If July 4th is known for fireworks and America’s day of independence, Kevin Durant set off some proverbial fireworks in declaring his own.
In a post published on The Players’ Tribune titled, “My Next Chapter”, the 2013-14 NBA MVP, seven-time All-Star and four-time scoring champion announced in a shocking move that he will sign with the 2016 NBA Finals runner-up Golden State Warriors in a move that has already sent shockwaves throughout the NBA landscape.
With fans and media still in the throes of seeing mega-contracts dished out to players such as Timofey Mozgov, Evan Turner, Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons and Al Horford, Durant’s new deal—a reported two-year $54.3 million with a player option for next season—looks like a bargain discount.
In leaving OKC at the altar for the defending Western Conference champion Warriors, Durant joins a loaded lineup that features the reigning back-to-back—and first-ever unanimous league MVP—in Steph Curry, the defending All-Star Three-Point shooting champion in Klay Thompson, NBA Defensive Player of the Year in Draymond Green and the 2015 NBA Finals MVP in Andre Igudoula.
Did I forget to mention that head coach Steve Kerr is the NBA Coach of the Year? Okay. Just checking!
Durant’s 27.4 points per game—third all-time in NBA history—gives Dubs a “Fantastic Four” to rival Cleveland’s “Big Three”–and the ill-fated 2004 Los Angeles Lakers four-headed start-studded lineup of Gary Payton, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal that lost to the Detroit Pistons in five games–instantly makes them 4-5 favorites—per Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, after opening 3-2–to claim their franchise’s fifth NBA title—and third–in the Bay Area.
In what is basically a glorified swap of former first-round pick Harrison Barnes—who agreed to a four-year $94 million offer sheet with the Dallas Mavericks—many can already begin to pencil in the Golden State Warriors to likely meet rival Lebron James and the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers for the third straight year in the NBA Finals, in what has become the NBA’s newest bi-coastal glamour Finals rivalry this side of the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers.
How does Durant’s move to the Bay effect the newly-crowned champions?
Not a lot, surprisingly.
With the Cavaliers already losing the fore-mentioned Mozgov to the Lakers and likely to not resign fan favorite Matthew Dellevedova—who agreed to a four-year, $38 million offer sheet with the Milwaukee Bucks—Cleveland now had added motivation to resign shooting guard J.R. Smith and add another perimeter wing defender to counter Golden State’s run-and-gun offense.
Perhaps this increases Cleveland’s urgency to add LBJ’s BFF in Dwyane Wade? Who knows.
Cleveland would be wise to add another big as well to counter the Warriors lack of size, as they are also expected to lose either or both Andrew Bogut via trade and unrestricted free agent Festus Ezeli—whom the Warriors renounced their rights to.
While Golden State’s newly-coined ‘Fantastic Four” may be able to score in bunches and likely to challenge their own regular-season wins record, in a weird twist of fate, Cleveland has the luxury of playing the “lack of respect” card in playing in the shadows, while all the media and fans will nit-pick and scrutinize every Warriors win and loss from now until next summer.
And if you’re Cleveland, that is perfectly fine with you.