If Kevin Durant Is Out, the Warriors Would No Longer Be NBA Championship Favorites

If Durant's knee injury keeps him out for the rest of the season and the playoffs, Golden State's title odds would plummet.

The Golden State Warriors got a big scare last night when Zaza Pachulia fell on Kevin Durant's leg.

Durant originally left the game with what was called a hyperextension, but a lot of people immediately began fearing that it was an even worse injury than first reported and that there would be a long recovery period.

That's not great news for the odds-on title favorites and their MVP candidate.

Today, an MRI gave us a bit more clarity on KD's status:

MCL sprains and bone bruises don't scream "surgery," so KD and the Warriors may have dodged a bullet (or at least a scalpel) here.

With four weeks to go before Durant is re-evaluated, the Warriors should still have a shot at maintaining their four-game lead for first in the Western Conference (they still have three All-Stars, including a two-time MVP, if you've forgotten). Not to mention, they could very well have Durant back before the end of the season and going into the playoffs, if the current timetable holds up.

But let's imagine the worst-case scenario here. What if the Warriors were without Durant for the remainder of the regular season and the entirety of the postseason? I know it's a scary thought, Dubs fans, but bear with me.

According to our algorithms, losing Durant for the rest of the regular season wouldn't actually be that bad for the Warriors.

Their Team nERD -- a team ranking on a scale from 0-100, with 50 as the league average, that is predictive of a team's ultimate winning percentage -- is so high that even losing the league leader in individual nERD would only cost them a win or so.

Situation Wins Losses W/L%
Current Record 50.00 10.00 .833
Projected Record With Kevin Durant 65.68 16.32 .801
Projected Record Without Kevin Durant 64.52 17.48 .787

Phew, right?

Well, not so fast. It might not mean that much for the remainder of the regular season because they are so much better than most of the teams they'll face, with or without Durant. When it comes to the playoffs, however, when they'll be matched up against other contenders every single night?

Well, Durant's impending absence could have a major impact on the playoff picture if he's not able to come back.

Here is how the championship odds look today for the top-five teams in the league, in a world where Durant didn't get hurt last night and could play from the very next game until the end of the postseason.

Team Championship %
1 Golden State Warriors 40.90%
2 San Antonio Spurs 22.40%
3 Cleveland Cavaliers 16.80%
4 Toronto Raptors 4.55%
5 Los Angeles Clippers 4.50%

The Warriors went into last night with a healthy Durant and very high odds of being the 2016-17 NBA Champions. Their championship percentage was north of 40% and nearly double that of the next closest competitor, something we rarely see around these parts.

Remove Durant from the equation, and suddenly the playing field starts to look far more level. In fact, the Warriors fall behind two other teams -- the San Antonio Spurs and the Cleveland Cavaliers -- in terms of championship odds.

Team Championship %
1 San Antonio Spurs 29.35%
2 Cleveland Cavaliers 22.70%
3 Golden State Warriors 20.85%
4 Los Angeles Clippers 6.30%
5 Toronto Raptors 6.10%

So, let's just say that the Warriors will need Durant back and healthy to have their best shot at winning a title this year. That might seem obvious, but some pundits and fans today will likely talk about the Warriors' title team from two years ago, throw around names like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green and try to convince you that the Warriors would still be heavy title favorites without Durant.

Our math says otherwise.

Get well soon, KD.