Warriors to sign Kevin Durant

Erik Khan,
Staff Writer

The Golden State Warriors just finished one of the greatest NBA seasons of all time, winning an NBA record 73 games in the regular season, topping the 1996 Chicago Bulls record of 72-10.

Despite their success, they were unable to bring back a second consecutive championship to Oakland, blowing a 3-1 lead against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA finals. While it would have been reasonable for the Warriors to keep the best regular season team of all time intact and try again next season, they instead pulled the biggest free agency power move of all time and signed former Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant.

To the casual sports fan, this might seem common: Players regularly sign contracts with other teams during free agency, particularly the ones that are good. But to anyone who knows anything about basketball, this is hard to wrap your head around, because this never happens: Durant, one of the best three players in the league next to Lebron James and Stephen Curry, just signed with one of the greatest teams of all time.

While the Durant to Golden State rumors have been tossed around NBA circles for most of last year, the idea of him actually leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder was farfetched. Durant, a former NBA MVP and scoring champion, is the type of franchise player that teams build around. Players were supposed to want to come play with Durant because he is one of the best players in the league, not the opposite.

But that’s exactly what happened. Durant is clearly embracing the “if you can’t beat them, join them” mentality. The Thunder, led by Durant and fellow all-star Russell Westbrook, led the Warriors 3-1 in this year’s Western Conference finals but were unable to close out the defending champs.

Instead of playing in his second NBA finals, Durant was forced to watch from home after their loss to the Dubs in the finals. You have to think he watched the Warriors play against the Cavaliers and thought that he could be the piece that puts this team over the top.

The Warriors are not exactly the same team that Durant and the rest of the country watched in this year’s NBA finals. In order to make room for Durant’s maximum 2 year $54 million dollar contract, some players were let go to make room financially. Harrison Barnes, the man that Durant will be replacing in the Warriors starting lineup, signed a four-year, $94 million deal with the Dallas Mavericks on Monday.

Shortly after the Durant signing was announced, center Andrew Bogut was traded to the Mavericks as well, as his $11 million dollar contract was too much for the Warriors to pay with the Durant deal in place. The Warriors also will likely be forced to watch backup center Festus Ezeli sign with another team, as he will command a contract that the Warriors will likely not have the financial means to match, since most of their money is occupied by Durant, Thompson, Curry and Green.

The fact that the Warriors are able to pull this deal off is reliant on a couple of key factors. First, their two-time reigning NBA MVP is on the most team-friendly contract in all of the NBA. Curry’s contract, which he is in the final year of, pays him just 12 million per year. Curry signed this deal back in 2011 when the health of his ankles were a constant issue and the team did not want to commit to an often injured player.

Thompson and Green also have team-friendly deals, as they each deserve maximum contracts like Durant has and Curry has coming next year. When you pair Curry, Thompson and Green’s below-market value contracts with the NBA salary cap increasing by 7.2 percent this year, the max deal for Durant just fits under their books. The Warriors also signed center Zaza Pachulia to replace Bogut. Pachulia also took a discount to play for the Warriors, as he put the prospects of winning championships before his financial gains.

This Warriors core of Curry, Thompson and Green has always seemed to embrace the team-first mentality that puts winning before personal gain. Durant is doing just that by coming to Oakland for less money than he could have got with the Thunder, in hopes he can win a championship with Golden State who has been to the NBA Finals in back to back seasons. This deal presents a seismic shift in the NBA’s power structure, as they took their competition’s best player.

Not only will Durant help the Warriors bring multiple NBA championships back to Oakland, he is going to elevate them into the conversation of greatest team of all time. Pairing Durant with Curry, Thompson and Green give the Warriors the four best players on any current NBA team, and perhaps any team of all time. Before this deal, the future in Oakland looked to be great with back-to-back championship appearances, but this — this is just unfair.