After 42 games the Golden State Warriors face their first significant injury challenge of the year as David West is expected to be out 3-6 weeks with a fractured thumb.
Clearly, West is not the first player one considers as crucial looking at the Warriors' star studded roster.
But he plays a key role as an experienced "big" who plays well with the second unit and brings a veteran presence to the team.
David West is sidelined with a thumb injury. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
In some ways the injury may be a blessing in disguise, as the 36 year old West gets a mid-season rest (with plenty of time to round back into form before the playoffs start) and Steve Kerr gets an opportunity to tinker with his rotation and experiment with different line up combinations.
Who is in line to see an increase in playing time during West's absence?
Zaza Pachulia is the starter and could see a bump in his minutes. In fact he already has, as his season average is 18.6 minutes per contest and in January he has averaged 22.3 minutes. Pachulia is a free agent after this season and the 32 year old is making just under $3 million this season.
JaVale McGee could see an increase in his role. In just eight minutes per game this year, he is averaging 5.3 points and 2.4 rebounds per game - numbers that translate to 23.7 points and 11 rebounds per 36 minutes. He is also dunking the ball at a furious clip. The 28 year old McGee is also only under contract through the end of this season, making $1.4 million.
Anderson Varejao is the forgotten man on the Warriors' bench. The 34 year old has appeared in just 11 of the first 42 games. If Kerr wants to increase Varejao's game activities the chance is now. His contract also expires this summer and he makes just $1.5 million.
Kevon Looney is a second year big who appeared in just five games last season. This year he has appeared in 32 games, averaging 8.3 minutes. He makes just $1.2 million this season is under the team's contractual control for two more seasons. So this may be a great chance to speed up the 20 year old's development.
Damian Jones is a rookie from Vanderbilt who has played in just one game this year, spending the bulk of his time in Santa Cruz averaging 7.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. If the team wants to get him some NBA reps this season, the time is right. The 21 year old is under team control through 2020.
In sum, the team has plenty of options to replace West's 11.5 minutes per game. The chance to get a better look at the young prospects Looney and Jones in increased game action may prove to be the silver lining to West's injury. forbes