What are the Implications of Kevin Durant’s Achilles Injury?
The early prognosis doesn’t look great and it seems as though this was always an Achilles issue, not a mild calf strain as initially reported. If Kevin Durant, has indeed, torn his Achilles, then this will send major shockwaves around the NBA.
As ESPN analyst Brian Windhorst said post-game last night, “the NBA just changed.” What does this mean? Here are the main implications of a serious long-term injury to Kevin Durant.
He Will Not Return In The Finals
First and foremost, it’s now clear that he will no longer be involved in the rest of the NBA Finals. The Warriors took a risk, played him (heavy minutes) to start Game 5, and it came back to hurt them. Though the Warriors have shown they can win without Durant, that first quarter in Game 5 reminded us all what he is capable of and how dynamic he makes their offense. For Game 6, (and potentially Game 7) they will not be able to count on him factoring in and the Raptors can now clearly construct a game-plan that doesn’t include Kevin Durant.
Does He Opt In Next Year?
Assuming Durant has torn his Achilles, the average recovery time is between 5-7 months. That would likely mean that, best case scenario, he does not return to action post All-Star break next season. With that in mind, does Durant use his player option to opt-in to a final season with the Warriors? Similarly to DeMarcus Cousins this season, this would give him time to recover in a familiar setting and to return late in the season as the team perhaps enters another championship push. The alternative, of course, is to test free agency this summer and see how the market reacts to his injury. This seems quite risky.
What Do Other Teams Do Now?
This is where it gets really interesting. Numerous teams, including the Knicks, Clippers and Nets, to name a few, have basically planned out their whole off-season and future franchise trajectory on the assumption that Durant will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Now, they are left scrambling. Will teams take a risk and give Durant a maximum contract knowing he has a torn Achilles? Will teams now focus their efforts on signing other marquee free agents like Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler? Will more teams shift more attention to the trade market and potentially target Anthony Davis? These are all very important questions that will need to be answered, but one thing is definitely true and that is that this injury will send shockwaves all around the NBA.
How Does KD Recover?
Forget about this season and free agency and everything else. A torn Achilles is a serious injury and one has to wonder how Durant recovers from this. Let’s remember that Kobe Bryant, albeit in his later years, was forced to retire due to a serious Achilles injury. Obviously, no one is expecting anything remotely close to this for Durant, but upon recovering, does he maybe lose a step? Does he lose some of his explosiveness? For the sake of him and all NBA fans, let’s hope that KD recovers from this and comes back stronger than ever.