interested in leaving Golden State for another team.
The Knicks are probably the franchise that has targeted him the most out of everyone in free agency. The team may now look to recruit other players over him, if they are indeed worried about his injury.
Lesser known free agents will now be more prioritized to some teams on the market. With Kevin Durant going down, Kawhi Leonard is now, without a doubt, the best upcoming free agent for this summer, followed by Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, and Tobias Harris.
The Knicks, along with other teams, will value more of those said players and more than they would’ve before. While those players are in a lower tier of players compared to Kevin Durant, they are all very good NBA players and can help teams win quickly.
The Balance of Conferences
Kevin Durant is a lot less likely to go to an Eastern Conference team. The Western Conference has been a much more competitive area than the East. While Kevin Durant may not return as the same player, it’s very possible he can still play at a high level.
The power balance between conferences is unlikely to shift heavily this summer. A healthy Kevin Durant in the East would cause a major power shift between the juggernauts of the East in the Raptors, Sixers, Celtics, and Bucks.
An Achilles injury takes anywhere from eight months to an entire year to fully recover from, and it’s unlikely we will see Durant play at any point next season. The Warriors — regardless of what others say — are better with Durant, and he would make any NBA team better by being on it.
It’s impossible to predict the teams playing in the Finals next year, but this will certainly make Golden State’s path to the Finals next year much, much harder. It will likely be the first time since 2014 that we will see another Western team compete in the NBA Finals.
This is one of those nights all basketball fans will remember for the rest of their life. It was truly a sad night for basketball. Seeing one of the best players to play in the NBA go down with such a serious injury is heartbreaking to see.
This night and injury will have many shockwaves in the NBA for the foreseeable future. Many storylines and future plans have changed with just one quick moment in time.
Prepare for this summer. Many expected this upcoming offseason to bring a lot of change and for teams to be very active. This injury has flipped that upcoming script for not just Kevin Durant or Golden State, but the entire NBA itself.