Kevin Durant’s decision to leave Oklahoma City for Golden State can be described as weak, smart, scapegoatish, and even a little surprising. If you think about it enough, all of those adjectives fit in some way.
Surprising is probably the word that fits the least. There were many reasons for him to leave, a lot of which I wrote about here. But things change, and when that happens, someone is left upset. Before meeting with teams, the report was “There’s a 90% chance Durant returns.”. That got the hopes up of Oklahoma City.
I think one of the biggest influences in Durant leaving besides winning was the people. Durant, in meeting with other teams, was around people like Danny Ainge, Pat Riley, Steve Kerr, Bob Meyers, Tom Brady, and Jerry West. Where is someone of that caliber in Oklahoma City? Part of it is the small market problem, and the fact that the Thunder franchise is relatively new. I think Durant felt he couldn’t win the title with the Thunder, due to surroundings, competition, coaching, and lack of influence.
It does seem a little weak of Durant to go to the Warriors, the NBA’s powerhouse the past two seasons. But the only thing missing for Durant’s legacy is titles. He’s already made his mark as a player. We know what he is, which is one of the best scorers we’ve seen. His “game” part of his legacy is cemented. Now its about achievements. Achievements that weren’t attainable in Oklahoma City, and thats not his fault.
Its a smart decision, because, well crap, this is now the best team we’ve ever seen on paper. Now we get to watch it come together and dazzle us. The Warriors now enter the regular season being the heaviest title favorites we’ve perhaps ever seen. Golden State now has four of the best twelve players in the league on the same roster, as Bill Simmons pointed out this podcast. Based on my research, no team has ever had four of the top twelve players in the league based on PER and win shares in any single season. Three of the top twelve has been done plenty of times (How many times have we referred to a team’s “Big Three”?). But this, this is something we’ve never seen before.
Durant’s decision is a little bit of a scapegoat too. I don’t agree with the Stephen A. Smith/Charles Barkley hot take of him “cheating his way to a championship”, but yes, he’s going to Golden State to win a championship. Thats what this is about. Its all about winning for him.
Its not like his role is going to be reduced in Golden State. He won’t have to take less shots or have a lesser burden. There’s a lot pressure in Golden State now, and thats gonna take production.
Where this is a scapegoat move is when it comes to expectations from the media. Durant, as we all know, has never been a fan of the media, and lets be honest, is super sensitive. In Oklahoma City, when things went wrong, the blame was on him. He was the guy. And he hated it. He couldn’t handle that. Going to Golden State, if things (somehow) go wrong, there’s a 1/4 chance he’s to blame.
Royce Young had a great string of tweets about Durant and the media. And a lot of was really revealing. Some of them changed my mind a bit on this situation.
My criticism of Durant and his decision is simple: He left Oklahoma City because he didn’t like the pressure. Its a scapegoat move.
I am fine with him leaving when it comes to winning, but the fact that he can’t handle being the guy is what bugs me. Going to Golden State relieves so much pressure when it comes being the guy.
Pressure is applied when it comes to producing, but is relieved when it comes to being the dominant one. This is how Golden State is gonna work for Kevin Durant.
Basketball wise, the Warriors are going to be even more unguardable. You have to figure someone will be open for a three on every possession. KD is a huge upgrade over Harrison Barnes. Replace Barnes’ performance in the Finals with KD’s overall stats. Think that series ends a little differently?
Its hard to write about since there shouldn’t be any issues. Lets just watch the amazing happen.
As for Oklahoma City, its detrimental to the city and franchise. Durant built basketball for Oklahoma City. He made them what they are today as a basketball town. And now he’s gone. Partly for basketball reasons, partly for pressure reasons.
As for the future of the Thunder, they have decisions to make. Russell Westbrook is a free agent next Summer. One report had Westbrook being a reason for Durant’s departure, basically saying that Westbrook’s game takeovers never sat well with Durant. I don’t think they sat well with anyone: Players, fans, or writers. I can see Durant’s frustration with that.
Perhaps Westbrook will be better without Durant. He can be turned loose, but thats dangerous when you have someone as erratic as Westbrook can be. As we know, there’s bad Russ and good Russ. Next season, we’ll see both. It depends on who shows up in games. The Thunder still have Steven Adams and Victor Olidipo. They’ll produce, so Russ will have some help. But expect a lot of Russ-takeover games next season, that is, if he’s still on the team.
The Thunder have to explore trading him. If they know he’s gone next Summer, then they should start fielding offers. You can’t lose both for nothing, especially those two being top ten players.
A trade would give the Thunder a ton of new assets, which will be needed to surround a new core of Olidipo and Adams. However, I wouldn’t expect a rebuild to take long. Even though OKC won’t attract free agents, the Thunder are one of the best teams in the league when it comes to drafting. I mean, they did draft both Durant and Westbrook. With Sam Presti’s eye for talent, a Thunder rebuild would take a lot less time than somewhere else.
Durant’s decision wasn’t too shocking. Thunder fans should be sad, but not stunned. They knew this was possible. And they have a right to be angry. Part of it is basketball, part of it is Durant’s unsteady character.
No matter how you feel about it, the Warriors are going to be incredible to watch next season. Can we just enjoy it for once?