On Sunday, Jan. 16, the Brooklyn Nets announced that an MRI revealed a sprained MCL in Kevin Durant’s left knee.
In response to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, “there’s optimism” throughout the Nets group that there shall be a four-to-six-week timeline for Durant’s rehab and eventual return to motion.
It ought to go with out saying that the Nets shall be vastly impacted by the absence of Durant, who’s averaging a league-leading 29.3 factors to associate with 7.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists per recreation. Durant’s standing as among the best gamers within the NBA means his absence shall be felt throughout the league.
Brooklyn is scheduled to play 17 video games forward of the All-Star Break, which Wojnarowski reports is a “real looking benchmark” for Durant’s return. With an MVP candidate set to overlook at the very least a month of motion, there could possibly be a league-wide ripple impact.
The ripple impact of Kevin Durant’s absence
Let’s begin with the apparent.
Durant has been the main drive for Brooklyn this season, along with his scoring common at its highest since his MVP season of 2013-14. As such, KD has vaulted himself atop MVP conversations due to his affect on a nightly foundation.
After battling accidents through the 2020-21 season, Durant had missed simply six of the Nets’ first 42 video games earlier than happening with a knee damage. Brooklyn is 3-3 in Durant’s absence.
To take a extra centered look, the Nets have had a internet ranking of 4.5 with Durant on the ground this season, whereas their internet ranking with Durant off the ground is -0.9, according to NBA.com Stats. As a result of context issues, a big chunk of these numbers have been earlier than Kyrie Irving was permitted to re-join the Nets on a part-time foundation.
Within the three highway video games since Irving’s return, Brooklyn’s internet ranking in 31 non-Durant minutes is 10.6, barely higher than the web ranking of 8.9 within the 113 minutes that Durant has performed. The quantity is admittedly impacted by the Nets’ rout of the Bulls by which quite a few reserves stepped up.
That stated, it is vital to notice that 12 of the Nets’ subsequent 17 video games are on the highway and Irving is eligible in all however one, a go to to the Knicks. With Irving and James Harden accessible to play in about two-thirds of the video games in Durant’s absence, the 2 may have loads of alternatives to compensate.
Jap Convention Playoff image
On the time of Durant’s damage, the Nets trailed the Bulls by a half-game for first place within the East standings. Conversely, the Nets maintain only a two-game lead over the sixth-placed Cavaliers.
Ought to the Nets battle in Durant’s prolonged absence, the Jap Convention Playoff image may look vastly completely different with round 20 video games remaining within the common season.
With respect to Irving’s availability, the Nets may gain advantage from falling to fifth or sixth within the East, given they’d not have house court docket benefit and Irving can be accessible for 4 video games of a possible seven-game sequence, reasonably than three video games in a sequence by which they have been the highest seed.
The tightly-contested race among the many East’s top-six groups will definitely be impacted by Durant’s absence. It is merely a matter of how a lot it will likely be impacted.
It is not as vital within the grand scheme of issues, however Durant seemed to be on his strategy to changing into the East’s main vote-getter for a second consecutive yr.
Per the timeline offered by Wojnarowski, Durant shouldn’t be anticipated to take part within the 2022 NBA All-Star Recreation, however what if he receives extra votes than anybody else? Durant was in the same place final yr, as an damage triggered him to overlook the 2021 NBA All-Star Recreation because the main vote-getter.
Durant served as a captain within the All-Star Draft however was changed within the beginning lineup by Celtics ahead Jayson Tatum and Pacers ahead Domantas Sabonis was added to the sport as an damage substitute.
As a result of Durant’s damage, a participant like Sabonis, Hornets ahead Miles Bridges or Raptors ahead Pascal Siakam may obtain All-Star consideration as an damage substitute, which might be fairly the distinction for every of the aforementioned gamers.
The MVP race
In TSN’s most recent MVP ladder, Durant got here in at second behind two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
With Durant’s current damage, he may have totaled at the very least 20 absences by the season’s finish, which can possible rule him out of MVP consideration. In consequence, MVP candidates resembling Bulls ahead DeMar DeRozan, Nuggets middle Nikola Jokic and 76ers middle Joel Embiid will transfer up in MVP talks.
The race will not be as enjoyable with out KD, but it surely ought to nonetheless be simply as intriguing with potential first-timers in DeRozan and Embiid in addition to a possible back-to-back award winner in Jokic.