This offseason marks a critical juncture for the Golden State Warriors and their reigning 2-time NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant. Durant’s addition to the team has resulted in a huge success and the creation of an (almost) unstoppable lineup of current All-Stars and budding stars of the past. However, the Warriors successes have largely been attributed to the collective of Steph, Klay and Draymond rather than any major contribution made by Durant himself.
Giving credit were credit is due, the Warriors won an NBA title in 14-15’ and broke the 95-96’ Chicago Bulls regular season win record (72-10) by 1 game in 15-16’ without Durant even on the team. It was truly remarkable to see this team grow naturally through the draft to take the NBA by storm. However, there is no denying that a new level was reached with the addition of Durant in 2016.
KD’s presence transformed the way teams were forced to guard the Warriors in the playoffs and smoothed the path to back-to-back titles. During the playoff runs from 2016-2018, KD helped pave a 32-6 playoff record and 2 NBA Championships. The Warriors were 8-1 in the Finals. In the prior 2 campaigns without him (2014-2016), Golden State was 31-14 in the playoffs and 7-6 in the Finals (splitting a title with LeBron’s Cavaliers).
Durant’s decision is being largely attributed to a lack of appreciation, by the fans, for the increased success his presence has caused for the team. Whether true or not, there’s smoke and continued reports of his imminent departure from the Bay Area. The New York Knicks have been a commonly discussed destination for KD’s services for a multitude of reasons.
The news and possibility of Durant signing his next contract in the Mecca of basketball gained more momentum yesterday when Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher stated “its done…he’s leaving” on “The Herd with Colin Cowherd.” The news Bucher broke was not confirmatory of a move to NYC, but that it is a leading destination for Durant to be a “centerpiece.” If that wasn’t enough to start dreaming of next year’s NBA will look like, Howard Beck (also of Bleacher Report) suggested Kyrie Ivring has interest in playing alongside his pal KD.
Depending on how well the Warriors fare in the years after his departure, Durant may receive the fan appreciation he has been so longing for. In the mean time, we can dissect how his move would impact both the Western and Eastern conferences alike.
New York becomes an instant super team
Pairing KD and Kyrie instantly creates a super team in the Eastern Conference and frankly one deserving of New York City fandom. Imagine Spike Lee’s excitement. The superstar pairing would be more than capable of carrying the team to new heights and a playoff run with minimal roster overhaul. Add in the great chance of the Knicks selecting at #1 in the 2019 draft, likely college basketball’s most exciting player Zion Williamson, would create a very multidimensional squad. The Knicks are also going to have a large salary cap to play with as a result of numerous expiring contracts. The possibilities are endless (not really) and many scenarios could culminate in the Big Apple.
Simultaneous Blows to the Warriors and Celtics
The loss of Durant from the Warriors and Irving from the Celtics deal heavy blows to both title contenders at the same time. It’s the kind of move that would be admired by protestors of growing super teams (although this would this would be a super team it doesn’t fit the same definition to me as the Warriors, Celtics, 76ers). Golden State found success without Durant, as referenced above, but undeniably struggled more to grab a title than they did with him. Boston on the other hand has struggled to find offensive consistency this season. Kyrie possesses the creativity and dribbling prowess to score at will and has pulled the Celtics out of slumps many times over. It can be argued however, that in his absence last year the Celtics young core was able to spread their wings and find more fluidity and consistency on the offensive end. It remains to be seen how successful either squad will be without these stars, but maybe it’s for the better!
Stars moving back East!
It seems like every offseason sees less and less “superstar” players staying in the Eastern Conference or moving to a team in it. Kawhi Leonard was traded to Toronto last season, but a star willingly doing so has not happened in a blue moon. The playing fields in the West and East are far from being equal, but this would be a step in the right direction. Assuming all the current stars in the East remain there for next season, there would be 6 legitimate contenders for the Eastern title: Raptors, Celtics, Knicks, 76ers, Pacers and Bucks. That’s not half bad considering the general performance of the conference lately.
Wherever he decides to land however, Durant’s landing spot will have big impacts on the rest of the league. Role players and All-Star free agents alike will be taking their chances with KD to win a title.