Now that the 2018-'19 NBA season is officially over, everyone in the Bay Area is wondering: What are the Golden State Warriors' plans for their two injured stars, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson?
With the potential for both players – KD has a player option for 2019-'20 and Thompson is will be an unrestricted free agent – to hit the open free-agent market this summer, GM Bob Myers and the Warriors organization has some big decisions to make.
Durant has a player option for the 2019-'20 season, which, if he exercises the option, would keep him in the Bay Area for one more year and net him $31 million. Though, his recently surgically-repaired Achilles tendon will most likely keep the All-NBA forward out for at least nine months. Reuters recently spoke with Nancy Cummings, an orthopedic surgeon for the Mayo Clinic and head orthopedic surgeon for the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, regarding the outlook on KD's prognosis:
"'It takes about a year to get all your strength back in that muscular complex,' she said in a telephone interview with Reuters.
'I think it’s fair to say athletes will put higher demands on it when it’s recovered, so that will take a longer time and some people will never feel totally the same after this injury.'
. . .
Recent history of NBA players who have ruptured an Achilles shows that they are out of action for about nine months on average.
So even if Durant makes a speedier-than-normal recovery, he is unlikely to be back much before the start of next season’s playoffs."
As for the possibility of Durant exercising his player option, ESPN NBA Analyst Brian Windhorst spoke on 'First Take' about the likelihood that he would opt-out and the impact the looming option has over his free agency:
"I don’t think it affects his free agency that much. It affects the league dramatically. I don’t know if he’s made up his mind yet, but talking to people around the league, the expectation is he will not pick up his player option."
So, the situation surrounding KD is still very unclear, but, should he decide to return to Golden State, the Dubs will need to find a short-term replacement. If he leaves, then the Warriors will have to think about their rapidly-closing championship-contention window. Finding someone to help fill the huge void at small forward that Durant would leave will prove difficult, if it comes to that. There are a couple of options: the ageless wonder, Andre Iguodala, would most likely be inserted into the starting unit. Key reserve Alfonzo McKinnie would move into a more meaningful backup position and 2018 first-round pick Jacob Evans would provide increased depth at both wing positions (SG and SF).
Now, concerning Klay Thompson, who is set to hit the market as a restricted free agent, there seems to be a general feeling that the Splash Brother is the more likely of the two injured stars to return to the team. In fact, Klay's father, former-Laker Mychal Thompson, reportedly stated that there's "no question" that his son will return to Golden State, according to The Chronicle's Connor Letourneau:
Just spoke with Klay Thompson's father, Mychal, who said there's "no question" Klay will re-sign with the Warriors. Golden State is expected to still offer him a full five-year maximum deal.— Connor Letourneau (@Con_Chron) June 14, 2019
If Thompson's father is right, the Warriors, again, would have to sign him and wait for the All-Star two-way shooting guard to get through a lengthy rehab process. While most outlets are reporting that there is no definite timetable for Klay's return, The Athletic's Anthony Slater offered a somewhat hopeful outlook:
Eight-ish months for an ACL tear, on the very low end recovery wise, is mid-February. Gotta figure Klay Thompson is out until at least the All-Star break, if not all next season.— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) June 14, 2019
Whatever the team decides to do, next season is going to be chaotic. With DeMarcus Cousins, Kevon Looney, and Quinn Cook possibly heading out via free agency, the Dubs would have to find a couple of "diamonds in the rough" to help them scrape by throughout most of the season. Were Thompson to re-sign, the best outlook would have the star-guard returning sometime around Christmas, which would undoubtedly push the team into legitimate playoff contention.
If KD were to re-sign, as well, the Dubs likely would see him until the 2020-'21 season. If both players end up shipping out, then things will be very dicey indeed for a team moving into a brand new home next season, at the Chase Center in San Francisco. Questions abound and answers are few at this point. Free Agency is set to open on June 30th. The picture will be much clearer once the Dubs' two injured stars make their long-awaited decisions on where they will spend the next few years of their respective careers.