The Golden State Warriors lost their one and only All-Star for the rest of the postseason on Saturday.
David Lee has been diagnosed with a torn hip flexor and will mess the remainder of the season. The injury took place during the fourth quarter of Game 1 of the Western Conference opening round against the Denver Nuggets. Lee banged legs with Denver’s JaVale McGee on a drive to the basket and went down in excruciating pain, later being helped off of the floor.
This is a huge blow for a Warriors team that has only been to the playoffs three times in the past 20 years. Lee has been a staple in Golden State’s offense, averaging 18.5 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 3.5 assists over 36.8 minutes per game. He also lead the league in double-doubles and 20-10 games. It was Lee’s first playoff game in his eight-year career and he will be missed.
However, this is not the end for the Warriors, but rather an opportunity for someone else to step up.
That somebody is Carl Landry, who has been a big part of Golden State’s success. The additions of him and Jarrett Jack have solidified the second unit and propelled the Warriors into the playoffs. Landry has averaged 10.8 points and six rebounds over 23.2 minutes per game, and is very capable of filling the void that Lee’s absence creates. Landry is also a better defender than Lee.
During the 2010-2011 postseason while with the New Orleans Hornets, Landry averaged 15.8 points per game. He is more than capable of reaching that number again and I fully expect him to step up and have a big series.
Center Andrew Bogut, who played arguably his best game of the season in the series opener, will be key in helping fill Lee’s rebounding void. He had 14 boards to go along with nine points, three assists, four blocks, and a steal in Game 1, with five of those rebounds being offensive.
Lee’s absence will create more offense opportunities for Bogut, who has not a breakout game on that end of the floor this season. This is a great opportunity for Bogut to take advantage of Denver in the low post.
Backup center Festus Ezeli will now be seeing increased minutes for the W’s. The rookie, who started a majority of the season for an injured Bogut, will be essential in defending and picking up key rebounds. Ezeli’s offense has come a long way since training camp, but don’t expect him to be focusing on anything else but defending, securing rebounds, and bringing as much energy to the court as he possibly can.
Rookie Draymond Green will also see an increase in minutes. Green is known for his defense and physical play, but his offensive game has been subpar in his young NBA career. At 6-foot-7, Green is undersized at the power forward position and the team rebounding will take a hit with him on the floor.
However, the far more athletic Green can defend much better than Lee. They will need his athleticism as Denver’s Kenneth Faried returns to his healthy form.
Things are going to be tough for Golden State as David Lee was no doubt an important fixture in Mark Jackson‘s game plan, but do not count this team out. They are more than capable of knocking off an overrated Nuggets team.
Much like Denver’s superb play at home, the Warriors are no cakewalk at home either. People tend to overlook how difficult it is to go on the road and win in Oracle Arena. With a Game 2 victory in Denver, the Warriors can steal home court advantage and change the entire series.
After all, this is Stephen Curry‘s team.