Decision 2016…Haven’t we Been Here Before? (Durant to Golden State)
By: Aaron J. Pellot
Kevin Durant, has made his decision, deciding to join the Golden State Warriors (Say it out loud…it’s still kind of weird). Durant’s decision, although rumored in late story lines, still seems surprising. It was less than 3 months ago, the Oklahoma City Thunder were up 3–1 on the Golden State Warriors, and 48 minutes away from the NBA Finals. Now, on Independence Day 2016, (the day Will Smith saved us from aliens) Durant announced he’s joining the team he was so close to defeating.
Some love the move, and like usual, there are many who hate the move. I happen to quite enjoy Durant’s decision, for a few reasons. Some like Stephen A. Smith call Durant’s decision cowardly, and “the weakest move he’s seen from a superstar”, and fans in Oklahoma City have already started burning his jersey, but the critics couldn’t be more wrong. Critics bring up Durant’s old tweets, as if seven years of losing doesn’t change things. Durant’s decision, to join the Warriors, isn’t weak, it isn’t a cop-out, and you can even argue it wasn’t necessarily an “easy” one.
What fans fail to realize is that Durant’s choice of work, as some have said isn’t an indictment on his personality/character. Sam Presti [Oklahoma City GM] was completely right in his press conference Monday, when he said Durant “earned his right to leave”. That is in fact what free agency is, correct? Where fans make the mistake, is correlating what fans want, with what players want. Being upset he left, and joining the Warriors….is really a YOU problem. Being upset because Durant didn’t take the option YOU wanted him to, isn’t a reflection of Durant. It can’t be both ways, the public criticize guys like Carmelo, for staying and taking the money in New York, but then hate Durant’s decision to leave for a better opportunity.
The anger is misplaced, for a multitude of reasons. The NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, with the rising salary cap, has allowed this to happen (which may cause a lock out in 2017). Some argue this season is a two horse race, but the gap between the elite and bottom feeders has always been wide. There is a difference between teams whom actually contend, and those who are just entertaining, most people just don’t accept it. Players leave, it happens. The formation of “super teams” may be upsetting for some, but they sure as hell can be entertaining. Durant leaving doesn’t hurt the NBA, his decision gives the media a new story line, and fans, potentially a new villain. It’s not LeBron, as CBS NBA writer Matt Moore, stated below:
But it doesn’t have to be LeBron. It doesn’t have to be Miami’s Big Three, or the Celtics’, or any of the “super teams” from the past. This is different, because it’s always different. The Warriors were already changing basketball, but the 2017 line up has the potential to change basketball in a way we have never seen before. It’s not hard to assume how open the lane will be with Thompson, Curry, and Draymond on the wing, leaving the lane open for 7 foot elite shooter (who is possibly the best iso player in the game). Durant won’t get as many jab-step isos he had in Oklahoma City, and the points of Curry and Thompson will potentially go down, but as Zach Lowe stated, “Klay Thompson may never have to dribble again” . Spacing on the floor, and the amount of open shots, makes this an advance analytic wet dream. The loss of Andrew Bogut (and potentially Festus Ezeli) definitely hurts defensively, and the Warriors did get smaller with the acquisition of Durant, which ultimately hurt them throughout the whole playoffs, but it may not matter. Veteran big men will sign for cheap, as we have seen with Zaza Pachulia, and the roster will be built.
This will work, because the Warriors “Strength in Numbers” mentality is what has made them so successful before. I may be an optimist, but the battle of egos may not be as big of a problem as some critics assume, especially if you read the story lines of the relationships of Green and Curry [with Durant] making this happen. Draymond Green may be the least talked about x-factor of next season. If Draymond can accept being the “fourth option”, even after being second in triple doubles this season, this team can be something special. I don’t think they touch 73–9, but it won’t matter, where Durant helps, is especially in the postseason. The amount of minutes each one of the Warriors has to play will be reduced. The fatigue and lack of speed you saw from the Warriors late in the postseason may not be an issue this time around. Barring injury, the 2016–17 season may be a special one. Nothing is promised, as we just saw with a 73–9 historic run, but adding Kevin Durant surely doesn’t hurt the Warriors odds of winning it all. Durant joining the Warriors will be polarizing forever, but none of that matters if they win, because winning cures everything.
Credit: ESPN, Twitter, Sports Illustrated..all in respective hyperlinks