No Durant, what does that mean for Thunder in these playoffs? Trouble.
Kevin Durant isn’t going to play basketball again until next season now that he will have his third surgery on his right foot in a year.
One other fact: The Thunder will still make the playoffs as the eight seed in the West this season. They have a three-game lead over the Phoenix Suns with 10 games to play. Mathematically they can blow that lead, but the reality is with Russell Westbrook playing at an MVP level (even though Stephen Curry will win the award) the Thunder are not going to blow that lead. They are in.
Next question: What are the Thunder’s prospects in the playoffs?
Poor. Terrible. Nonexistent. About the same as Katy Perry inviting Lady Gaga over for dinner.
There are a few reasons for this.
Number one is injuries — remember Serge Ibaka is out still recovering from knee surgery. He should be back around the start of the playoffs, maybe part of the way into the first round, but even when he first returns he’s not at 100 percent. Combine that with Durant being out, and now two-thirds of OKC’s core is not there or not 100 percent. Westbrook is superhuman, but even he can’t cover that.
Second, the Thunder defense has gone the way of the Dodo. It’s extinct. In their last 15 games, the Thunder have allowed 109.4 points per 100 possessions on defense, second worst in the NBA in that stretch. This ties back to injuries to a degree — Ibaka is the defensive anchor of this team, Durant is long and can be disruptive on that end of the court. But some of the moves the Thunder made to add depth added to this — Enes Kanter puts up points but is a turnstile defensively. (Notice that Scott Brooks tried to pair Kanter with Ibaka for a reason, before the injury). The Thunder just can’t stop anyone.
Finally, they will play Golden State in the first round. The Warriors are for real. They have statistically the best offense and best defense in the NBA this season. It’s not Curry vs. the world; they roll out a very versatile lineup that can go small (Draymond Green at the five) or bigger (Andrew Bogut is key to them on both ends). Steve Kerr and staff can figure out what you can’t defend, and then they can throw good players at it. At full strength, this could have been the best 1/8 matchup in NBA history. As it is, Golden State is going to win comfortably.
Then Oklahoma City needs to turn its attention to next season — they have one more year to win a title, making it much harder for Kevin Durant to walk away in the summer of 2016.