Warriors Brief: How Chris Paul's Injury Changes the Western Conference Finals

It is incredibly disappointing to see the news that Chris Paul will not be available to play in Game 6, after going down with a hamstring injury late in Game 5 

Obviously the human element of him being in pain is unfortunate, but the entertainment value and suspense of the series has taken a big hit with this injury. To write off the Rockets, who as you may know still own a 3-2 lead in the series, would be foolish. But the Rockets are significantly worse without Paul. Fans of the NBA want to see the very best play, and Warriors fans should want to see their team compete against the very best.

If Paul were to not play in Game 7 as well or be hampered by his injury and the Warriors were to move on to the NBA Finals, many would be left wondering "what if". However, the Warriors and their fans should also have a good counter that is being overlooked. If Iguodala were to have played in Game 4 and Game 5, would the series have even made it to Game 6?

The Warriors lost by three points and four points in the games respectively, and one of the main focal points of those losses were subpar bench play and turnovers. Iguodala led the league in assist-to-turnover ratio in 2016 and is known on the Warriors as one of the best at securing the basketball and not giving it up. If Iguodala were to have played, the starters would not have been as taxed, the thin bench wouldn't have been used as much, and of course the Warriors would have had one of their best defenders on the court for over 30 minutes.

The big question is, isn't it fair to assume that Iguodala at the very least would have been worth three or four extra points in a game? It's another big "what if", but it seems like the series will end full of them.

The iso-heavy offense the Rockets have been displaying this whole season and series is going to be put to the test in Game 6

Paul has averaged a usage rate of 25.4 percent this series, second on the Rockets to James Harden at 35.7 percent. Especially when Harden is out of the game, Paul is usually the player handling the ball and having a switched big man (or Steph Curry) forced to guard him. That usage will now have to be divided probably between Eric Gordon and even more James Harden. Gordon is not close to the ball handler that Paul is, and adding even more usage to Harden can be very taxing. Expect the Warriors to force Harden and Gordon to expend energy on the defensive end to wear their legs down even more on offense.

It is clear that the Rockets' offense is going to change dramatically without Paul, but the biggest hit to their strategy may come in their depth

As of now, the Rockets use primarily seven players in their rotation: Harden, Paul, Ariza, Gordon, Capela, Tucker, Green. Without Paul, they will have to turn to either Mbah a Moute, who cannot shoot due to a lingering injury, or Ryan Anderson, Nene, and Joe Johnson, all of whom can be exploited on defense. The Rockets have not been shooting well this entire series, mostly due to exceptional Warriors defense, so instead of relying on their historically good regular season offense, they have been riding their tough and overwhelming defense. This Paul loss not only removes one of their best on-ball defenders, but now forces the Rockets to include a player that will be a weakness on one or both sides of the ball.

Game 1Warriors 119, Rockets 106
Game 2Rockets 127, Warriors 105
Game 3Warriors 126, Rockets 85
Game 4Rockets 95, Warriors 92
Game 5Rockets 98, Warriors 94
Game 6Oakland -- Saturday, May 26th at 6pm
Game 7Houston -- Monday, May 28th at 6pm
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