Thursday was an off day in the NBA Finals, with both teams going through light sessions in front of the media at Oracle Arena. Ahead of Friday’s Game 4 the health of Warriors stars Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson was the most often discussed topic, and while there was some good news regarding the status of Thompson the same cannot be said for Kevin Durant. Away from the game action the big news in the Finals was the year-long ban and $500,000 fine handed down to Warriors investor (and former minority owner) Mark Stevens for his shove of Kyle Lowry (and profane language directed towards the point guard) during the second half of Toronto’s Game 3 victory.
Below is a look at some of the big on-court issues heading into Game 4, followed by a look at the trade that Atlanta and Brooklyn came to terms on.
Klay Thompson is expected to return Friday night
Thompson was ruled out for Game 3 after straining his left hamstring during the fourth quarter of Golden State’s Game 2 victory over the Raptors, and the Warriors missed his presence on both ends of the floor. Without both Thompson and Kevin Durant, Golden State needed more from the supporting cast in Game 3 but the production wasn’t there. Stephen Curry scored 47 points with eight rebounds, seven assists, two steals and six 3-pointers Wednesday night, but only two other Warriors starters finished the game in double figures. Draymond Green added 17 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and two 3-pointers, and Andre Iguodala finished with 11 points, six rebounds, three assists, one steal and two triples.
DeMarcus Cousins, who played well in his 28 minutes on Sunday, struggled mightily and finished with four points, three rebounds, two assists and one steal in 19 minutes. Outside of the three double figure scorers only one other player, Quinn Cook, managed to score nine points. Golden State will need more from the supporting cast Friday night, whether Thompson plays or not. But the bigger issue for Golden State in Game 3 was the team’s defense, as Toronto finished the game with an offensive rating of 124.2. All five Raptors starters finished the game in double figures, led by Kawhi Leonard (30 points, seven rebounds, six assists, two steals, two blocks and two 3-pointers in 38 minutes), and Fred VanVleet added 11 points, three boards, two assists, three steals and three 3-pointers off the bench.
During the postseason Golden State has a defensive rating of 111.1, nearly three points higher than the number they produced during the regular season (108.5). In the two games Toronto has won, Nick Nurse’s team has posted an offensive rating of at least 121.6, with that number dropping to 103.0 in Golden State’s lone victory. Thompson is capable of defending both guards and wings, and without him the Warriors struggle to keep both Leonard and Pascal Siakam under wraps. In addition to that, players such as Kyle Lowry and Danny Green were able to step up offensively Wednesday night with the latter shooting 6-of-8 from beyond the arc. Thompson’s averaging 1.4 steals and 0.8 blocks per game to go along with his offensive numbers, and he’s a player the Warriors can’t afford to play without with the aforementioned Durant still out of the lineup.
Ahead of Game 3 it was reported that there was a possibility that Durant, who’s been out of the lineup since straining his right calf during the Houston series, would be able to play Friday night. But he’s still yet to be fully cleared for on-court work, and during Thursday’s media availability Steve Kerr ruled out his star forward for Game 4. And there’s been no determination as to whether or not Durant will be able to play at all during the Finals.
"There were no setbacks," Kerr said. "I was hoping that today would be the day when he could get out on the floor. It's probably going to be tomorrow, the following day, the next couple of days."
Durant’s absence has a significant impact on both ends of the court. It goes without saying that the Warriors miss his offensive production, but his size and shot blocking ability makes him an asset defensively as well. With Toronto having Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam to call upon at the forward spots, being shorthanded at those positions can stress a defense especially when the latter is on his game. More will be learned about Durant’s status for the remainder of the series in the coming days, but time is of the essence with the reigning champions trailing two games to one.
The news regarding center Kevon Looney, who suffered a non-displaced first costal cartilage fracture during Game 2, was a bit more positive. It was originally believed that Looney’s collarbone was the issue, but according to NBC Sports Bay Area’s Logan Murdock the sternum and ribs were injured. And apparently, this is an injury that Looney could potentially play with. No timetable has been given with regards to how much time he’ll have to miss, but this is a more important personnel loss than it may appear to be a first glance. In the postseason Looney’s averaging 3.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists in just over ten minutes per game. The numbers aren’t impressive, but Looney was the Warriors’ best option at center when DeMarcus Cousins was out with a torn quadriceps muscle.
Cousins doesn’t look ready to log major minutes at this point, as Game 1 of this series was his first action since the injury. And veteran Andrew Bogut can be productive in spurts, but the 22 minutes he logged in Game 3 are the most he’s played since Game 3 of the first round. Looney may not be available for Game 4, but if he can return at some point that would certainly help the Warriors. While Golden State is banged up, Toronto had no such health issues to address on Thursday.
Hawks and Nets make a deal, exchanging wings and draft picks
There was a trade on Thursday, as Brooklyn is sending Allen Crabbe, the 17th overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft and a 2020 lottery-protected first round pick to Atlanta in exchange for Taurean Prince and a second round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. While there are fantasy implications for both players, Brooklyn made this move for salary cap relief. Getting Crabbe’s contract, which will pay him $18.5 million next season, off the books gives the Nets an estimated $46 million in cap room for free agency.
Brooklyn, which also holds the Bird rights for point guard D’Angelo Russell, is positioning itself to possibly add two high-level free agents this summer. Russell will be a restricted free agent this summer, meaning that the team can match any offer he receives from another team. There's still more work to be done when it comes to freeing up cap space, but the Nets are in a much better position to do so with the trade.
It’s been reported that the Nets could be a viable option for Kyrie Irving, who will be an unrestricted free agent when he (as expected) opts out of the final year of his contract with Boston, and Thursday’s trade gives the franchise the room needed to upgrade the roster. As for the Hawks, they now have three first-round (eighth, tenth and 17th) and six total picks in this month’s NBA Draft. That likely sets up Atlanta to make other deals, with an eye towards moving up in the draft order. Crabbe is going into the final season of his contract, so in that regard this trade isn’t a major risk from a salary cap standpoint.
Crabbe appeared in just 43 games this season due to injury, averaging 9.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 2.3 three-pointers per game with shooting splits of 36.7% from the field, 37.8% from three and 73.2% from the foul line this season. The knee issues did him no favors this season, but he did average a career-best 13.2 points per game in 2017-18. He’ll look to get back on track in Atlanta.
As for Prince, he averaged 13.5 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.0 steals and 2.2 three-pointers per game in 2018-19, shooting 44.1% from the field, 39.0% from three and 81.9% from the foul line. Prince will make a little over $3.48 million next season as he’s still on his rookie contract. How he’ll factor into the Nets’ plans once this trade becomes official in July remains to be seen, but at the very least GM Sean Marks added a solid wing option at an affordable price while improving the team’s financial outlook.