When Kevin Durant announced on The Players’ Tribune declaring his intention to leave the small market of Oklahoma City to come to the Bay Area and play with the 73-win Golden State Warriors, it sent shockwaves throughout the entire league that no explosive July 4th fireworks show could match.
If the formation of the Heatles in 2010 made you upset, this collection of the NBA’s brightest stars forming a super team in their primes is sure to make your blood boil in disgust. The ramification of Durant’s decision will be felt for the next decade or more. But what is most hard to digest is the number of dominoes that had to fall in place at exactly the right time for this to become a reality.
Had the Thunder beat Golden State at home in Game 6 and gone on to play LeBron in the Finals, there is zero chance he would have chosen to join the Warriors. Had the Warriors beat the Cavs instead of blowing a 3-1 lead to become the most disappointing record breaking team in NBA history, it would have been unlikely that Durant would view himself as a needed piece to a back-to-back championship dynasty.
Had the Warriors not signed Steph Curry to the biggest bargain contract in the NBA, $44 million over 4 years, coming off two injury plagued seasons due to a slew of ankle problems, there would be no way they would have enough cap room to sign Draymond Green last season and Durant this week.
And don’t forget to thank the NBAPA for allowing the influx of new TV-deal money to raise the salary cap by 34% just in time for teams around the league to spend obscene amounts of money on NBA free agents this offseason and allow the Warriors to sign Durant to a two-year max deal worth $54 million while staying under the cap.
But all of these things did happen, which has led to the Warriors becoming potentially the greatest collection of talent on any one team (not competing in the Olympics) in sports history. They are also now the most hated team in the NBA and will be the most criticized if they don’t win at least 2 or 3 championships in the next 5 years. With all the off the court ramifications aside, how does this affect the way they will play once the ball is tipped off?
For one, the scoring averages for Curry, Durant, Thompson and Green are almost sure to take a hit, as there will be only one ball to go around. That being said, their efficiency will be improved and assists will likely go up as the Warriors have always been about moving the ball around and getting the ball to the open man on the perimeter.
A player like Klay Thompson will be a steal in most fantasy basketball drafts as he will get heavy minutes in both competitive games and blowouts like Harrison Barnes did. Green’s all-around stats should hold pretty steady, less points and rebounds but higher assists, and will have the opportunity to turn into Magic 2.0 as the heart and soul of the new Showtime Warriors.
The loss of Durant makes Russell Westbrook the clear cut choice for the No. 1 overall pick in fantasy leagues this season. Westbrook was a triple-double machine last year, racking up a league-leading 18 with the second-highest total coming from Draymond Green with 13. It is entirely conceivable that Westbrook has 20+ triple doubles this coming season which should put him in the running for league MVP, if he carries the Thunder to the playoffs as the lone superstar. For the record, the most triple doubles in one season belongs to Oscar Robertson who tallied 41 during the 1961-1962 season.
However, the Durant decision could cause the Thunder to trade Westbrook if he does not commit to a long term deal in the near future, as he will become a free agent at the end of next season. The Thunder can not risk losing Westbrook for nothing like they did Durant, and could trade him to his hometown Lakers in exchange for a handful of young players and future draft picks. It is clear that the Thunder could be looking to blow up the team and rebuild with young and cheap talent instead of chasing overpriced free agents who are unlikely to come to a small market like OKC.
The signing of Durant should put small market teams like OKC on notice that they are fighting an uphill battle when it comes to competing with the upper echelon organizations in big markets that have the money, off-court opportunities and front office clout to lure the league’s superstars to the bright lights. It is now crystal clear that parity in the NBA is a thing of the past and the future is tied to whoever can assemble the best collection of superstar talent on one team. In the immortal words of Paul Pierce, “If u can’t beat um join um.”