When Kevin Durant signed with the Warriors in the 2016 offseason, the basketball world ripped his decision to go to the team that had beaten his former team, the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals. They thought it was “weak” and called him a “snake.”
Two championships and two NBA Finals MVPs later, Durant is on the move again in free agency.
As much as the departure of Durant stings the Warriors, in a way, it helps Golden State save a lot of money. They will save close to $1 billion with KD signing with Brooklyn. It not only helps the Warriors save a ton of money, but it will give them more financial flexibility to potentially give Draymond Green a max contract next summer. In addition to his departure, there was a possibility that Durant would engage in a sign-and-trade with the Warriors, which would give them a huge Trade Player Exception that would allow the Warriors to fill out their roster.
The Warriors desperately need to fill out their roster with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Damian Jones, Eric Paschall, Jordan Poole, and Alen Smailagic all under contract for next season. It was reported on Sunday night that the Warriors would be involved in a three-team trade with the Nets and the Memphis Grizzlies. The Nets would trade all-star guard, D’Angelo Russell to Golden State for Durant and the Grizzlies would receive swiss-army knife, Andre Iguodala and a few future first round picks. This leaves the Warriors with very little room financially.
Not only does a Durant departure give the Warriors more financial flexibility, but they do not have these heavy expectations as instantaneous title contenders as they did with Durant on the team. However, the trade for Russell puts the pressure on the Warriors next season to not take a “gap year” and at least be a playoff contender. Because of the type of player Durant was, it put lofty expectations on the team to be in a “championship or bust” mindset, but with Russell, there is not as much pressure since he is still a young and up-and-coming star.
In a way now, the Warriors are considered underdogs, a word that the team probably has not heard a lot in the last few years, especially with Durant aboard. However, with Durant gone and Klay Thompson recovering from a torn ACL suffered in game 6 of this past season’s NBA Finals, basketball pundits and fans are writing off Golden State next campaign.
That is not a smart thing to do.
Betting against the original core of Curry, Thompson and Green, players who have been to five straight Finals.
Curry and Green, especially thrive in the underdog role. Both players have had to work extremely hard to reach the elite levels where they are at. The No. 7 pick in the 2009 draft and the No. 35 pick in the 2012 draft like when fans and the media write them off. It motivates them. If there are two guys that fit and successfully thrive in being called underdogs, it’s Curry and Green.
Under their leadership and the noise of the Warriors’ run “being over,” Curry, Green and the rest of the Warriors have an opportunity to remind the rest of the league that they are still a championship level basketball team. Plug in Russell and you have a temporary three-headed monster, at least until Thompson comes back.
There are still holes to plug in for now, such as a defensive identity. But with Durant departed and Iguodala traded, the Warriors signed a young, burgeoning star that will hopefully pay immediate dividends next season. The end of one era signals newer and much less strenuous era of playing Warriors basketball without the pressures of championship expectations.
The Warriors have some more decisions to make to continue to stay competitive, but after several extra games and five consecutive Finals appearances, they can rest until it’s time to go back to work in October.