Does Kevin Durant make Golden State Warriors Unbeatable?
They will need to play the 2016-17 NBA season, but after Monday’s seismic event, many will wonder why bother.
Yes, Kevin Durant opting to leave Oklahoma City for the already-lethal Golden State Warriors has made the upcoming season look a bit academic.
After all, two-time reigning MVP Steph Curry now gets the previous MVP winner, a four-time scoring champ (they have won 5-of-7 scoring titles since 2009-10 between them), perhaps the only player as unguardable as he is. Of course, the Warriors also boast the league’s most versatile two-way threat in Draymond Green, another lethal shooter in Klay Thompson and do-everything former Finals MVP Andre Iguodala.
Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli won’t be back, but, so what?
A team that won a record 73 games and led the league in points, field goal and three-point percentage just added a first-ballot Hall of Famer in the prime of his career. And Durant emerged as a defender this season as well.
We thought LeBron James and Chris Bosh joining Dwyane Wade in Miami was a ground-shifter for the ages, but this decision makes The Decision look like just a ripple, compared to the Durant tsunami.
“The primary mandate I had for myself in making this decision was to have it based on the potential for my growth as a player — as that has always steered me in the right direction,” Durant wrote in the Players’ Tribune.
“But I am also at a point in my life where it is of equal importance to find an opportunity that encourages my evolution as a man: moving out of my comfort zone to a new city and community which offers the greatest potential for my contribution and personal growth.”
While Warriors supporters have run the gamut from elation to bitter disappointment after rallying from a 3-1 deficit in the Western Conference Finals, only to blow a 3-1 lead of its own against Cleveland to lose the championship, Oklahoma City has to be reeling.
The Thunder couldn’t close out the Warriors, which would have made the team the heavy favourite to beat Cleveland and then bring back its biggest star, who has been with the franchise since its move from Seattle. Instead, Golden State pulled off both that epic comeback and snatched away Durant.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. The Thunder dealt away James Harden years ago for peanuts in order to make sure Durant and Russell Westbrook would be compensated well enough to stay long-term. The NBA locked out its players in part to try to make the league more competitive, to give every franchise an equal shot at building quality squads and retaining talent.
That hasn’t happened and, in the biggest slap in the face to the league’s dream of competitive balance possible, an already historic group gets the boost of a lifetime in landing Durant.
Westbrook can bolt the Thunder in a year and has always been connected to his hometown Lakers.
“It really pains me to know that I will disappoint so many people with this choice, but I believe I am doing what I feel is the right thing at this point in my life and my playing career,” Durant wrote.
He will sign for two years and $54.3 million, but will opt out next summer in order to sign a bigger, longer pact. Golden State will not have his Bird Rights, which will make it more difficult to pay for an even scarier supporting cast around the existing group but, as noted, there should be more than enough on hand to be the favourites for years to come and ownership will gladly foot the luxury tax dues that will enter the picture down the line.
The only question now is whether the Warriors shift from lovable entertainers to stacked heels. There was already a bit of a shift in the way Curry and Green were perceived this past season.
Six years ago, Durant, long one of the most likeable and marketable players, tweeted: “Now everybody wanna play for the heat and the Lakers? Let’s go back to being competitive and going at these peoples!”