Kawhi Leonard | San Antonio Spurs

Kawhi Leonard’s ankle injury has sadly removed any remaining suspense as to whether or not the Warriors are likely to coast into the Conference Finals (Mark Runyon/Creative Commons).

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In this two-part episode, The StartersTas Melas joins us to discuss the league’s biggest storylines, such as the highly anticipated third straight Warriors-Cavaliers Finals matchup, the Celtics’ rapid and robust rebuild and Paul George and Gordon Hayward not qualifying for max extensions. But first, Paul Garcia of Project Spurs and Analyzing the League stops by to detail the incredible impact Kawhi Leonard’s injury has had and will continue to have on San Antonio’s prospects of upsetting the mighty Warriors. If you need to get in the mood, peep a handful of excerpted quotes below:

Paul Garcia: 8:45-9:28: “If there’s one lineup I think that can work, it’s [Dewayne] Dedmon at the 5. The only problem with that, which is why Pop hasn’t really been playing him, is that he slows down the ship on offense. He can’t shoot from the outside, he’s obviously just a rim runner, but defenses are good enough in the playoffs are good enough to take that away… They can try to go small… but they don’t have a team built to play small. They have a team built to play big, so that’s something they have trouble with. And the Warriors haven’t even thrown out their best stuff yet.”

PG: 13:31-13:47: “Based on their track record, they’re going to respond. Whether they win or lose, they’re definitely going to put up a fight in Game 3; that’s with or without Kawhi. I think you’re going to see a different San Antonio team…It could become a blowout, but at least initially, it won’t be like ‘This game was over in the first quarter.’”

PG: 16:19-16:35: “Another thing that nobody’s talking about is that you see the absence of Tony Parker as well. There’s really three ball handlers who can kind of penetrate the defense off the pick and roll and get into the paint for San Antonio, and that’s Kawhi, Tony Parker and Jonathon Simmons. The Spurs are without two of those guys, and Simmons has only become that in these last two series.”

Tas Melas: 41:18-42:08: “I think LeBron is at his peak powers right now. Those three [2016 NBA Finals] games, Games 5, 6 and 7, elevated him to another level where he’s just running over teams now. He didn’t used to do this. He’s had incredible playoff performances, but he didn’t really steamroll, he didn’t really come out of the locker room and just dominate in every aspect of the game. I think he’s the best version of himself, the most comfortable he’s ever been with himself…That’s why this series [the likely Cavaliers-Warriors Finals matchup] is so promising. This is, again, peak LeBron versus pretty close to peak Curry and peak Durant.”

TM: 55:31-56:15: “A smaller-market team has far more power, because they can offer more money to the guys that they currently have on the roster using the Larry Bird rights. Love that. But the fact that it [maximum contract size] is tied to things on the résumé [All-NBA designations], it doesn’t really make much sense. So the fact that he [Paul George] didn’t make an All-NBA team, either of those guys [George or Gordon Hayward], it leads you to believe that there’s more of a chance that the Lakers can obtain Paul George because the money isn’t all that different…It doesn’t make sense to me. I think it’s time they disconnect those two factors.”

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Music: “Who Likes to Party” by Kevin MacLeod