The Stephen Curry injury changes everything.
Well, almost everything.
However, here is one thing that doesn't change due to the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player's Grade 1 MCL sprain, which is expected to sideline Curry a minimum of two weeks: The Golden State Warriors should remain the championship favorite.
Yeah, I know. Within minutes of the formal diagnosis Monday, public sentiment flipped to the San Antonio Spurs.
That explains why several Las Vegas casinos now list the Spurs as the betting favorite.
And, yeah, I also know that mathematics favor the Cleveland Cavaliers.
That is what tends to happen when you start your equation with the Cavaliers' virtual 100 percent probability of reaching the NBA Finals.
But looking at the big picture, it is interesting to note that Curry's injury probably won't impact any potential Warriors series against the Spurs or Cavaliers, presuming there is such a series.
That is because, according to the ultimate authority -- webmd.com -- the average recovery time from a Grade 1 MCL sprain is one to three weeks.
The Warriors already announced Curry would sit out two weeks and then get re-evaluated, so it is assured his recovery time will be on the north end of the spectrum.
But even a three-week absence means missing just one series, presuming the Warriors can eliminate Houston in one of the teams' next three matchups. The conference finals cannot start any earlier than May 15.
That is easy enough to answer in the affirmative when you consider the Warriors have the best depth in the league and can plug in a 181-game starter (Shaun Livingston) to run a show that still features two All-Stars and the reigning NBA Finals MVP.
Beating the Trail Blazers would appear to be a mere formality. Portland thumped Golden State good, 137-105, at home on Feb. 19, but that only served to make the Warriors mad.
Golden State won the next two meetings by 16 and 25, demonstrating these two teams don't belong on the same court.
Dealing with the Clippers without Curry might be another story. In fact, you could easily argue the Warriors are less likely to beat L.A. without their star than they would be to dispatch the Spurs or Cavaliers with him.
After all, a handicapped Warriors team lost a seven-game series to the Clippers when they faced each other in the 2014 playoffs.
Handicapped? Yep. Golden State was coached in that series by Mark Jackson.
Similar to their response to the shellacking by the Trail Blazers in February, the Warriors haven't forgotten about their first-round playoff exit at the hands of the Clippers. They have beaten L.A. seven of eight since then, including all four at home, where a potential matchup would start sometime in the next eight days.
No doubt, even without Curry, the Warriors would go into the Clippers series a significant favorite, based in large part on the home-court advantage.
And if the Warriors were to advance past the Western semifinals, get Curry back, and encounter any combination of the Spurs, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Cavaliers?
Those teams went a combined 1-8 against the Warriors this season, with Golden State avenging the lone loss (at San Antonio) with two subsequent victories.
So before jumping off the Warriors' bandwagon, consider this: Any bet on the Spurs, Thunder or Cavaliers is actually a bet on the Clippers.
And as the saying goes in Vegas: It is wagers like that that keep the lights burning bright.
DAVE DEL GRANDE'S FAVORITES TO WIN THE NBA TITLE
5. The field (odds: 25-to-1).
Picking a fifth team with a possibility to win the NBA championship after exhausting the Warriors, Cavaliers, Spurs and Thunder is like examining the possibility the sun won't rise in the East tomorrow. In other words, the odds should be a whole lot higher than 25-1. OK, gotta pick one ... Let's go with Miami. The Heat have been there before, have looked good in the first round, and they avoid Cleveland until the conference finals.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder (odds: 8-to-1).
You could trim those odds at least in half if it were the Thunder, not the Trail Blazers or Clippers, next up for the Warriors. But it isn't, so Oklahoma City, with a star player counting the days to board his one-way flight out of town, having to go through San Antonio, Golden State and Cleveland to win it all. It would be no surprise if the Thunder outlasted the Spurs, but that is the end of the road.
3. San Antonio Spurs (odds: 5-to-2).
Those are a whole lot better odds than you can get in Vegas, but this sportsbook isn't big on vigorish. Like the Thunder, the Spurs' road to the title has three impressive hurdles to scale, and frankly, half these guys can't jump anymore. Even if you want to fast-forward to the Finals, the Cavaliers played far superior ball down the stretch than the Spurs, and Cleveland will be the far more rested of the two, practically getting a bye to the Finals. And if San Antonio were to go seven against the Warriors in the Western finals, it probably would consider forfeiting Game 1 of the Finals just to catch its collective breath.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers (odds: 9-to-5).
America is falling in love with the wrong team in the wake of the Curry news. Sure, most of the Eastern playoffs have been utterly unwatchable. But while you weren't looking, the Cavaliers were gathering momentum. And they figure to be in high gear for the Finals. Today, they might be a slight underdog to the Spurs, but the Finals don't start today. They start well after the Spurs would have worked up quite a sweat just getting there. And wouldn't it be justice if the Cavaliers were to see the Warriors without Curry in the Finals, after having gone without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in last year's championship series?
1. Golden State Warriors (odds: 1-to-1).
One-to-one odds means it's a 50-50 proposition. I am assigning a 10 percent chance that Curry is still injured (or gets re-injured) entering the Finals, and 40 percent to the possibility the Clippers will have eliminated the Warriors in the second round. Otherwise, these guys steamrolled everybody all season, and there really is no reason to expect otherwise on history's doorstep.