Kevin Durant is joining the best regular-season team ever, leading to a million questions. Can the Golden State Warriors win more than 73 games? Should we start talking about a dynasty? Should the rest of the league give up?
General manager Bob Myers pitched Durant on winning "a bunch" of titles, per The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski, and that is absolutely reasonable with this amount of talent. Let's look at five ways Golden State will change with Durant on the roster:
1. The Deadliest Lineup
When the Warriors met with Durant in The Hamptons, the plan was to pitch him on a "Super Death Lineup," according to the Bay Area News Group's Marcus Thompson. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green formed a lineup so dominant that Sports Illustrated published a feature on it. Now its weakest link has been replaced by a future Hall of Famer.
I can't stop thinking about this team getting out on the break. Durant finishes in transition better than just about anybody. There should be more opportunities because he is a better rim protector than Barnes and he has longer arms to disrupt passing lanes. What can a defense do when Curry, Thompson and Durant are all sprinting to the 3-point line, ready to fire away? Other than pray for a miss, I mean.
2. An embarrassment of riches
Golden State has so many options. Until now, the Curry-Green pick-and-roll was considered the most dangerous play in the league. That option is still there, but a Curry-Durant pick-and-pop seems even more scary. These are the two most fearless scorers on the planet, and they need only a sliver of space to get shots off. Opposing defenses had enough trouble when they were gearing entire gameplans around slowing them down separately -- now they have to figure out what to do about them together.
Thompson can run pick-and-pops with Durant, too, with Curry spotting up and Green and Iguodala (or whoever else is on the floor) cutting. Durant can run the 4-5 pick-and-roll with Green. All of it seems unstoppable. It is funny to think that Thompson would be the No. 1 option on other teams and it is not hyperbolic to suggest that this should be the best offense in NBA history by a significant margin.
3. What about the Warriors' beautiful, free-flowing offense?
There might be a bit of an adjustment period for Durant. He's spent his whole career in relatively stagnant offenses, and he's always had a steady diet of isolation plays. For his whole life, he has been able to take his time sizing up defenders only to destroy them one-on-one or pick apart the defense when help comes. Under coach Steve Kerr, Golden State emphasizes ball movement and player movement. Everybody is involved. No one stops the ball for long.
Good news: Durant is a smart player and a great passer. If he didn't admire the Warriors system, he wouldn't have signed there. He'll get open looks in the flow of the offense for the first time ever, and he'll be amazed at the looks he gets when the floor is spaced with two of the best shooters ever next to him.
(Note: He is also one of the best shooters ever.)
More good news: It became clear in the playoffs and especially the Finals that Golden State needed somebody else to create offense when the opposing team is full of long, athletic defenders who can switch pick-and-rolls and stifle some of that movement. No one is better suited for this job than Durant.
4. What about defense?
The Warriors reportedly renounced their rights to Festus Ezeli and put Andrew Bogut on the trade block as soon as this deal was done. That's a lot of rim protection and physicality out of the lineup, but I'm not as worried about it as Andre Drummond is because:
- We don't know how Golden State will fill out its roster yet.
- The Warriors are going to score all of the points anyway.
- Durant could win Defensive Player of the Year with this team.
The defensive combination of Durant, Green and Iguodala is a lot like the offensive combination of Durant, Curry and Thompson. If it wasn't always clear that Durant was elite on both ends of the floor, his work against the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State in the playoffs made it abundantly so. He will do what Barnes did better, and he'll add some shot-blocking, too. Given that he won't have to carry as much of the scoring load, Durant should be at his best on defense more often.
5. What does this mean for the back-to-back MVP?
Only good things. Warriors adviser Jerry West reportedly told Durant that playing with the Splash Brothers would make his life easier, but that's equally true the other way around. Even with all of Golden State's firepower, opponents often chose to trap Curry and make his teammates beat them. Green is incredible making plays when the Warriors have a 4-on-3 advantage and Thompson has added a lot to his offensive arsenal in the past few years, but neither of them is the kind of guy who terrifies entire defenses when he has the ball in his hands. Durant is.
Maybe Curry won't average 30 points again. I doubt he cares about that, or about if people look at it as his team or Durant's team. He's not a selfish player, and he's probably about to have the most efficient season of his life. Given that he just had a 50-45-90 year, that is saying something.