The NBA Finals won’t resume until Thursday, when the Warriors host the Raptors in what will be the final NBA game at Oracle Arena. Golden State winning a big game isn’t a surprise, but the fact that they were able to extend the series despite both Kevin Durant (right Achilles) and Kevon Looney (chest) going down in Game 5 is a credit to the team. It was reported that Andre Iguodala had to tell Looney to stop playing after he re-aggravated his injury during the third quarter of Monday’s game, but the young center said that he expects to play in Game 6.
The same cannot be said for Durant, who went down with his right Achilles tendon injury during the second quarter. While the rest of the team headed back to Oakland, Durant travelled to New York to have his leg examined. There’s been no diagnosis given with regards to the severity of the injury, but it feels safe to assume that Durant will not play again in this series. The impact that a severe Achilles injury could have on free agency — with Durant set to be the headliner if he opts out of the final year of his deal — is a discussion for another day. With regards to Game 6, Golden State will need another solid performance from DeMarcus Cousins if they’re to force a Game 7.
Cousins, who missed more than a month after suffering a torn left quadriceps, put together his best effort of the NBA Finals Monday night. In just under 20 minutes of action he shot 6-of-8 from the field, scoring 14 points with six rebounds, one assist, one steal, one blocked shot and one three-pointer. While some have cited his plus/minus of minus-4 in discussing Cousins’ play, his contributions should not be ignored. He scored seven points in his first minute on the court, and finished the first half with nine points and five rebounds in just over six minutes played. He wasn’t great in the second half, but the first half production enabled Golden State to take a six-point lead into the intermission despite losing Durant.
Andrew Bogut got the call when Durant went down but ultimately gave way to Cousins as the Warriors needed more offensive production. With the Warriors now unable to go with the small ball “Hamptons Five” unit that started Game 5, Cousins could be in line to move back into the starting lineup Thursday night. If the champs are to get to a Game 7, they’ll need the Cousins that made an immediate impact Monday night to make another appearance.
Paul George undergoes another shoulder surgery
A little over a month after undergoing surgery to repair the torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, Thunder forward Paul George underwent a second surgical procedure on Tuesday. This one was to address a small tear in his left labrum, with the team saying in a release that he will be re-evaluated just before the start of training camp. It was reported in May by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Royce Young that the expectation was that George would at the very least miss the beginning of training camp.
Before missing three games in late-February/early-March due to the right shoulder injury, George was playing at a level that warranted MVP consideration. Up to the Thunder’s February 26 loss to the Nuggets, he was averaging 28.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 2.3 steals and 3.9 three-pointers per game, shooting 44.8% from the field, 39.8% from beyond the arc and 84.4% from the foul line. George was a top-3 player in both eight- and nine-category leagues in the 59 games he played through the end of February.
Following that game George would miss three straight due to the injury, and while the scoring average in his final 18 regular season appearances did not drop much (26.1 ppg) his percentages dropped to 40.4% from the field, 34.8% from three and 82.2% from the charity stripe. In these games PG13 was a top-15 player in nine-category leagues and a top-10 player in eight-category leagues, which is still nothing to scoff at. More won’t be known about his status for the start of the regular season until he’s re-evaluated ahead of training camp, but George is a must-have in all league formats.
Boston, Indiana, Utah possible trade destinations for Mike Conley
The Memphis Grizzlies finally filled their head coaching vacancy on Tuesday, with Bucks assistant Taylor Jenkins being hired. He’s the third “branch” of the Mike Budenholzer NBA coaching tree, with the first two being Utah’s Quin Snyder and Brooklyn’s Kenny Atkinson. The question now is who will all be on Jenkins’ first team in Memphis, with Jaren Jackson Jr. being a key building block and Murray State point guard Ja Morant expected by many to be the Grizzlies’ first round pick in next week’s NBA Draft. The status of veteran point guard Mike Conley, who was on the trade block ahead of February’s deadline, is what the team will need to address this summer.
He has one guaranteed season remaining on his contract (and a player option for 2020-21), and being a part of a lengthy rebuild may not be very appealing to Conley at this stage in his career. During ESPN’s NBA Mock Draft Special Tuesday night, Adrian Wojnarowski mentioned Boston, Indiana and Utah as teams that could be potential trade partners with the Grizzlies this summer. In the case of Boston, the future of Kyrie Irving will have a major impact on how involved they are in any move for an established point guard.
As for Indiana, Darren Collison and Cory Joseph will both be unrestricted free agents, which leaves Aaron Holiday and Edmond Sumner as point guards under contract for next season. Add in Victor Oladipo’s injury and Wesley Matthews also set to be an unrestricted free agent, and the Pacers need to be aggressive this summer when it comes to adding perimeter talent. Utah’s in an interesting spot, as Ricky Rubio said earlier this month that he’s been told by the franchise that he is not “priority number one” for the team in free agency. Adding a point guard that can also take some of the scoring pressure off of Donovan Mitchell is something the Jazz need to do if they’re to improve their standing in the West, and Conley can certainly help in that regard.
He was a top-25 player in both eight- and nine-category leagues this season, averaging 21.1 points, 6.4 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 2.2 three-pointers per game with shooting splits of 43.8/36.4/84.5. Conley played in 70 games in 2018-19, the first time he’s reached that number since the 2014-15 season.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist undergoes groin surgery
Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was limited to 64 games this season due to multiple injuries, but none of the 18 games missed were as a result of a groin issue. On Tuesday it was announced that he underwent surgery to address a chronic groin strain, with the seventh-year forward expected to be ready for training camp. The lack of production on the offensive end of the floor makes Kidd-Gilchrist a tough player to consistently rely on in fantasy leagues, as he hasn’t averaged double figures in a season in which he’s played at least 55 games since the 2014-15 campaign (10.9 ppg). He appeared in just seven games during the 2015-16 season due to a torn labrum in his right shoulder, averaging 12.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.3 assists per appearance.
This season Kidd-Gilchrist appeared in 64 games, starting three, and posted averages of 6.7 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.6 blocks and 0.5 steals in 18.4 minutes per game. From a percentage standpoint he shot 47.6% from the field, 34.0% from three and 77.2% from the foul line, with his 47 three-point attempts being more than he put up in the first six seasons of his NBA career combined (36). Charlotte has added some young wings to the mix in recent years in an attempt to get more offense at the position, most notably acquiring Miles Bridges (and two future second-round picks) in a draft-day trade with the Clippers (sending the draft rights to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the other direction) last summer.
Bridges was solid from March 1 on, averaging 9.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.6 blocks and 1.1 three-pointers with shooting splits of 49.7/35.3/76.9 in his final 21 appearances (all starts).
Contract-wise Kidd-Gilchrist has a decision to make this month, as he has a player option for the 2019-20 season worth $13 million. Given the injury and his likely market in free agency, it would not be a surprise if he picked up the option and played out the final year of his deal. But even with a return to full strength he’s unlikely to have much of an impact fantasy-wise, due in large part to the presence of Bridges.