Kevin Durant shocked the sports world on Independence Day when he declared on 'The Player's Tribune' that he would be playing for the Golden State Warriors this upcoming season instead of returning to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
According to ESPN's Mark Stein, Durant will sign a two year deal worth approximately $54 million with the option to opt out after one year, presumably to take advantage of the rising NBA Salary Cap.
Some of the other teams that Durant was reportedly considering included the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Clippers and the San Antonio Spurs. Now that the move is official, let's take a look at how Durant's decision will impact the Warriors, the Thunder, and the rest of the NBA for the 2016 NBA season.
Last season's Warriors were already the greatest regular season team in NBA history with a 73-9 record and did only lose in Game 7 of this year's NBA Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers. By coming back from a 3-1 series deficit, Cleveland deserved the acclaim from winning the series. But if forward Draymond Green wasn't suspended for Game 5 and center Andrew Bogut didn't miss Games 6 and 7 due to a knee injury, the series could've ended up very differently. Golden State was already right there and getting Durant puts the Warriors, at least on paper, as heavy favorites coming into next season.
|Durant will pair with 2 time MVP Steph Cutty next season.|
Curry averaged over 30 points a game last season.
Photo from Wikipedia.
In order to create cap space for Durant, Golden State traded Bogut to the Dallas Mavericks and forward Harrison Barnes will ultimately sign with the Mavericks after being offered a $90 million offering sheet. Guard Leandro Barbosa and center Festus Ezeli, as well as others on the roster, have more unknown fates due to being unrestricted free agents.
The Warriors will have to fill their roster with veteran minimum contract players and there are already reports on veterans like centers Jermaine O'Neal and Zaza Pachulia being interested in joining for a small amount of money.
There will also be an issue in terms of how quickly Durant can fit into the Warriors team chemistry and how the ball will be shared among all of their stars. But I think head coach Steve Kerr is a good enough coach who will able to figure this problem out.
I was surprised by today's news because I had expected Durant to sign with the Thunder on a similar two year opt-out deal that he ended up signing with the Warriors. Oklahoma City will also have to worry about guard Russell Westbrook potentially leaving next season, but until then, expect Westbrook to have a big 2016 season statistically as he will have more opportunities to have the ball with Durant off of the roster.
|Russell Westbrook could be poised for a huge|
statistical season after Durant's departure.
Photo from FoxSports.
The Thunder are in an unfortunate spot from having homegrown stars that they drafted and now potentially facing a rebuild. But remember, they have assets and those assets can help fuel a rebuild project. Still, Durant's departure had to have felt a year too early for the Thunder fans and the Thunder organization with there now being an unknown future.
The Rest of the NBA
|Miami's Big 3 didn't win until|
their season season together in 2012.
Photo from Bleacher Report.
And the 2004 Los Angeles Lakers that paired aging legends Gary Payton and Karl Malone with Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant? They lost in the NBA Finals to the Detroit Pistons in their only season together.
It's probably hard to believe right now, but life in the NBA will continue and go on as normal, just like when LeBron left for Miami in 2010. Cleveland is still the defending NBA Champs, the San Antonio Spurs just signed forward Pau Gasol, and watch out for others teams like the Clippers, Celtics, and Toronto Raptors to make some noise next season.
But Durant joining the Golden State Warriors has without a doubt changed the landscape of the NBA and has sent a message to the rest of the league: Game On.
Let me know if you think Durant makes the Golden State Warriors the prohibitive favorites to win the NBA title next season on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki or by leaving a comment below.