The basketball world was shocked when former Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant announced that he was leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder – his team for 9 years – to join the powerhouse Golden State Warriors, the same team that recently beat the Thunder in a classic 7-game series in the Western Conference Finals.
Durant’s “defection” to join a powerhouse team was immediately criticized since the move effectively changed the NBA landscape. Durant joins a Warriors team that posted a historic 73-9 record and was one quarter away from a second straight NBA championship. He will team up with back-t0-back MVP Steph Curry and All-NBA teammates Klay Thompson and Draymond Green in what could very well be the greatest team ever assembled. And I am talk-ing of all time. Durant—a 4-time NBA scoring champion—joins a team that already leads in offensive efficiency and scores around 112 points per 100 possessions. The Warriors already won a championship without a Durant, imagine their dominance with him in the line-up.
A lot of people cried foul over the move. What was the point in competing when one team had 4 of the top ten players in the league? Former player Charles Barkley expressed his disappointment that Durant was “cheating” his way to a championship—something that has eluded him Oklahoma despite having a strong supporting cast and a running mate in Russell Westbrook. Other NBA players weighed in. Paul Pierce said “if you can’t beat them join them.” Another NBA forward Jusuf Nurkic shared “Somebody beat you and you join them? Superstar not doing that man!” Some Thunder fans even started burning Durant jerseys to show their displeasure.
Despite all the negativity, Durant’s choice was the right choice in terms of fit, skill set, chemistry, and culture. He was never going to win a championship in OKC (but he got pretty damn close) with the current line-up. Westbrook simply holds on to the ball too much which slows down the pace and makes OKC a one and done team. Additional-ly, Durant takes all the difficult shots. If you had an offer to be part of a dynasty and win several titles, do less and still win, and have fun doing it, wouldn’t you jump ship too?
With his versatility, length, and scoring skills, Durant would be a perfect fit for the Warriors offense, an offense that thrives on a free-flowing brand of basketball, making the extra pass to get the best shot selection on each possession. On defense, he would be great as well since the Warriors switch on every pick and roll and Durant can guard at least 4 positions with his 7-3 wingspan. The Warriors’ “death ball” line-up just received a massive upgrade.
The next thing that swayed Durant was the culture and chemistry of the team. In the recruitment meeting, he saw Curry, Thompson, Green and Andre Igoudala and noted “they all walked in and it looked like they were holding hands,” and then and there he knew he wanted to be part of it. The Warrior’s players genuinely liked each other and the “Strength in Numbers” motto was much more than that.
Bottom line, Durant is now with the Warriors and teams and fans alike would now have to live with it.