San Antonio Spurs News

Kevin Durant Injury Opens Door for Spurs to Lead West Early

By Jay Desai
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Kevin Durant will be out for the next six-to-eight weeks after the reigning regular season MVP was diagnosed with a Jones fracture in his right foot by the Oklahoma city medical staff.

Let me preface this piece by saying the injury to Kevin Durant stinks. Durant is a fantastic player and whether you love or hate the Thunder, you have to agree it is sad when a player has to stay on the sidelines for a significant amount of time.

That said, we shift our thoughts to how this will affect the San Antonio Spurs, one of the biggest challengers to the Thunder for the Western Conference’s top spots. More specifically, will the injury to Kevin Durant allow the Spurs to gain an early lead in the Western Conference standings?

In my opinion, the Spurs were already the favorite to claim the West’s top seed in the upcoming season, their depth, chemistry, and experience gives them at least half a head above the competition.

San Antonio will be bringing back all 14 players from their title run which further helps the argument for the Spurs as the top seed in the West.

With that said, it is important to note that the injury troubles are not new for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Last season, the Thunder were without starting point guard and NBA superstar Russell Westbrook for 36 games. That did not deter their chances at a top seed in the West, however, as they finished the season with the second best record in the conference at 59-23.

If San Antonio cannot take advantage of Kevin Durant’s injury, the Spurs may find themselves below the Thunder or even some other Western Conference team come the end of the season.

While Thunder fans may think of that impressive record as a sigh of relief, that Oklahoma City will be fine without their 26-year-old superstar, that my not be the case this time around.

When Russell Westbrook was injured, the Thunder had an adequate replacement waiting in back-up point guard Reggie Jackson. The former Boston College guard made sure Oklahoma City did not fall off too much, averaging 14.1 points, 5.1 assists, and 3.7 rebounds in 36 starts for the injured Westbrook.

This time around is much different though. First off, it is tough to replace a player who just won an MVP. The Chicago Bulls know all about that. Secondly, the Thunder do not have a clear-cut replacement for Kevin Durant as they did with Russell Westrbook.

ESPN currently has Lance Thomas listed as the primary back-up to Kevin Durant, however, that is not the only option. The Thunder could also replace Durant in the starting lineup with either Perry Jones or Andre Roberson.

The main point out of all of this though, is that Oklahoma City is nowhere near prepared to replace the sweet-shooting 6-foot-9 forward.

This opens up a huge opportunity for the San Antonio Spurs. With Kevin Durant injured, the Spurs should be able to jump out to a nice lead in the Western Conference standings.

Durant will most likely miss the approximately first month of the NBA season which equates to about 15 games of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s season.

Although some NBA fans, and especially Thunder fans, may argue that the Durant injury will not contribute to sizeable lead for the Spurs in the West due to San Antonio having its own injury problems in Patty Mills and Tiago Splitter, the truth of the matter is that Spurs are losing nowhere near the caliber of player Kevin Durant is.

The Thunder’s offense is predicated on Durant and his abilities. Often, Oklahoma City would even slide Kevin Durant to the four, creating mismatches with the former Texas Longhorn’s athleticism and shooting ability. The loss of Durant erases that mismatch and with it a few different lineup opportunities.

Additionally, the offense lost with Durant is far greater than the offense lost with Russell Westbrook.

For the 2013-2014 NBA Season, Kevin Durant had a +6.0 offense rating for on-and-off the court, meaning the Thunder’s offensive rating was six points better with their star forward on the court. Compare that with Russell Westbrook’s +1.8 rating and you will see my point.

That is not the only category that Durant beats Westbrook in on-and-off the court numbers though. Kevin Durant’s on-and-off the court numbers are better in rebounding percentage, effective field goal percentage, and blocking percentage.

The only category that Russell Westbrook has a significant edge is in assist percentage. That point becomes moot though when you consider Kevin Durant is an ever-improving passer and that Oklahoma City was in the middle of the pack for team assist average, meaning that passing is not something they put the most emphasis on.

Kevin Durant’s loss will lead to struggles for Oklahoma City. The Thunder run so much offense through Durant that his absence coupled with the fact Oklahoma City has no adequate replacement for him, has strong potential to create early team turmoil.

Throw in the fact that the Thunder play in the ultra-competitive West and you see potential for this team to struggle. November, the NBA’s first full month of the season, also does not do the Thunder much favors.

More from Spurs News

Oklahoma City will face Warriors, Nets, Rockets, Grizzlies, Raptors, Clippers and Blazers during Kevin Durant’s recovery, all teams that are expected to compete for playoff spots in this upcoming season.

The San Antonio Spurs have a golden opportunity to take an early lead in the West but it is up to them to capitalize. If San Antonio cannot take advantage of Kevin Durant’s injury, the Spurs may find themselves below the Thunder or even some other Western Conference team come the end of the season.

What role do you think Kevin Durant’s injury will play on the San Antonio Spurs final standings in the Western Conference? Let us know in the comments!

Also, don’t forget to follow Air Alamo on Twitter @AirAlamo for all San Antonio Spurs related news!

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