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.

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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.

Andre Iguodala discusses his NBA future, won't be like Vince Carter

Andre Iguodala discusses his NBA future, won't be like Vince Carter

Nobody knows which team Andre Iguodala is going to finish the 2019-20 season with.

But we do know that the former Warriors forward will become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

How many more seasons for the 2015 NBA Finals MVP?

"I could play like Vince Carter. I could. I won't," Iguodala said Thursday on Hot 97 radio out of Brooklyn. "I'm really excited about the things that I got going off the court. Patience is killing me on the schedule. I'm ready to go full-time off the court.

"But I'll probably play like two, three more years. Three years max. So we'll see how things shake up. I've been working out. I'm in really good shape. I'm the leanest I've been in awhile."

Iguodala -- who will turn 36 years old on Jan. 28 -- is entering his 16th NBA season.

Carter -- who will turn 43 years old on Jan. 26 and was drafted fifth overall by the Warriors in 1998 -- is entering his record-setting 22nd NBA season.

Iguodala, meanwhile, is waiting for the Grizzlies to strike a deal. If they can't trade him by the Feb. 6 deadline, the expectation is that the sides will agree to a buyout -- allowing the two-time All-Defensive selection to pick his next team.

[RELATEDReport: Iguodala set on two teams if he gets Grizz buyout]

"Hopefully it happens sooner than later," Iguodala told Hot 97.

In the meantime, he will have to keep working on his golf game and watching the Dubs from afar.

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Five observations from Warriors' 33-point preseason loss to Lakers


Five observations from Warriors' 33-point preseason loss to Lakers

Editor's note: Grant Liffmann (@grantliffmann) is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 90 minutes before each home game and 60 minutes after every game. Each week, Grant will drop his Outsider Observation on the state of the Dubs.
The Warriors' fourth preseason game, a 126-93 loss to the Lakers on Wednesday night at Staples Center, was one to forget.

There were not too many macro-level conclusions to be made from the 33-point loss, as Steph Curry, Kevon Looney, Willie Cauley-Stein, Alec Burks, Glenn Robinson III and Omari Spellman all sat out. Despite the huge talent disparity in the game, it is quite obvious that the Lakers are an impressive team.

LeBron James and Anthony Davis already have midseason-type chemistry, and the rest of the squad plays with great enthusiasm and skill. They will be a force to be reckoned with all season if they stay healthy. 
Even though the game was rather meaningless for the Warriors, there were some small takeaways to take note of.

Draymond Green's conditioning

If Draymond Green seems a tad slow or a little out of shape, do not worry, this is how he usually approaches the regular season. Green consistently has tried to reduce the wear and tear on his body in the offseason as he prepares for a long and arduous NBA schedule. This season is no different as Green gains his conditioning as the regular season begins.

Unlike last season, it is expected that the power forward pushes himself physically to reach his playoff-shape earlier in the regular season, as the Warriors will need him at his very best from the start. It is crucial that he plays like the All-Star he is if the Dubs have a chance at reaching the playoffs. 

Eric Paschall's progress

Eric Paschall showed some glimpses of how he can be a solid defender. Paschall faced LeBron in a few one-on-one situations, and held his own, pressuring The King into tough fadeaway shots -- though James inevitably scored on those possessions.

On the other side of the court, Paschall made a fadeaway of his own in LeBron's face. While that shot looked fluid and went in, it is clear that the early weakness in Paschall's game is his shooting. Like most rookies, adapting to the NBA's longer 3-point distance, as well as the athleticism and speed of the opponents, can be a tough transition when trying to find their shot.

There is no reason to doubt that Paschall eventually will improve in that regard, but if he continues to struggle on open jumpers to start the season, it might limit his playing time early on. 

Watching Jordan Poole

As expected, Jordan Poole is not ready to take over and lead an offense without help. There was no reason to assume at this point he would be able to, but after expectations soared sky-high following his explosive first two preseason games, his production has fallen off considerably as the Warriors' stars and key players have sat out.

Poole can be a weapon in an offense where he can fly under the radar and come off screens free to shoot. With Curry, Green or D'Angelo Russell feeding him, Poole will have ample opportunity to fire away. But when he is the focal point of the offense, and defenses are able to key in on him, he's a lot less effective.

With time and experience, Poole has the skillset and mindset to eventually be an offensive force. But until then, he will need to be a complimentary piece that can spread the floor for Curry and Russell. 

Jacob Evans' evolution

In four preseason games, Jacob Evans III is a combined 4-for-7 from 3-point range. While it is a small sample size, it is very clear Evans is a much more confident shooter, with a more effective shooting stroke. The Warriors are desperate to find players that are capable of defending small forwards, while being able and willing to hit an open shot.

If Evans maintains this new found effectiveness, there is a strong chance that he will find consistent playing time in the rotation.

Steve Kerr's rotations

Missing Looney, Cauley-Stein and Burks for the whole preseason severely has limited Steve Kerr's ability to experiment with rotations or try to development chemistry in lineups. With the start of the regular season next week, it appears as if all the experimentation will have to be a work in progress while the games count.

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The Warriors' playoff hopes will not have a large margin for error to lose games while they get players back from injury and try to strategize the most effective lineups. This will be Kerr's challenge, and patience will be key.