Wow. Take a moment to let this decision set in. The scope of the NBA has changed for the next five years, and it all happened with a simple article in the Players’ Tribune by Kevin Durant on the Fourth of July. The straightforward and uncomplicated statement “I have decided that I am going to join the Golden State Warriors,” has provided an enormous impact that has left the rest of the NBA Thunderstruck (yes, the pun was indeed intended). This unprecedented move involving a superstar flocking to a team that was considered to be one of the greatest ever is inconceivable and only possible in the MyGM portion of NBA2K16. More than inconceivable, it is disgusting. This leaves a horrible taste in the collective mouths of all NBA fans as the competition has been diminished and limited to two teams. In order to truly comprehend and realize the gravity of the situation, it is important to analyze what the Warriors gained, what the Thunder lost, and the legacy of Kevin Durant.
Before I discuss the obvious impact of Kevin Durant joining the 73-9 Warriors, let me take a minute to send my deepest condolences to the Dallas Mavericks and their fan base. If I told a Dallas fan this time last year that they would add two starters from the defending NBA champions to their roster, their elation would be short-lived once I inform them that these two acquisitions are Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes. These are two really good defensive players and they will certainly improve the Mavericks lineup, but they are not going to take them to the promise land. Now, let us move right to the man of the summer. The Durantula. The Slim Reaper. The Servant. T.U.B (The Ultimate Band-wagoner). Fair or not, Kevin Durant was faced with the difficult challenge of going up against the juggernaut Warriors for the next few years, and he chose the easiest option that was on the table. He decided to sign on to an already stacked team that features the greatness of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. Durant is an obvious mega-upgrade over a Harrison Barnes who looked downright pitiful and lost in the NBA Finals, and losing Andrew Bogut to the Mavericks (for Durant) won’t make Warriors fans lose sleep at night. The Warriors will be able to go from the “Death” lineup to an “Eradication of All Opponents” lineup with Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, and Draymond Green in the front-court. This team is unbeatable on paper, and Durant should be able to easily adjust to their system as his unselfish personality will bid him well with a team who prides themselves on assists. Unless a major injury occurs, we could essentially simulate the NBA season and the Western Conference Playoffs as no team will have a chance against this stellar crew of players. Although NBA fans will get the rematch of the previous two Finals that we are expecting, a part of me feels dispirited about how we will arrive to that inevitable conclusion. I want to see drama and suspense in the postseason. I want to see a Warriors team down 3-1 and claw their way back to a series victory like they did last year. I want to see a second round matchup that is contested and worthy of my viewership. Unfortunately, it seems like Golden State can sweep or easily knockout any opponent in the NBA in a seven game series with the addition of Kevin Durant.
Photo courtesy of Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
The 2016-2017 NBA campaign will be the saddest year Thunder fans have experienced in their eight year history in Oklahoma City. They are losing a person who grew up as a kid right before their eyes and someone who has always been loyal to their fan base and the Oklahoma community. Although Kevin looks softer than Charmin by fleeing to the Bay Area, no one can deny his philanthropy and commitment to Oklahoma City. Whether it was delivering a Finals berth in 2012, or his generous 1 million dollar donation to relief after the 2013 tornado in Oklahoma, Durant has been loyal to a community he said raised him. It will be hard to watch Kevin Durant wear another uniform, but Russell Westbrook will surely enjoy the limelight as the sole superstar on the court. There is a chance, a slight chance, that Westbrook takes approximately 50 shots per game, averages 40 points per game, and records 82 triple-doubles throughout the duration of the season. Of course, these are exaggerated figures, but there is no doubt that Russell will enjoy the ability to possess the ball throughout the game without having another mega-star to share it with. Although Russell Westbrook will have a greater opportunity to display his gifted talents in a contract year, the Thunder will struggle as a team to do any damage next year. In the best case scenario, the additions of Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, along with the development of Enes Kanter and Steven Adams, will propel the Thunder to a seventh seed in the playoffs and a first round exit to San Antonio. The Thunder organization has had some bad luck when it comes to injuries and star players leaving, but they will be banking on the 2017 free agency and development of recent draft picks as a part of their rebuilding process.
Photo courtesy of Mark D. Smith, USA TODAY Sports
Heading into last season, the perceived notion in the league was that Oklahoma City will be the biggest threat to Golden State capturing multiple titles for the next five or six years due to their youth and extreme talent. Although Durant was a possibility, Bob Myers and the Warriors organization knew realistically that they needed to use this summer to add players that would help them continue their playoff success against the Thunder. Kevin Durant, a major component in the lethalness of Oklahoma City, left the same team the Warriors were trying to overcome in the playoffs. Since he made this decision, his legacy will not be viewed as him helping Golden State overcome that obstacle; instead, it will be viewed as him merely removing that roadblock for the Warriors. Had Durant stayed with Oklahoma City or even gone to San Antonio to help one of those two teams defeat the Warriors in the playoffs, his legacy would have been analyzed with much more respect and would be held in higher regard. When two roads diverged in free agency, Kevin Durant chose the one most traveled by for a superstar in pursuit of the elusive first championship. Now that he bowed out to join the Splash Fam and play second fiddle to the two-time reigning league MVP, Durant will be known in basketball history as a ring chaser.
Quote and knowledge of Kevin Durant joining Golden State is courtesy of the Players’ Tribune
Illustration for the Featured Image is courtesy of Ishaan Mishra of Bleacher Report