The ripple effect of Kevin Durant’s absence: How injury impacts Nets, playoff picture and MVP race

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On Sunday, Jan. 16, the Brooklyn Nets announced that an MRI revealed a sprained MCL in Kevin Durant’s left knee.

In line with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, “there’s optimism” throughout the Nets group that there will likely be a four-to-six-week timeline for Durant’s rehab and eventual return to motion.

MORE: Where does Durant rank among NBA’s best players?

It ought to go with out saying that the Nets will likely 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 probably the greatest gamers within the NBA means his absence will likely be felt throughout the league.

Brooklyn is scheduled to play 17 video games forward of the All-Star Break, which Wojnarowski reports is a “life like benchmark” for Durant’s return. With an MVP candidate set to overlook a minimum of a month of motion, there may very well be a league-wide ripple impact.

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The ripple impact of Kevin Durant’s absence

Brooklyn Nets

Let’s begin with the apparent.

Durant has been the main power 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 influence on a nightly foundation.

After battling accidents throughout the 2020-21 season, Durant had missed simply six of the Nets’ first 42 video games earlier than taking place with a knee harm. Brooklyn is 3-3 in Durant’s absence.

To take a extra targeted look, the Nets have had a web ranking of 4.5 with Durant on the ground this season, whereas their web 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 had been earlier than Kyrie Irving was permitted to re-join the Nets on a part-time foundation.

MORE: How Kyrie looked in his first game back

Within the three street video games since Irving’s return, Brooklyn’s web 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 during which plenty of reserves stepped up.

That stated, it is essential to notice that 12 of the Nets’ subsequent 17 video games are on the street and Irving is eligible in all however one, a go to to the Knicks. With Irving and James Harden obtainable to play in about two-thirds of the video games in Durant’s absence, the 2 may have loads of alternatives to compensate.

Japanese Convention Playoff image

On the time of Durant’s harm, 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 wrestle in Durant’s prolonged absence, the Japanese Convention Playoff image may look vastly totally different with round 20 video games remaining within the common season.

With respect to Irving’s availability, the Nets may benefit from falling to fifth or sixth within the East, given they might not have dwelling courtroom benefit and Irving can be obtainable for 4 video games of a possible seven-game sequence, quite than three video games in a sequence during which they had 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.

All-Star Recreation

It is not as essential within the grand scheme of issues, however Durant seemed to be on his solution 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 harm triggered him to overlook the 2021 NBA All-Star Recreation because the main vote-getter.

MORE: Takeaways from second round of NBA All-Star voting returns

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 harm alternative.

As a result of Durant’s harm, a participant like Sabonis, Hornets ahead Miles Bridges or Raptors ahead Pascal Siakam may obtain All-Star consideration as an harm alternative, 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 harm, he may have totaled a minimum of 20 absences by the season’s finish, which is able to doubtless rule him out of MVP consideration. In consequence, MVP candidates similar to Bulls ahead DeMar DeRozan, Nuggets heart Nikola Jokic and 76ers heart 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.



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