Why We Should Thank Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant marked his independence from the only franchise he’d ever known on the day we celebrated our nation’s, and like the United States, Durant had to break away in order to realize his peak potential as a basketball player. After 9 exceptional years that heralded Durant has one of the top players of a generation he elected to move on to seemingly the greenest pastures in recent memory.

And while the hot take fireworks took off from the time of his announcement and dwarfed any observed on the night of July 4th about how he’s a coward or a traitor, I disagree.

I believe the exact opposite in fact, that Kevin Durant has just provided us with a tremendous opportunity as basketball fans.

1. We now have the privilege of watching potentially the greatest team ever assembled.

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Anyone in my age bracket will relish the opportunity to watch perhaps the best team ever created play in real time. I wasn’t even alive during the epic 50-1 home record of the 1986 NBA champion Celtics and I was too young to truly appreciate the 72 win 1996 Chicago Bulls, so this is all the young 20 something’s chance to admire greatness as it unfolds.

  • The Warriors are only the third team to roster two players that have one an MVP award and a scoring title. With the previous two containing (the 09-10 Cavaliers with LeBron and Shaq and the 81-85 Lakers with Kareem and Bob McAdoo) one superstar and another past their prime.
  • Additionally the Warriors are the only team to acquire a former MVP after finishing a season with the league’s best record (again the 09-10 Cavs got Shaq and the Celtics picked up Bill Walton, each of which would retire after just one season later). So, we are seeing a historic team acquire a historic player for the first time in their prime.
  • We will get to witness max spacing for the first time with a team’s 3 leading scorers all possessing prolific three-point shooting ability.
    • Last season Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant combined for 864 made three-pointers (Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala combined for an additional 154 makes). Those 3 players alone matched the Portland Trailblazers total, who had the 5th most made 3’s by any team last season.

2. We have a definitive League Pass must watch #1 team

The past 2 seasons the Warriors held this honor as well. In 2014 they were the new most exciting team any of us had seen in a long time with their open play and then in 2015 they were on a historic run, both of which made them the must watch squad.

Now going into this coming season the shine had worn off and it seemed (to me anyway) that the T’Wolves with the young nucleus of Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Kris Dunn, and Zach LaVine would take the crown. But, not so fast, with the addition of one of the league’s top 3 players it looks like we’ll be staying up until 1 AM EST time and welcoming West Coast hoops into our homes on a regular basis for another year.

3. The possibility of a star-studded NBA Finals rubber match between the Warriors and Cavaliers has become the potential holy grail of modern day hoops.

Somehow LeBron James has found a way to become the underdog yet again after spending time as arguably one of the most loathed superstars of our time. So, combine him along with Kyrie Irving and a (somewhat) rejuvenated Kevin Love squaring off once again versus Steph, Klay, Draymond with Kevin Durant tossed in will be out of control amazing.

And oh, yeah rumors has it that LeBron may be angling for a way to get D Wade into the mix in Northeast Ohio.

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4. We now have the first truly hateable team since the original super team, the Miami Heat.

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Now we have something that is underrated in sports, but extremely valuable, a team that is polarizing. There won’t be any middle ground here, basketball fans will be giddy with excitement to watch this group play beautiful basketball while the casual fan and fans of rival teams with be overflowing with a hatred that is only rivaled by the love that they have for their own teams.

5. We will get to witness a team battle a pressure that has never been seen before, making that in which the Miami Heat experienced pale in comparison.

When you assemble a team with 4 All-NBA players, the holders of the past 3 MVP awards and 4 of the last 6 NBA Scoring titles (all of which are in or approaching their primes) the pressure will be astronomical. Now no one is expecting them to win 73 games again, but anything short of an NBA title come next June will be viewed as an utter and complete failure.

Meanwhile we get to see what happens when two of the top 3 players on planet Earth need to balance their alpha dog statuses and egos in order to achieve team success.

6. The Sonics fans of yesteryear get a final win.

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This exciting Thunder team never should have been a Thunder team to begin with. We should have been watching the golden era of sports in the Great Northwest with the Seahawks and Sonics simultaneously fighting for titles year after year. And many of us may have forgotten, but the city of Seattle still remembers that the only reason the Oklahoma City Thunder exist in the first place is because an ownership group with the desire to move purchased the Sonics and then held the city ransom for $500m arena, which would have been the second most expensive in NBA history at the time.

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7. Last, but most definitely not least, we now get to see Russell Westbrook take his maniac playing style to brand new heights.

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I’m looking forward to the first matchup between Oklahoma City vs. Golden State more than anything else this year and this is no close second to speak of.

Last season Russ’ usage rate was 33.3% while sharing much of his floor time with Kevin Durant and his own 30.2% usage rate (1st and 9th in the league respectively). So, remove the amount of usage (Usage Rate = {[FGA + (FT Att. x 0.44) + (Ast x 0.33) + TO] x 40 x League Pace} divided by (Minutes x Team Pace)) that Kevin Durant owned and that basically allows Westbrook to do whatever the hell he wants night in and night out.

That will spread somewhat evenly amongst the Thunder’s supporting cast, still most of it while likely still fall on Westbrook’s soldier as the definitive primary offensive threat. And that first game against Golden State, Westbrook may just go ahead and take all of it in the most balls to wall display we have ever seen and frankly I cannot wait.

So, while many fan bases, analysts, and basketball minds will cry about how this is bad for the league (there are certainly arguments that it is), I will be sitting back and enjoying the fallout from the NBA Player’s Association refusing the option to institute a smoothing plan to deal with the increase in cap room and salivating at every possession played by the most perfect basketball team ever created.

And for that, Kevin Durant, I thank you.

 

 

Shoutout to:
The Ringer
ESPN Stats
Basketball Reference
NBA Stats