Are the Cavs and Dubs Still Unbeatable? Injuries Hamper the Defending Conference Champs

Despite Boston’s recent win over Cleveland the other night, the Celtics pose little threat to Lebron James and Co in their quest for three straight finals appearances. Not only are two of the Cavs’ stars injured currently – Kevin Love and JR Smith – but they are also still incorporating three crucial new role players, Derrick Williams, Deron Williams and Andrew Bogut. The latter Williams and Bogut were fantastic pick-ups by the Cavs, supplying Lebron James with the playmaker he has been whining for and Asome frontcourt depth.

Meanwhile, the Celtics foolishly chose to remain inactive at the trade deadline even with very attractive trade possibilities for the likes of Jimmy Butler or Paul George. Butler especially would have been a key pick up for the Celtics, making one of the NBA’s most formidable backcourts alongside MVP candidate Isaiah Thomas.

However, the Celtics decided to stick with their current roster, perhaps eyeing a Gordon Hayward/Brad Stevens reunion in this summer’s free agency. Boston also owns the Brooklyn Nets’ 2017 first-round draft choice, which will most likely be the number-one pick in the draft thanks to the Paul Pierce–Kevin Garnett trade made a few years ago, possibly the worst trade in the

history of the NBA.

The Celtics currently do not have the pieces to challenge the Cavs Eastern Conference hegemony, yet the 2017-18 Celtics will almost certainly have the weapons to finally dethrone Cleveland. 

In the Western Conference, the Warriors are now dealing with the disastrous possibility of not having Kevin Durant at the start of the playoffs. Durant’s knee injury has drastically altered the playoff picture in the highly competitive West, as the Warriors no longer seem like locks for the Finals or even the number-one seed. The San Antonio Spurs are hot on the tail of the Warriors, who have lost their last two without Durant and are mired in a very uncharacteristic shooting slump. Steph Curry has gone completely cold from three-point range and probably could not throw a rock in the ocean right now.  Upcoming games against the Celtics and Spurs will really test the Warriors’ ability to adapt and successfully play without Durant.

In order to acquire Durant this past summer, the Warriors had to sacrifice a majority of their bench depth. Now, without Durant for at least four weeks, the Warriors bench will be put to the test. The Warriors just acquired the tattooed ghost of Matt Barnes to help pick up some of the scoring slack, but to think that Barnes is a suitable sub for Durant is extremely irrational. There is a high likelihood that the Warriors will limp into the postseason, praying they avoid a possible first-round matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans and their new twin towers of Demarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis. Depending on the timing of Kevin Durant’s return and their playoff matchups, I could genuinely see a scenario where the Warriors do not even make the Western Conference Finals.

Durant’s return will be vital to the success of the Warriors, and obviously the sooner he comes back, the better. All the Warriors can do now is pray that it does not take Durant to the end of the season to recover, which would result in Durant trying to regain form in the first couple playoff series and possibly lose the number one-seed. Durant’s injury has truly shaken up the entire playoff

picture in the NBA.