We are now a nearly two years removed from Kevin Durant’s free agent signing with the Golden State Warriors. Since that offseason signing, the Warriors won an NBA Finals (With Durant as MVP) and are on the verge of what seems like the exact same scenario this season.
Durant joined a team that had made two straight finals appearances and set the record for regular season wins. On paper, the Warriors might not have needed Durant, but he was the missing piece to what is possibly the greatest team in NBA history.
Why he signed
The Warriors’ style of play fits almost all NBA players. Their pace of play is consistently at the top of the league (fifth this season at 99.8), and they share the ball at an impressive rate (29.3 assists per game this season). Who would not want to play on a team with three former and current All-Stars that share the ball?
Many criticized Durant for being passive at times and taking the Robin role to Russell Westbrooks’ Batman. Joining Golden State gave him the opportunity to almost pick and choose when he wanted to be Batman and when he wanted to be Robin due to their plethora of talent. In other words, Durant does not have to bring it every night he laces them up.
A true star
A true star is someone who can join a team and adapt to the players around him seamlessly. The Warriors are 140-45 in the two seasons Durant has been on the roster, including playoffs. His production has not slowed, and he is averaging the same numbers he has had his whole career, but with 1.5 more assists per game.
His teammates have not seemed to miss a beat either. Steph Curry is averaging 3.3 points per game more than he has his whole career. He is shooting better from the free-throw line and the field overall by 1.8 percent on both.
Klay Thompson has averaged slightly more points, assists and rebounds compared to his career averages, improving from 19.2 points to 20, 3.4 rebounds to 3.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists to 2.5. He is also shooting three percent better from the field than his career average.
Draymond Green is also having one of, if not the best statistical season of his NBA career. Adding an All-Star has not hurt the other All-Stars’ production one bit in Golden State.
It is tough to critique a team that went 73-9, but the Warriors did not end up winning a championship that season. That was the final season for the Warriors pre-Durant. The man before Durant who resided in the Warriors’ starting small forward role was Harrison Barnes. Although he has averaged 19 points per game in Dallas, Barnes struggled to crack the 10-point mark in Golden State.
In the last three games of the 2016 NBA Finals, Barnes shot 5-for-32 from the field. He shot 2-for-4 from the free-throw line and 3-for-15 from the 3-point line. He scored five or less in three of the seven finals games, resulting in a 1-2 record in those games.
Although it is unfair to blame a 23-year-old Barnes for the fall of the 73-9 Warriors, who had a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals, his 5-for-32 in Games 5-7 did not help.
What he brings
Kevin Durant is a security blanket for the Golden State Warriors. He can score in the post, off the dribble, off the catch and is deadly in a mid-range pullup situation. He can create his own shot and can create for others. He is continually the most consistent player on the Warriors because of his all-around game. In eight finals games in the last two seasons, Durant does not have a game where he has scored less than 26 points.
Durant’s statistics have not slowed despite a drastic change of scenery. The Warriors have put themselves in position to be dominant for many years to come. Instead of winning and falling short, Durant is now hoisting an NBA Finals MVP Award (and maybe another one soon).
This Warriors team forces the NBA to change as a whole and get better. Right now, it is Golden State, the Rockets slightly behind and then everyone else. As far as a business move, Kevin Durant put himself in the best place possible, and the Warriors needed him just as much as he needed them.
Featured image from ESPN.com.
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