Kevin Durant’s Golden State Warriors will be loved and hated, but cannot be missed

Jonathan Raymond writes that Kevin Durant's seismic decision to join the Golden State Warriors, there are a number of captivating and difficult angles to dissect.
Kevin Durant. Frederic J Brown / AFP
Kevin Durant. Frederic J Brown / AFP

Try to imagine it. Try, really, to visualise what it’s going to look like.

It’s kind of hard, actually, huh? Like there’s still something almost too surreal about the prospect of it, to actually conceive of it in a concrete way?

Kevin Durant is going to team up with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and the Golden State Warriors, a development of such magnitude as to be practically unprecedented in NBA history.

One of basketball’s three best players is joining another of basketball’s three best players, one who already was playing with two more of the maybe 10-15 best players. Not even LeBron James’ formation of the “Heatles” in Miami can measure up to this one.

There are many angles – so many angles – to dissect out of this event.

Does it diminish Durant’s legacy? Considering he’s one of the most talented players of his generation and now stands to collect multiple titles, no. It would require a particularly dense obstinacy to take that position.


• Kevin Durant joins the Warriors, and we try to make sense of it

Is it a good decision? This, frankly, is probably an irrelevant question. It was Durant’s decision to make, and how one judges its value will inevitably prioritise one’s preferences over Durant’s. Presumably, he wanted to win games and titles, and with this decision there is only reason to expect he will do lots and lots of both.

If you wanted Durant to defiantly take his “enemies” head-on, whether in Boston or Oklahoma City or elsewhere, that, well, is on you.

Is it bad for basketball? This is an argument to which maybe I can be more sympathetic. It is almost certainly bad for the competitiveness of basketball, and if one of the great pleasures of basketball is the directness with which its titans clash – more than any other team sport, really – than that pleasure has been diminished at least a little bit.

But basketball can also be at its most endearing in its glorification of greatness, of enormity, and the Fab Four Warriors (“Fourriors” as one colleague of mine put it) will be nothing if not enormous. And, in any case, it is not Kevin Durant’s job to the be the steward of basketball’s competitive health.

Are the Warriors the bad guys? Depends on who you ask. It’s not out of line for the many people who will do so to reject hegemonic Golden State. On the other hand, they promise to be aesthetically wondrous, and popular, personable talents like Curry and Durant will continue to be adored by wide swathes of the NBA fandom.

How on earth did this actually happen, anyhow? A good question. It seemed like a joke, like the fevered fantasies of a late-night NBA2K player, when rumours first floated six months ago that this move might be in play. What if Kevin Durant joined the Warriors? Yeah, sure, and what if LeBron came too.

But it has in fact happened, and it is a massive seismic event for the NBA’s power structure. It speaks to the audacious (some might also say arrogant) ambition of the Warriors, and to Durant’s higher aspirations.

And as inconceivable as it was that this would really come to pass, it is all the more inconceivable now that it is reality that it somehow will not live up to expectations.

This season’s NBA Finals, and to an extent last year’s too, showed that the Warriors, for as beautiful and dominant as they play at their best, are susceptible to losing the rhythm that is the engine to their offence. When Curry and Thompson have not been able to make magic happen behind the three-point line, when their passing flow has been disrupted against Cleveland, they ultimately have not have a lot to fall back on offensively.

One of the more underrated keys to their 2015 title, in fact, was when coach Steve Kerr dusted off David Lee. The reliable if unspectacular forward scored preciously needed easy points for Golden State last year when their attack was its most paralysed. He helped relieve the weight that can sometimes keep Curry and Thompson in particular from playing at their breeziest.

What they could not reliably do in a crunch was simplify things and get to the basket. Now they have maybe the most lethal attacker of the rim in the game.

He brings the added dimension of being better than any current Warrior at breaking down defences. Such that when there were times Golden State got stuck moving the ball aimlessly around the perimeter, a talent like Durant will be able to drive on his own, warp the defence’s shape and either score or spark better ball-movement.

Durant is a skilled passer, even if the systems he has historically played in haven’t called on him to use that skill to its fullest. It would be a shock if he doesn’t fit in seamlessly to the Warriors’ flowing passing scheme right away.

He’ll be able to get to the free-throw line and he can drop a three with the best of them. Think of all the complementary things Harrison Barnes brought to Golden State, only magnified in ability and effectiveness by many orders of magnitude.

They also more quietly added Zaza Pachulia, a significant low-key reinforcement with Andrew Bogut a cost casualty of Durant’s addition. His passing ability, soft touch inside and rebounding ability are all fairly comparable to Bogut’s.

Defensively they will be more vulnerable inside without Bogut, but Pachulia is a big body who moves well and fills space capably. Durant can be an elite wing defender when the time calls for it, and he can better spot up a player like LeBron than Barnes. Thompson is a great individual defender and Green remains an all-purpose rock. They should mostly remain solid as a defence.

And if it sounds absurd to say it, consider at least that these are now officially absurd times – but these Warriors may be darn near perfect offensively.

The very suggestion of perfect is, among many things, polarising. If Durant is the perfect piece for a team that will style itself pretty near-perfect, it is no surprise that this moment has indeed been polarising. That these Warriors have instantly become incredibly polarising.

All the same, they sure are going to be something to see.

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Published: July 5, 2016 04:00 AM


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