The NBA Playoffs are upon us. While there are only a few teams truly in contention for the championship, many teams have faced long-term injuries from their superstars, such as Kawhi Leonard with the San Antonio Spurs or Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving with the Boston Celtics. Injury issues could resurface if teams struggle to succeed over the next two months. The DC Sports Section debates which injury this NBA season was the most impactful in this edition of the Roundtable.
Matt Barresi – Staff Writer
It’s not just Celtics bias, I promise. The loss of Kyrie Irving in Boston will end up being this season’s most impactful injury. Irving was sensational this year, and so were the Celtics. At times they had grips on the No. 1 overall seed despite a major roster overhaul and losing Hayward early on. With the Cavs weak, the 76ers raw, and the Raptors proven chokers, the Eastern conference was theirs. This is the same team to beat and compete with title favorites, the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors. If they got to the NBA Finals, they were going to make some noise. Now, that seems incredibly unlikely. The Warriors are still worldbeaters, even without Steph. The Spurs were going to be capped by the Rockets and Warriors even if they had Kawhi. Boogie Cousins and the Pels were always first round fodder. The Celtics were true championship contenders and Irving’s knee robbed them. I don’t think you can say the same for anyone else.
Sean Janos – Campus Correspondent
The most impactful injury this season has been the Stephen Curry injury. The two time league MVP has been on and off the court all season and missed a total of 31 games this regular season. Warriors coach Steve Kerr has already ruled Curry out for the first round of the playoffs. Now I know what you’re thinking, the Warriors still captured the two seed in the West and will still crush anyone they face in the first, and even second rounds of the playoffs, if Curry has to miss extended time. I don’t think this is the case. The Warriors aren’t even close to unstoppable without the alpha splash brother. The Warriors are 6-10 (37.5 win percentage) since Curry went down on March 9. That includes losses to the Kings, Bucks and Jazz (twice). They are 41-10 (80.3 percent) this season in games that he plays, including wins against the Celtics, Cavs (twice) and Raptors (twice). That difference in win percentage is a staggering 42.8 percent. Even with all of the talent that Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green have, Curry is undoubtedly the team’s leader, and they look lost without him. I’m not going to say that they’re in shambles, but the reigning world champs are certainly struggling without the heart of their team.
Andrew Au – Campus Correspondent
I believe the most impactful injury to an NBA team this season is both Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward for the Boston Celtics. The Celtics had a legitimate chance of reaching the Eastern Conference finals this postseason even without Hayward, but the injury to Kyrie really hampered things for them. The Celtics have played very well all season with Kyrie leading the way, with impactful play of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, as well as the tremendous coaching of Brad Stevens. They are one of the best defensive teams in the league, and played an efficient all around game this season with 54 wins and second place in the Eastern Conference. I believed they had a legitimate chance at dethroning Lebron and the Cavs for the Eastern conference title with a healthy Kyrie. Although I believe the Cavs would still make it to the Finals, having both a healthy Gordon and Kyrie, the Celtics would most definitely be the favorites to come out of the East. They could still get out of the first round of the playoffs, but it will be very tough to get any further without an experienced leader on offense who can single-handedly take over games. Hopefully next season Kyrie and Gordon are 100 both percent and can take another stab at making a run to the Finals.
Matt Severino – Campus Correspondent
It is hard to believe that the San Antonio Spurs managed to clinch a postseason berth this week for the 21st time in a row. What makes continuing that streak even more impressive is the fact that they were able to do it without Kawhi Leonard. The former Defensive Player of the Year and Finals MVP has appeared in nine games this season due to a quadricep injury. The problem for the Spurs hasn’t been a lack of superstar level play. LaMarcus Aldridge has played like his old self, putting the entire team on his back and carrying them into the playoffs. Unfortunately for coach Gregg Popovich, the best two teams in the NBA this season are the Warriors and the Rockets, both of which are also in the West. With a healthy Leonard in the lineup, the Spurs would have a fighting chance against those two teams. San Antonio’s season was ended abruptly last year when Zaza went all WWE on Leonard in the Western Conference Finals, causing him to miss the remainder of the season. Aldridge’s resurgence paired with a healthy and explosive Klaw would have the potential to wreak havoc on the Western Conference.
Story Salit – Campus Correspondent
The horrific injury that Gordon Hayward sustained on opening night against the Cavs changed the entire course of the season for the Celtics and the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference. Not only did the gruesome injury take the air out of a hyped up TD Garden, it had an effect on the Celtics roster and playing style for the remainder of the year. Although the injury was devastating, Hayward’s extended absence has allowed young players like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier to develop far quicker than they were expected to this season. The Celtics have been a lockdown defensive unit all year with a cohesive, well-rounded scoring punch on offense led by Kyrie Irving. With Irving now out injured, the Celtics are a team that appears susceptible to scoring droughts and somewhat lost on offense without a go-to scorer, leaving them at risk of an early exit in the playoffs. Hayward, who averaged 22 points per game last season, could have filled the role as a second high-end scoring option. The season is not over for this Celtics squad who simply won’t quit, but having Hayward and Kyrie back with an already solid young core has me very excited for next season as a C’s fan.