The Golden State Warriors Saturday night victory versus the Oklahoma City Thunder was a statement win for a variety of reasons. First, it was the Warriors second consecutive win over a top Western Conference team. Second, it established that the Warriors are priming themselves for the playoff grind. Third, they won their 25th out of 26th games in which Kevin Durant sat and Curry played.
Granted the first two reasons are essential, but the latter raises a huge question: Could the Warriors be better off without Durant for the future?
The Kevin Durant era for the Golden State Warriors is 30 for 30 material. The already potent Warriors attack became even more lethal with the addition of Durant. Durant’s gifted scoring matched well with the Warriors system, and its parlayed to two additional NBA titles.
However, the road to glory was not without bumps. The Warriors have had to deal with the baggage that came with Durant. His insecurity within himself over his decision to join the Warriors would plague the team for his first two seasons. This year, he had drama with Draymond Green while becoming testy with the media on his pending free agency.
Last but not least, the Warriors are 25-1 when he sits, and Curry plays. Durant has proven to be a great asset, but the Warriors are much different when he is off the floor. It’s as if they have returned to the mid-2010’s form when Steve Kerr took the helm.
So the question that begs, is should the Warriors ask for Durant’s hand for a long term commitment this summer?
On one hand, you don’t want to let a trailblazing talent of Durant’s caliber to pass you by. He truly has made the Warriors an unstoppable force when he, Curry and Klay Thompson all click. The NBA was already adjusting to how the Warriors were playing pre-Durant. Durant’s signing in 2016 would further implore that teams had to readjust how they built their roster so that they could compete with the Warriors talent.
On the other hand, Durant has helped the Warriors teeter the line of a media circus. Durant’s issues with social media and pundits slamming him for his decision to go to the Bay Area led to his teammates always defending his actions instead of worrying about basketball. The drama with Green essentially didn’t help his case, as Green called him names I’m sure his own mother would shame him for. The 25-1 record with him on the bench is just insult to injury.
Perhaps, the Warriors signing Boogie Cousins last summer was a high-risk, high reward move in case they wanted to move on from Durant. So far, he appears to fit in with their offense much smoother than many would have thought. The Warriors know they can get 20-plus points a night from Boogie, but the do-everything big man who is playing with low maintenance is suiting them just fine.
Whichever way the Warriors choose to go, they will be just fine. Of course, they won before Durant and probably will win whether he is there or not. The biggest factor will be age, as Green and Thompson will enter this offseason 29, and Curry 31.
But whichever way they lean, the Warriors must remember what made them the NBA’s preeminent dynasty: culture. If Durant’s pluses outweigh the minuses, then the call should be easy. If not, it will be difficult to let him go, but they can probably rest easy knowing they have done fine without him.