Losing David Lee for the remainder of the season to a torn right hip flexor deals a huge blow to the Golden State Warriors' playoff chances against the Denver Nuggets. While Lee's defense has always been an issue, it will be tough to make up for the loss of his offensive contributions and his work on the glass. Lee led the NBA in double-doubles this season, racking up 56 of them.
The effect Lee has on the offense is especially clear when you look at the Warriors' performance with him on the floor as opposed to on the bench. Ben Golliver noted over at Sports Illustrated that Golden State's offensive rating plummets from 106.2 to 98.7 when Lee sits and that he's a part of the team's top-nine most-used lineups.
So now Mark Jackson has a decision to make for Game 2 and moving forward. Jackson has a few options, and the fact that Nuggets power forward Kenneth Faried is returning from a sprained left ankle will likely have an effect on who he chooses.
Let's take a look at those options.
Landry seems like the most likely choice, especially with Faried coming back. Landry started two games this season that Lee missed, averaging 14.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in 33.5 minutes. On the season, Landry averaged 10.8 points and 6.0 rebounds while shooting 54.0 percent from the field. However, Jackson may want to keep Landry coming off the bench for continuity's sake.
If Jackson wants to keep Landry on the bench, he could go with Green to help match the energy of Faried. Green played just four minutes in the Game 1 loss and played just 13.4 minutes per game this season, but the Warriors' defense does improve when he's on the court.
While Ezeli is more of a center, Jackson could still decide to go with the bigger player in order to replace Lee's rebounding. Ezeli played just six minutes in Game 1, but he did average 4.0 rebounds in 14.4 minutes during the regular season.
The Warriors could play some small ball and slide Barnes to the 4, although that move does not make as much sense with Faried coming back and replacing Wilson Chandler. Barnes matches up pretty well against Chandler, but he would have a lot of trouble keeping Faried off the glass. It still is an intriguing option, and one that should be explored if things do not go well.