At 11:41 AM on the 4th of July I received a text from my good friend and basketball fanatic Adam. The message read “LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL.” I had replied with an open eyes emoji, but at that moment, I knew what Kevin Durant’s decision was before seeing his players tribune post. (the damn website link wouldn’t even load) I had to have the news officially confirmed by SportsCenter’s twitter page. Durant to Golden State. Twitter erupted in pandemonium. My timeline was instantly flooded with the hottest hot takes I had ever seen on social media before. I received several text messages from my friends saying that they lost respect for an NBA fan favorite. The hero, whose success everyone prayed for, became the league’s villain. People were either sad, angry, confused, disappointed, or continuously laughing through text messages due to the shock felt by KD’s decision. Regardless of the negative feedback, there’s nothing we can do to stop this. In roughly three months, we will see the Warriors unleash holy hell upon the league. The same team that went two straight finals, combined for 140 regular season wins in two seasons, and lost less than 10 regular season games last year just added one of the three best players to their team. No one believed it would happen until it happened, and now, the passionate fans of the NBA hate basketball.
In the last three days, there have been several thoughts and questions concerning Durant’s decision. I attempted to answer the most prevalent ones throughout the remainder of the article.
Why leave Oklahoma City?
In nine seasons, Durant made seven all-star teams, six all-NBA teams (five straight 1st team), four scoring titles, four conference finals in a six year stretch (2011-2016), the 2012 finals, and won the 2014 MVP award. After all of the individual and team success, Thunder fans were right to assume that he’d stay. So why did he leave? In his player’s tribune piece, Kevin talks about his desire for evolution as a player and a man. Focusing on the basketball player, it seems that he believed that OKC had peaked as a team that would always come close but never grasp that O’Brien trophy. Considering how OKC led the league in fourth quarter collapses last year due to their stagnant offense, it’s fair to see them falling in the future to Golden State despite the 3-1 lead they had on them just five weeks ago. Ultimately, Durant just wants titles. For a player of his stature, failing to win a championship will always tarnish his legacy.
Why go to the Bay?
During the start of free agency NBA twitter took it upon themselves to find old KD tweets and retweet them. Examples are…
Erykah badu thicker than a kindergarten pencil
— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) July 3, 2011
My mother still slap me if I don't say "yes ma'am and no ma'am" I'm 21 she can't do that nomore man smh…
— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) May 2, 2010
Now everybody wanna play for the heat and the Lakers? Let's go back to being competitive and going at these peoples!
— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) July 16, 2010
The new thing is searching pages and gettin tweets from years ago and retweeting them like they were recent?
— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) June 25, 2013
As much as I personally dislike NBA super teams, digging up a tweet like this from six years ago is utterly ridiculous. Anyone can change their opinion in that time-span. For basketball, Golden State was the best choice for Kevin during free agency. A scoring machine like him fits perfectly in a free flowing, ball movement offense. This is the perfect opportunity for his “evolution.” Also, Durant’s resume is on the line. Anyone that believes that several Golden State rings mean nothing in comparison to finally winning one in OKC is wrong. If he had won this year, he would have become the most important person in Oklahoma sports history. Maybe even just the history of the state. However, as far as his NBA career is concerned, winning multiple titles carries more weight. Regardless of how he does it, multiple titles stack up.
Implications on OKC
With Durant’s departure, OKC has reached a crossroads. Russell Westbrook has already informed the Thunder’s front office that he will not sign an extension and will test the market during next year’s free agency. GM Sam Presti now has to decide if he will trade Russ or not. Most likely, Westbrook will be dealt before next February. The Thunder can’t afford to lose Durant and Westbrook without getting something in return. It is more than likely that Kevin’s decision has set off a full-scale rebuild for the Thunder.
Implications on GS
Golden State had to move Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli, Marreese Speights, and Leonardo Barbosa. Since then, they have picked up Zaza Pachulia and David West. They sacrificed some depth, but since they kept their most important pieces to add KD it’s far to say that their roster has improved. As long as they add a couple more veterans and Kerr works his magic with minutes Golden State shouldn’t miss a step.
Thoughts on KD’s past legacy
He was known for his loyalty and love for Oklahoma City. Now, he has left in search of his own “selfish” desires. I think that we have to look at the situation from KD’s perspective before being judgmental. He was in OKC for nine years and gave a rebuilding team it’s blue chipper to build upon. They eventually acquired Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, and James Harden in the following two drafts as their core. Three years after creating their core, they make the finals, lose in five, and everything goes downhill.
James Harden ends up signing with Houston in the 2012 off-season due to a difference of five million dollars. Sam Presti was adamant on not paying the luxury tax (a foolish mistake), Westbrook got hurt in 2013, Ibaka was injured in 2014, Durant missed 57 games during the 2015 season, then Ibaka is traded four weeks ago (a decision that the front office was making regardless of what Durant’s decision was). A young core went through a rough free agent patch, then followed up with the unluckiest four year stretch of any team since the 2012 finals.
For those who see Harden as a selfish jerk, he had all rights to have money that he was deserving of and to see how he would perform as the number one option on a team. Why not?
We know how the 2016 season went. Maybe KD was tired of the unlucky breaks and playing in a stagnant office where the ball was often glued to one person’s hands too much. As far as basketball is concerned, Golden State runs the offense that is a perfect match for Kevin Durant. He made the decision that was the best for him. If you don’t like it, oh well.
Implications on KD’s possible future legacy
People are stating that KD’s legacy has been tarnished because he “copped out” and went to the team that beat him six weeks ago. I can’t defend Durant’s decision, but I can defend against the accusations that his legacy is ruined. Durant wants titles. For a player of his caliber, that’s all that’s missing from his resume. If he wants to chip chase, who am I to hate him for it. Sure the league will be much less interesting since OKC is no longer a contender, but who isn’t interested or curious about how Golden State will mesh KD in. It’s possible that Durant will win multiple titles during his tenure as a Warrior. Sure, one OKC title would have meant more, but winning 3 or 4 championships? No comparison. Rings matter when we discuss the importance of a superstar. It’s a known fact. If Durant succeeds on his quest for NBA championships he will go down as one of Golden State’s best players ever. That counts for something.
Impact of the decision on the NBA
Other than what we know about Oklahoma City’s personal woes, Durant’s decision has made the contenders of the league obsolete. The Dubs and Cavs are the title favorites with the Spurs a distant dark horse. If you’re one of those, “The regular season doesn’t matter,” people, I’ll see you in April. Golden State will be a juggernaut that takes the league by storm. It’s that simple.
Predictions for KD’s role in GS
KD will slide to the small forward spot as a major upgrade from Harrison Barnes. He’ll be the scoring machine of the newly created “Death Star” and play 30-33 minutes. Expect several Curry/Durant pick and roll/pop. You can’t double Curry, because Durant is open to pop for three. You can’t double Durant, because Curry has an open lane to the rim, or could just pop from mid-range. Most likely, Klay and Durant will not see much time on the floor together until the 4th quarters in order for them to get their fair shots and be rested for the “Death Star” finish.
Predictions for GS in totality
Golden State wins 60+ games. They definitely won’t break 73 games, but they’ll be the league’s alpha dog on a quest for their second ring in three years.
One last Durant thought
Following Durant’s announcement, ESPN’s Royce Young wrote an article about how Durant had changed. He stated that Durant is impulsive and impressionable to say a few words. The piece goes in detail, as if Royce knew KD’s decision days ahead and acts as if he could read Durant’s mind. Keeping in mind that Durant made his decision at 7:00 AM on the 4th of July… It’s fair to say that Royce White didn’t have all of his information correct.
Durant will be great regardless of how his career turns out. As long as he stays healthy, he’s guaranteed to be a top 20 player. If he starts stacking chips, the numbers get even better. Kevin Durant made the boldest move of his career. All for himself. If you can’t respect Durant as a basketball player, respect him as a man.