Kevin Durant has chosen the Golden State Warriors. The best scorer of his generation will join the best regular season team of all-time, replacing Harrison Barnes and giving Golden State perhaps the most powerful attack ever seen in the sport.
We’ve seen something like this happen before. When LeBron James teamed with Dwyane Wade in Miami in 2010-11, success was not instant. While the Heat eventually made the NBA Finals, losing to the underdog Mavericks in six, the team started slow and then took a full year for the parts to fit together. The Flying Death Machine that the Heat became wasn’t built in a day. Likewise, fitting Durant into the brilliant offense centered on Draymond Green’s playmaking and the shooting of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson will take time.
But it will come together, and when it does: holy shit. Holy everloving shit. The Warriors already feature the greatest shooter ever in Curry, someone who last season smashed records he’d already smashed. Curry has legitimate range up to 30 feet, and he has the handles to get an open shot against any single defender in the league.
Durant is a four-time scoring champ and is currently No. 1 in points per game among active players and No. 3 all-time. His combination of length and agility is unmatched in the league. He can shoot over everyone, and take the best defenders to the rim on demand. (A huge part of his scoring is at the line. He’s already No. 46 in NBA history in free throws made. He’s 27 years old.)
That’s an aspect the Warriors really haven’t had: a player to put his head down and get to the rim in those rare moments when things aren’t falling from outside. That was a glaring absence during that four-minute stretch in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, the drought that cost Golden State a championship. Imagine Durant on the floor in those minutes instead of Barnes. Imagine that and remember that the Warriors only lost the title by four points.
This will almost assuredly take time to gel properly, especially considering that coach Steve Kerr will immediately find ways to keep Curry well-rested. (Curry played 34 minutes per game last season. You have to imagine he’ll be under 32 going forward.) The likelihood that the Warriors are in position to chase their own regular season wins record is low.
There is every incentive to keep as much fuel as possible in the tank for the postseason (even if there suddenly looks to be no real challengers in the West). Golden State has experienced a championship and regular-season dominance. You know which one it prefers. Never again will Kerr risk the ultimate glory on a place in the history books. This mindset could thus extend the incubating time necessary for the Warriors to reach their potential.
Thinking back to the Heatles, once the team found its way in 2011-12 it was unstoppable ... for two years, until Wade began breaking down. Wade was 29 when LeBron (then 26) joined him. Curry is now 28, Durant 27. With no offense meant to Chris Bosh, the Warriors’ supporting cast is also much better than what the Heat offered. Thompson and Green could be a playoff duo themselves without the two guys who have won the past three NBA MVP awards.
Add in a deep but aging bench with Shaun Livingston, Andre Iguodala and possibly Brandon Rush, and this is a complete team that lacks only a true center. (Andrew Bogut will be traded and Festus Ezeli has been renounced.) This is all a long way of indicating that this Warriors team is somehow more promising than the team that paired up LeBron and Wade in 2010.
Barring injury — always a concern with slender scorers — the Warriors could rewrite NBA history over the next five years. Be patient while it comes together, weep for Russell Westbrook (weep harder for his opponents) and appreciate the magic as it happens. We knew basketball would change in 2010 when LeBron made his decision. We know it’s happening again. Buckle up.