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Basketball Insiders Week in Review 10/19

Basketball Insiders looks back at some of the articles from last week in case you missed them the first time around.

Kyle Cape-Lindelin



Bradley Beal Leads the Changing of the Shooting Guard

By Moke Hamilton

It was one of the more frigid January nights in the nation’s capital, but inside of Washington, D.C.’s Verizon Center ensued a battle that nary a paying customer believed they would witness.

It was 2013 and the 4-28 Washington Wizards were seen as nothing more than an undisciplined bunch being led by John Wall—another entitled pro athlete who was given too much, too soon.

Kevin Durant—the man whose homecoming this night was—was the opposite.

Durant was the quintessential stud. Hard working, dedicated to his craft and doing whatever was necessary to win. As a resident of the Western Conference, he was making his annual trip to the District of Columbia.

Unfortunately for him, a rookie shooting guard that few had ever heard of ruined it; some kid named Bradley Beal.

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2014-15 NBA Fantasy Focus: Sleepers

By Susan Bible

Forget pumpkins, fall festivals and football. This is the time of year to get your fantasy basketball strategy in order. Those who play the game have already made a mental list for draft day of their favorites in all positions. After the initial critical rounds have flown by, the field is open to round out your roster. Before automatically reaching for the obvious intermediate-type players, consider taking a chance with an unexpected pick. Basketball Insiders is here to help you analyze those sleeper picks that can potentially yield a surprise advantage while assembling your team for the 2014-15 NBA season.

As always, when we talk fantasy basketball here, it is based on nine-category fantasy scoring leagues that account for points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocks, three-pointers made, turnovers, field goal percentage and free throw percentage.

These are our sleeper picks to seriously contemplate this season:

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Dalembert Recalls Iverson Alley-Oops, Discusses New Role on Knicks

By Jessica Camerato

It has been four years since Samuel Dalembert played for the Phialdelphia 76ers. After nine seasons with the same organization, he has since suited up for the Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets, Milwaukee Bucks, Dallas Mavericks and, currently, the New York Knicks. Even though he has donned numerous uniforms, he is still frequently associated with his first team.

“Another home again,” he said. “Everybody says (it seems like I was just with the 76ers) because I spent almost 10 years in Philly.”

The 76ers drafted Dalembert in 2001 and traded him to the Kings in the summer of 2010. During that time in Philadelphia, Dalembert developed a rapport with Allen Iverson on the court. The dunks became seamless – the crafty point guard to the anticipating big man.

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How Big Is Kevin Durant’s Injury?

By Steve Kyler

With the news yesterday that Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant may miss up to eight weeks after a Jones fracture (a small crack at the base of the small toe) surfaced in his right foot, the question becomes does this really matter in the grand scheme of things for the Thunder?

The answer is a resounding yes.

Last season in the Western Conference the difference between first place and home court throughout the playoffs was just three games. The Spurs ended the 2013-14 season with 62 wins versus the Thunder’s 59 wins. The season before the gap between first was just two games in the West with the Thunder notching 60 wins compared to San Antonio’s 58 wins.

So how does Durant missing most of November impact the Thunder?

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Stan Van Gundy Settling In

By Yannis Koutroupis

Despite being given complete control of the Detroit Pistons this offseason, there wasn’t a reasonable method for Stan Van Gundy to make significant changes. There were plenty of opportunities, like trading Josh Smith to the Sacramento Kings or letting Greg Monroe leave via restricted free agency (where there was reportedly two teams willing to give him a max offer but didn’t due to a belief that the Pistons would match). However, none of those made enough sense for Van Gundy to pull the trigger, so instead he’s taking an approach similar to what Masai Ujiri did when he took over the Toronto Raptors last year.

Ujiri was expected to come in and clean house when he got the job in the summer of 2013, but wanted to see what they were capable of from an inside vantage point before making any roster-altering decisions. Early in the regular season, it was clear that Rudy Gay just didn’t fit with the personnel around him, and that is when Ujiri decided to act. He traded him to the Kings, which many viewed as the start of a massive rebuilding project, which typically occurs when a struggling team undergoes a change in management. Ujiri had an offer from the New York Knicks for starting point guard Kyle Lowry that he strongly considered, but during that process the team started to excel. Now, without any major moves outside of the Gay trade, the Raptors are viewed as one of the premier teams in the East, and Ujiri’s patience and faith is a major reason why.


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Six Things to Know: NBA Southeast Division

By Cody Taylor

When looking at the Southeast Division, there is one obvious loss in the division: LeBron James. With the Miami HEAT losing James, the division is practically there for the taking. Outside of the Orlando Magic, the rest of the four teams all have a legitimate chance at winning the division.

While the talk of the division won’t be dominated by James and the HEAT this season for the first time in a long time, there are other things to keep an eye on as the season shakes out. Here are six things to know about the Southeast Division:

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Six Things to Know: NBA Central Division

By John Zitzler

This week Basketball Insiders takes a look at six aspects of each division that may be flying under the radar. We kicked our series off with the Southeast Division, now we take a closer look at the Central Division.

The biggest news in the Central Division was of course made by the Cleveland Cavaliers. The return of LeBron James and the acquisition of Kevin Love makes them immediate title contenders. Other major headlines include three coaching changes: Jason Kidd in Milwaukee, David Blatt in Cleveland and Stan Van Gundy in Detroit. The Pacers also lost their star, Paul George, after he suffered a broken leg this summer while playing in a scrimmage for Team USA. While these events may have drawn the most attention, there are number of other items throughout that division that are worth mentioning. Here are six other things to key an eye on in the Central Division in 2014-15.

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Utah Jazz Could Exceed Expectations

By Alex Kennedy

Entering last season, the Phoenix Suns and Charlotte Bobcats were projected to finish at the bottom of the standings. Both teams were extremely young and had first-time head coaches, so expectations were understandably low. However, Phoenix and Charlotte exceeded all projections, with the Suns winning 48 games and nearly earning the eighth seed in the competitive Western Conference and the Bobcats winning 43 games and making the playoffs for just the second time in franchise history.

The NBA can be unpredictable and there are a few of these overachieving teams every season. This year, the Utah Jazz could emerge as one of those squads that seemingly comes out of nowhere to turn heads. With a young roster and first-time head coach in Quin Synder, they have a lot in common with last year’s surprise teams.

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NBA Rookie Extensions: Kawhi Leonard

By Nate Duncan

The 2014 rookie-extension class is one of the most interesting in several years due to the high number of quality players entering their fourth seasons. As most readers likely know by now, teams have until October 31 to reach extensions with first-rounders entering their fourth seasons or the players become restricted free agents next summer. This year, many of these players fall into the fascinating middle ground between total busts and obvious max outs, and their negotiations are further complicated by the unknown effect of the league’s recently-announced new TV deal.

Over the next couple weeks, we will take a look at some of the more interesting cases, beginning with a player whose negotiations are a lot more interesting than they would appear at first blush.

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Former Laker Tony Gaffney Shares Kobe Bryant Stories

By David Pick

For journeyman forward Tony Gaffney, who bounced around four different Euro countries, the NBA surely isn’t his claim to fame.

With passport stamps from Israel, Turkey, Germany and Spain, the undrafted 6’9 defensive specialist enters his sixth season as pro. In between his stints abroad, Gaffney also registered 38 games with the Utah Flash of the D-League.

However, it was Gaffney’s five-month tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers that carved out the most unique chapter of his basketball journal.

For those who have forgotten, Gaffney stood out for the Lakers during the 2009 NBA Summer League en route to earning a spot at vet-camp. He was the last player cut from Phil Jackson’s roster.

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The Shrinking Market For Rajon Rondo

By Lang Greene

Make no mistake about it, the Boston Celtics are in a state of rebuild. The memories of those epic playoff runs from 2008-2012 are quickly fading in the rearview mirror. Gone are stalwarts such as Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. That Hall of Fame ensemble has been replaced with names such as Brad Stevens, Marcus Smart, Jared Sullinger and Evan Turner.

Times are changing in Boston, but one name from those glory years still remains in the fold: point guard Rajon Rondo.

Rondo is entering the final year of his current deal and is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will undoubtedly field questions regarding Rondo’s long term future with the franchise, much like he has the past two campaigns. However, those questions will be intensified as we approach the trade deadline. Teams rarely let talent, let alone top talent, walk out the door with the risk of receiving zero assets in return. That’s not the NBA way and that’s the decision Ainge faces over the next few months.

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Six Things to Know: NBA Pacific Division

By Jesse Blancarte

This week, Basketball Insiders takes a look at six things to keep an eye on in each division. We kicked our series off with the Southeast Division, followed by the Central Division. Now, we take a look at the Pacific Division.

The Pacific Division again features two contenders in the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors. The Warriors hired Steve Kerr to take over as head coach, while the Clippers got a new owner in Steve Ballmer as well as a few new role players. Meanwhile, the Phoenix Suns are looking to build off of last season’s surprising success after signing point guard Isaiah Thomas and re-signing Eric Bledsoe to a five-year contract. The Sacramento Kings enter this season led by DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, both of whom won gold medals this summer with Team USA in the FIBA World Cup. Also, the Los Angeles Lakers are coming off of one of their worst seasons in franchise history, but bring back a healthy Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, along with some other key additions and a new head coach in Byron Scott.

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A Look at Extensions, Options & Final Rosters

By Eric Pincus

The 2014-15 NBA regular season is less than two weeks away.  While most general managers are close to finalizing their 15-man rosters, teams still have a number of items to resolve before November.


Teams have until Halloween to ink extensions with first-round picks in the final year of their rookie contract.

Thus far three extensions have been signed. The Phoenix Suns extended Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris, while the Denver Nuggets extended Kenneth Faried.

The following players are eligible for a contract extension:

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Saric Coming to NBA Soon?

By Joel Brigham

With two top-10 picks in this past summer’s draft, it looked as though the Philadelphia 76ers would end up with enough young talent to start turning things around, but instead of drafting, say, Dante Exum and Doug McDermott, players who could have helped immediately, Sixers GM Sam Hinkie went with an injured Joel Embiid and Euro star Dario Saric, who signed a new two-year contract with Turkish club Anadolu Efes days before the 2014 NBA Draft, essentially preventing him from playing in the NBA the next couple of seasons.

That plan hasn’t changed, despite recent rumblings that Saric already is unhappy playing in Turkey.

Saric’s father, Pedrag Saric, recently told a Croatian newspaper that his son was unhappy with his minutes. Having just been made a lottery pick and having been one of Euroleague’s biggest rising stars the last few years, it would make sense that Saric probably isn’t thrilled about riding the pine.

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Fantasy: Top-150 Overall Rankings for 2014-15 NBA season

By Tommy Beer

It’s that time of year folks… With the commencement of the 2014-15 NBA less than two weeks away, the majority of fantasy basketball drafts will be held over the next 10 days. Thus, we are rolling out our most comprehensive and complete rankings to date.

Listed below are the official Top-150 overall ranks for the 2014-15 campaign.

Please note: These rankings are based on nine-category fantasy scoring leagues that account for points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocks, three-pointers made, turnovers, field goal percentage and free throw percentage.

Beneath the rankings, I have listed a handful of players that just missed the cut. I have also included a few random stats and other interesting tidbits to help explain the thinking behind a handful of these selections…

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Kyle Cape-Lindelin is based out of Portland, OR covering the NBA while being one of the newsline editors and contributor to "Out of Bounds."


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Emeka Okafor Impacting 2018 Western Conference Playoff Race

Sidelined for several years with a neck injury, Emeka Okafor is back in the NBA and helping the Pelicans fight for a playoff seed.

Jesse Blancarte



When DeMarcus Cousins ruptured his Achilles tendon, most people in and around the league assumed the New Orleans Pelicans would eventually fall out of the Western Conference Playoff race. It was a fair assumption. In 48 games this season, Cousins averaged 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.6 blocks while shooting 47 percent from the field and 35.4 percent from beyond the arc.

Anthony Davis and the Pelicans had other plans. Davis put the team on his shoulders, played at an elite level and, arguably, has forced his way into the MVP race. Behind Davis’ efforts, the Pelicans are currently 39-29, have won 7 of their last 10 games and hold the sixth seed in the Western Conference.

While Davis has been carrying the team since the loss of Cousins, he has received significant help from his teammates, including Emeka Okafor.

More recent NBA fans may be less familiar with Okafor since he has been out of the league since the end of the 2012-13 season. For context, in Okafor’s last season, David Lee led the league in double-doubles, Luol Deng led the league in minutes per game and Joakim Noah made the NBA All-Defensive First Team. However, Okafor entered the NBA with a lot of excited and expectations. He was drafted second overall, right behind Dwight Howard. Okafor played in 9 relatively successful NBA seasons until being sidelined indefinitely with a herniated disc in his neck prior to the start of the 2013-14 season.

Okafor was medically cleared to play in May of last year and played in five preseason games with the Philadelphia 76ers but was ultimately waived in October, prior to the start of the regular season. However, with the injury to Cousins, the Pelicans were in need of help at the center position and signed Okafor to a 10-day contract. Okafor earned a second 10-day contract and ultimately landed a contract for the rest of this season.

Okafor has played in 14 games so far for the Pelicans has is receiving limited playing time thus far. Despite the lack of playing time, Okafor is making his presence felt when he is on the court. Known as a defensive specialist, Okafor has provided some much needed rim protection and has rebounded effectively as well.

He has been [helpful] since the day he got here,” Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry said about Okafor after New Orleans’ recent victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. “I think his rim protection has been great. But, he’s capable of making a little jump shot and you can see that today. But just having him in there, his presence there has been great.”

Okafor has never been known as an elite offensive player, but he did average 15.1 points per game in his rookie season and has shown glimpses of an improved jump shot in his limited run with the Pelicans.

“You know, I’m happy it’s falling,” Okafor said after he helped seal the victory over the Clippers. “Kept in my back pocket. I was invoked to use it, so figured I’d dust it off and show it.”

Okafor was then asked if he has any other moves in his back pocket that he hasn’t displayed so far this season.

“A little bit. I don’t want to give it all,” Okafor told Basketball Insiders. “There’s a couple shots still. But we’ll see what opportunities unveil themselves coming forward.”

Okafor will never have the elite offensive skill set that Cousins has but his overall contributions have had a positive impact for a New Orleans squad that was desperate for additional production after Cousin’s Achilles tear.

“It’s impossible to replace a guy that was playing at an MVP level,” Gentry said recently. “For us, Emeka’s giving us something that we desperately missed with Cousins. The same thing with Niko. Niko’s given us something as far as spacing the floor. Between those guys, they’ve done the best they could to fill in for that. But we didn’t expect anyone to fill in and replace what Cousins was doing for us.”

Okafor is currently averaging 6.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game while shooting 54.5 percent from the field. While his averages don’t jump off the page, it should be noted that his per minute production is surprisingly impressive. Per 36 minutes, Okafor is averaging 13.4 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.9 blocks. Those numbers are nearly identical to his averages from the 2012-13 season, though he is averaging twice as many blocks (up from 1.4).

The Pelicans have exceeded expectations and currently are ahead of teams like the San Antonio Spurs, Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers in the extremely tight Western Conference Playoff race. Okafor is doing more than could have reasonably been expected when he first signed with the Pelicans, though he would be the first person to pass the credit toward Anthony Davis.

When asked about Davis’ recent play, Okafor enthusiastically heaped praise toward his superstar teammate.

“It’s to the point where it’s like, ‘Alright, he has 40 doesn’t he?’ It’s impressive,” Okafor said about Davis. But it’s becoming so commonplace now.

He’s just an impressive individual. He gives it all. He’s relentless. And then off the court too, he’s a very, very nice kid. He really takes the leadership role seriously. I’m even more impressed with that part.”

There is still plenty of regular season basketball to be played and even a two-game losing streak can drastic consequences. But the Pelicans have proved to be very resilient and Okafor is confident in the team’s potential and outlook.

“I think we’re all hitting a good grove here and we’re playing very good basketball, said Okafor.”

Whether the Pelicans make the playoffs or not, it’s great to see Okafor back in the NBA and playing meaningful minutes for a team in the playoff race.

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NBA Daily: Nothing’s Promised, Not Even For The Warriors

The Warriors are wounded, and with Chris Paul, the Rockets may be equipped to take advantage.

Moke Hamilton



The Warriors are wounded, and for those that thought their waltzing into a four consecutive NBA Finals was a given, the Houston Rockets may have other ideas. Especially when one considers that the beloved Dubs are trying to buck history.

Steph Curry has ankle problems, Klay has a fractured thumb and Kevin Durant—the most recent of the team’s lynchpins to find himself on the disabled list—has a rib injury.

Sure, the Dubs might shake off their injuries and find themselves at or near 100 percent once the playoffs begin, but seldom do teams in the NBA get healthier as the year progresses.

Winning in the NBA is difficult. In order to take all the marbles, teams need a bunch of different ingredients, chief among them are good fortune and health. And in many ways, the two are entwined.

Simply put: the human body isn’t built to play as often and as hard as NBA players do. Those that we recognize as being among the greatest ever—Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James among them—had one thing in common. They were all exceptionally durable.

Over the years, we’ve seen attrition and fragility cost the likes of Anfernee Hardaway, Yao Ming and Derrick Rose what seemed to be careers full of accolades and accomplishments. And the simple truth is that you never know which player, players or teams will be next to be undercut by injuries and progressive fatigue.

Just to keep things in perspective, the Warriors are attempting to become just the fifth team since 1970 to win at least three NBA championships in a four-year span.

The Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA Finals in 1985, 1987 and 1988 before Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls completed their three-peat from 1991-93. The Bulls would again do the same between 1996 and 1998, and Shaquille O’Neal and his Los Angeles Lakers accomplished the same from 2000 to 2002.

There are reasons why so few teams have been able to win as frequently as the Lakers and Bulls have, and health is certainly one of them. That’s especially interesting to note considering the fact that the Warriors may have been champions in 2016 had they had their team at full strength. Mind you, both Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala were severely limited in their abilities, while Andrew Bogut missed the fateful and decisive Game 6 and Game 7 of those Finals with injuries to his left leg.

At the end of the day, injuries are a part of the game. The best teams are often able to overcome them, while the luckiest teams often don’t have to deal with them. To this point, the Warriors have been both the best and incredibly lucky, but at a certain point, the sheer volume of basketball games is likely to have an adverse effect on at least a few members of the team.

We may be seeing that now.

En route to winning the 2015 NBA Finals, the Warriors turned in a playoff record of 16-5. In 2016, they were 15-9 and in 2017, they were 16-1. In total, the 62 playoff games would have worn a bit of tread off of their collective tires, just as their 73-9 regular season record may have.  In becoming a historically great team, the Warriors have expending the energy necessary of a team wishing to remain a contender, and that’s not easy.

As an aside, those that understand the difficulty in competing at a high level every single night are the ones who rightfully give LeBron James the respect he’s due for even having the opportunity to play into June eight consecutive years. Win or lose, in terms of consistent effort and constant production, James has shown as things we’ve never seen before.

Today, it’s fair to wonder whether the Warriors have that same capability.

We’ll find out in short order.

* * * * * *

As the Houston Rockets appear headed toward ending the Warriors’ regular season reign atop the Western Conference, there’s something awfully coincidental about the fact that the team seems to have taken the next step after the addition of Chris Paul.

Paul knows a thing or two about attrition and how unlucky bouts with injuries at inopportune times can cost a team everything. As much as anything else, it probably has something to do with why Paul continues to believe in the ability of the Rockets to achieve immortality.

On the first night of the regular season, mind you, in one horrific moment, Gordon Hayward and the Boston Celtics reminded us that on any given play, the outlook of an entire season—and perhaps, even a career—can change.

A twisted knee here, a sprained ankle there, and who knows?

With just over three weeks remaining in the regular season, the Warriors—the team that everyone knew would win the Western Conference again this season—has some concerns. Their primary weapons are hurting, their chances of securing home court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs are all but nil and their road to the Finals may end up being more difficult than they could have possibly imagined.

If the season ended today and the seeds held, the Warriors would draw the San Antonio Spurs in the first round and the Portland Trail Blazers in the second round before squaring off against the Rockets in the Western Conference Finals.

Of all teams, the Spurs are probably the last team the Warriors would want to see in the playoffs, much less the first round. While the outcome of that series would be determined by the health of Kawhi Leonard, there’s no doubt that Gregg Popovich would at least be able to effectively game plan for Golden State.

While the Blazers might not provide incredible resistance to the Warriors, the Oklahoma City Thunder will enter play on March 18 just two games behind the Blazers for the third seed out West. With the two teams squaring off against one another on March 25, it’s possible for Russell Westbrook and his crew having the opportunity to square off against the Dubs in the playoffs.

For Golden State, their path to the Finals having to go through San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Houston would absolutely be a worst case scenario. The only thing that could make it even more terrible for Steve Kerr would be having to do it with a platoon that was less than 100 percent.

Funny. In yet another season where everyone thought that it was the Warriors and everyone else, there are quite a few questions facing the defending champs heading into the final few weeks of the regular season.

Indeed, the Warriors are wounded. And whether they can be nursed back up to full strength is perhaps the most interesting thing to watch as the calendar turns to April and playoff basketball draws nearer.

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NBA Daily: The Golden State Warriors Need to Enter Rest Mode

With a bevy of injuries to their stars, the Golden State Warriors should rest up the remainder of the regular season to avoid any playoff letdowns.

Dennis Chambers



After a three-year-long run of dominating the NBA, the Golden State Warriors are showing some cracks in their armor.

Granted, those cracks aren’t a result of a botched system or poor play, but rather the injury bug biting the team in full force as they come down the regular season stretch.

First, it was Steph Curry and the ankle that’s bothered him all season — and for most of his career — when he tweaked it yet again on March 8 against the San Antonio Spurs. Golden State announced he would miss at least four games. Then it was Klay Thompson, who fractured his thumb three days later against the Minnesota Timberwolves — he’ll miss at least two weeks.

Now it’s Kevin Durant. Last year’s Finals MVP suffered an incomplete rib cartilage fracture and was ruled out of Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings. Durant is expected to be sidelined for at least two weeks. The Warriors would go on to lose that contest 95-93.

In about two weeks time, the Warriors went from having one of the most formidable offenses and scoring trios in the entire league, to having  Quinn Cook and Nick Young logging starter minutes.

Luckily for the Warriors, they’ve built up a big enough lead in the standings to achieve a 52-17 record, good for second place in the Western Conference. But the issue for the remainder of the season now becomes how healthy will the Warriors be come playoff time?

Curry and Durant have injury histories. Curry particularly has been bothered by this ankle since he entered the league. Without either of them, the Warriors — while still incredibly talented — will be on a completely even playing field with the Houston Rockets, and possibly other teams in the gauntlet that will be the Western Conference playoffs.

The bigger issue on top of the pending injury concerns becomes whether the Warriors should just pack it in for the rest of the regular season, and regroup for another expected title run.

Steve Kerr doesn’t seem to be thinking that way, however.

“All these injuries seem to be temporary,” Kerr told reporters. “A couple weeks, a week, two weeks – whatever. We’re in good shape. We’ve just got to survive this next slate of games and hopefully, start getting guys back and get rolling again for the playoffs.”

That’s true. None of the aforementioned injuries seem to be anything more serious than a few weeks of rest and relaxation. But that’s assuming the best case scenario for these players.

Should we assume that the Warriors are without their scoring trio for the next couple of weeks as their health updates have indicated, that would put their return roughly around April 1. At that time, Golden State would have six games remaining on their schedule. Four coming against playoff teams (Oklahoma City, Indiana, New Orleans, and Utah) with the other two games against Phoenix.

After missing the last few weeks on the court, with injuries that most likely won’t be at 100 percent, tossing their most valuable contributors back into the fray against a slate of playoff teams probably isn’t the smartest idea.

At this point, the Warriors postseason position is locked up. They likely won’t take the top seed away from Houston, and their lead is big enough to keep their second seed intact regardless of who’s on the court. The only thing left now is the determining who Golden State will play in the first round. With the revolving carousel that is the playoff standings out West, that’s anybody’s guess right now.

The only thing that’s certain is whichever team coming into Oracle Arena for that first round will be battle tested and talented based off of the dogfight they had to survive just to make the playoffs. The last thing the Warriors need to be is a banged up in a postseason with their first opponent smelling blood in the water.

In all likelihood, the Warriors — should everything go according to plan — will play the Houston Rockets for a chance to return to their fourth straight NBA Finals. Only this time, a potential Game 7 won’t be at Oracle Arena. It will be in downtown Houston, at the Toyota Center.

An advantage as big as the Warriors’ homecourt can never be understated. Operating in a do-or-die situation away from home will be newfound territory for this bunch. Regardless of talent or team success, at that point, it’s anybody’s game.

It won’t be easy for the Golden State Warriors as they try to extend their dynasty’s reign. This might be their most difficult year yet.

Durant, in his own words, can’t even laugh right now without feeling pain. The league’s only unanimous MVP is operating on one and a half ankles, and the team’s second Splash Brother has an injury on his shooting hand.

Resting up the team’s stars should be the team’s top priority right now, at risk of entering the postseason hobbled. Track record means nothing if the Warriors don’t have their full arsenal at disposal when the games matter most.

Hey, a 16-seed finally won a first-round game in the NCAA Tournament. Anything is possible on a basketball court, and the Warriors should do everything possible to ensure they’re not the next major upset candidate in line.

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