How Kevin Durant's early NBA Finals absence affects Warriors' matchups

How Kevin Durant's early NBA Finals absence affects Warriors' matchups

It's a good thing the Warriors got back into the groove of playing without Kevin Durant during the Western Conference finals because it looks like they'll be without him at least for the early portion of the 2019 NBA Finals. 

On Thursday, the team announced that Durant has yet to resume basketball activities and is "unlikely' to play at the beginning of the Finals.

After sweeping the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference finals, the Warriors have a week to rest before the title round begins in either Milwaukee or Toronto.

With the Bucks and Raptors locked in an all-out war for the Eastern Conference title, Warriors fans have been watching every minute of the East finals to figure out which team they would rather face when the Dubs pursue their fourth title in five seasons. 

Make no mistake, whichever team the Warriors face in the NBA Finals will be a much stiffer test than Cleveland Cavaliers were last year.

With Kawhi Leonard appearing hobbled following Game 3, the Raptors looked to be the weaker of the Warriors' potential NBA Finals opponents. But both teams will present significant issues for the Dubs when the lights are brightest, and Durant's inability to suit up might alter the Warriors' desired potential matchup.

Durant's early-series absence only further amplifies the danger the Warriors will face in the NBA Finals if the Raptors are able to advance past the Bucks. 

Even without Durant, the Warriors match up well with Milwaukee.

Milwaukee's guard play has fallen off as the Eastern Conference finals have drug on. The trio of Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon and George Hill, while reliable defensively, struggled in Game 4 at Toronto and would be horribly overmatched by Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.

While Giannis Antetokounmpo is an MVP candidate, the combination of Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green and the Warriors' coaching staff should be able to find a way to make life tough on the Greek Freak, similar to the way the Raptors bottled him up in Games 3 and 4. 

Durant would be missed early on against the Bucks, but the Warriors could easily be able to weather the storm without him.

That might not be the case if the NBA Finals open up at Scotiabank Arena.

Facing the Warriors without Durant would give the Raptors the ability to have Leonard shadow Curry or Thompson instead of occupying his time hounding the two-time NBA Finals MVP. The ability to have Leonard, one of the best on-ball defenders in NBA, take out one of the Splash Brothers could greatly hamper a Warriors offensive attack without Durant. That also alleviates some of the defensive pressure on an aging Danny Green and a banged up Kyle Lowry. Toronto could have Leonard guard Curry, Green on Thompson while hiding Lowry on Iguodala.

Durant's absence also leaves the Warriors with one less defender to bother Leonard. Thompson has the capability of battling the 2014 NBA Finals MVP and Iguodala could battle him for stretches, but Durant's length on the defensive end is a vital tool that will be missing early on in the NBA Finals.

[RELATED: Klay not happy about All-NBA team snub]

The Warriors are likely to be without Durant and DeMarcus Cousins at least for the early part of the NBA Finals. While the Dubs have the talent to withstand those absences against no matter who the opponent is, a matchup with the Raptors sans KD would be a tough way to open the championship round.

Warriors 2020 NBA free agency targets: Five big men team could sign

Warriors 2020 NBA free agency targets: Five big men team could sign

The Warriors need to bolster their frontcourt this offseason.

They could do just that through the NBA draft, free agency or both.

Last week, Grant Liffmann listed some possible "under-the-radar" free-agents the front office could target. And Monte Poole, Kerith Burke, Liffmann and yours truly discussed those options this week on the latest "Warriors Roundtable."

It's very possible that general manager Bob Myers and his staff make it a priority to sign a player (or two) who is a threat from deep.

The plan was for Kevon Looney to add the 3-point shot to his game last year, but injuries derailed his season.

Marquese Chriss averaged 2.7 3-point attempts per game over his first two NBA seasons with the Phoenix Suns, but just shot 39 3s over 59 games with the Dubs in 2019-20 (he made eight).

[RELATED: Debating guards, wings Warriors could sign in free agency]

And Draymond Green -- who might end up playing more center in 2020-21 -- has not shot the ball consistently well from beyond the arc the last four regular seasons.

To see which big men the Warriors might be interested in adding this October, watch the full conversation above.

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[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

What Warriors' Klay Thompson repeatedly told Damion Lee during rehab

What Warriors' Klay Thompson repeatedly told Damion Lee during rehab

Damion Lee knows exactly what Klay Thompson is going through.

Lee, who tore his right ACL in 2013 and his left ACL in 2016, has been impressed with how his Warriors teammate is handling his own ACL rehab. And it appears Klay has a new appreciation for what Lee has experienced as well.

"[Klay and I have] had several conversations before about rehab in regards to the ACL," Lee said this week on the "Runnin' Plays" podcast with Kerith Burke and Grant Liffmann. "He'd always joke, 'Damn, D-Lee. I don't know how you did this twice because this is a lot.'

"It's cool to see what he's been through and now wanting to come back and go all out."

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Thompson, of course, tore his left ACL in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors and missed the entire 2019-20 season.

What kind of 2020-21 season does Lee expect from Klay when the three-time NBA champion finally returns to game action?

"I feel like he wants to show people that he is the best two-way guard in the league," Lee said. "He's done it before. He's in a pretty good mind space. I think he's just ready to go out there and play."

[RELATED: Klay tells fans in China his mind, body are '100 percent']

Klay wasn't around the team a lot last season. But when he was at Chase Center, he made his presence felt.

"There were a lot of times where he'd just pull younger guys aside and give guys little tidbits," Lee explained. "It's unique to see. Everyone is so used to seeing Klay being quiet or reserved. Hearing him actually speak up and talk and give some input is huge.

"That's a huge step -- not only for him but the team and a lot of the younger guys seeing him as a big brother and as an influence."

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