The Nets are going to be without Kevin Durant for a bit.
On a night that saw Brooklyn continue its winning ways with a victory over Miami, Durant suffered a knee injury in the third quarter that forced him to exit the game.
It’s since been announced that Durant has a sprained MCL in his right knee. He will be re-evaluated in two weeks.
Can the Nets survive this stretch without Durant? Let’s take a closer look at the widespread impact of his injury.
The impact of Kevin Durant’s injury on…
The Nets and Eastern Conference playoff race
The Nets have been the hottest team in the NBA for a while now.
Following a loss to the Pacers on Nov. 25, the Nets found themselves in 11th place in the Eastern Conference standings with a 9-11 record. They are 18-2 since then, moving them a game behind the Celtics for the best record in the league.
Durant has played a leading role in Brooklyn’s turnaround. He’s putting together an MVP-caliber season with averages of 29.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.5 blocks per game while shooting a career-best 55.9 percent from the field, an incredible feat considering how difficult most of his shot attempts are.
Based on those numbers, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that the Nets have been a different team with Durant on the court this season.
|Offensive Rating||Defensive Rating||Net Rating|
|Durant on court||117.0||111.0||6.0|
|Durant off court||108.6||111.0||-2.4|
The good news for the Nets? They now have a five-game lead on the Knicks in 7th place and a 10-game lead on the Wizards in 11th place in the Eastern Conference standings. It would be hard for them to fall out of the playoff picture and it would take a near-disaster for them to fall out of the Play-In picture in two weeks.
The bad news for the Nets? The next couple of weeks could still be quite challenging.
Brooklyn’s first game after Durant’s injury comes on Thursday when it faces Boston. The Nets will then host the Thunder on Sunday before going on a five-game road trip that will see them take on the Spurs, Suns, Jazz, Warriors and 76ers.
It’s been a struggle for the Spurs and Suns lately, but the Jazz have been frisky all season long, and both the Warriors and 76ers are title contenders. The Warriors should also have Stephen Curry back by then.
The Nets are 13-5 at home and 14-8 on the road so far this season.
The All-Star Game starters voting
Durant has been in this situation before.
It was around this time last season that Durant suffered a sprained MCL in his left knee that sidelined him for a month and a half. He was the Eastern Conference’s leading vote-getter at the time and maintained that position until voting ended despite not playing another game during that span.
In the first fan voting returns this season, Durant led all forwards in the Eastern Conference. Giannis Antetokounmpo wasn’t far behind him, but Durant had a decent lead on both Joel Embiid in third place and Jayson Tatum in fourth.
LeBron James and Kevin Durant lead their respective conferences in the first fan returns of #NBAAllStar Voting presented by AT&T.
Fans account for 50% of the vote to decide All-Star starters. NBA players and a media panel account for 25% each.
The next fan update is Jan. 12. pic.twitter.com/osVeUGI8H4
— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) January 5, 2023
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that there’s “optimism” Durant will miss less time this season than he did last season. In which case, there’s a good chance he’ll play in the All-Star Game after missing the last two with injury.
The MVP race
Same deal as the All-Star Game.
When he suffered the injury last season, we had Durant in second place in our MVP rankings. The MVP race is wild as ever, but he’s in a similar position this season.
Maybe a candidate or two separates themselves from Durant in this upcoming stretch, but he had appeared in 39 of a possible 40 games prior to this injury, and a few other players in the running for the award have missed time already this season with injury, most notably Stephen Curry and Joel Embiid.
Even if Durant misses around 10 games, he should still be in the MVP race when he returns.
Who will the Nets start in Kevin Durant’s place?
You won’t find the answer from the one game Durant missed this season because the Nets were also without — are you ready for this? — Kyrie Irving, Ben Simmons, Royce O’Neale, Nic Claxton and T.J. Warren.
Irving, Simmons, O’Neale and Claxton are almost certainly going to continue to start. Who replaces Durant depends on what the Nets need most.
If head coach Jacque Vaughn thinks the Nets need size and shooting, Joe Harris or Yuta Watanabe is the answer. If he thinks they need more playmaking, he’ll probably lean toward Warren. Seth Curry is an option as well, but he and Irving make for a small backcourt.
Whatever Vaughn chooses, expect Irving to do most of the heavy lifting while Durant is out. He’s been on a tear lately, averaging 28.2 points on .508/.413/.920 shooting splits over his last 13 games.