It’s the talk around the NBA. It’s completely taken over sports headlines. If only there was a 1 hour “Decision” special and parade signing, it might be the most jaw dropping free agent move in pro sports history. If you’ve been living on the moon the last week (unless social media is accessible in space), Kevin Durant has decided to take his talents to Oakland and join the Golden State Warriors. Adding a former MVP and 4x scoring champion has instantly put the Warriors as the undisputed favourites for the 2017 NBA Championship. However, if there is one lesson that everyone can learn from sports, it is “Nothing is a guarantee, anything can happen”.
The core of this team seems almost like a fantasy dream team. Imagine having the reigning back-to-back MVP who is on pace to be the greatest 3 point shooter in NBA history. Add another All-NBA scorer and you have the one of the greatest backcourts of all time. If you need a boost in the front court, add one of the most versatile players in the league at both ends of the floor. If you need someone to call the shots, hire a coach who won 5 championships as a player and was molded by Hall of Fame coaches Phil Jackson and Gregg Poppovich. A core like this could take you to consecutive finals, capturing the Larry O’Brien trophy in one year and breaking the wins record with 73 the following year. At the small forward position, you have an All-Defensive Player backing up a rising star. So what if you replace that rising star with one of the best players of the millennium?
Led by Kevin Durant and teammate Russell Westbrook, the Thunder had a 3-1 Western Conference Series lead over the Warriors and were one quarter away from making it back to the NBA Finals. However, a series collapse led Kevin Durant to the “If you can’t beat em, join em” move. After being considered the nice guy for most of his career (funny Nike show commercials, emotional moments with his mom who was da real mvp, the gangsta handshakes with President Obama, and the absolutely horrible Thunderstruck movie), Durant is now labelled as the villain of the league. The video rants by ESPN analysts, the negative tweets from NFL players, and the videos of putting Kevin Durant’s face on Seth Rollins’ Shield break-up or Will Smith’s non-loyal father have gone viral on social media. It hasn’t phased Durant one bit though, who knew this tough decision would spark hatred.
Like LeBron James’ entire career, the only way to shut people up is to win and to win a lot. Especially when non-Durant/Warriors fans are hoping it all ends similar to a Lakers’ Dwight Howard scenario (from Title favourites to first round sweep to eventual departure). General Manager Bob Myers told Durant “Without you, we can win another title or two. Without us, you might win too. Together? We’ll win a bunch”. The Golden State Warriors have everything it needs to win multiple championships. The question is, who and what would it take to eliminate this super team in a 7 game series?:
Ben Simmons and the Hungry Rookies
Okay, just kidding. Unfortunately the NBA is not a league where rookies lead teams to championships. But it is worth giving a shout out to the #1 overall pick and his highlight dimes he’s been dropping in the Summer League.
San Antonio Spurs and that Bulky Front Court
Last summer, the Spurs were the big talk of the off-season. With a foundation based on winning and professionalism, San Antonio added all-star forward LaMarcus Aldridge to pair with rising star Kawhi Leonard and a core of championship veterans. The Spurs ended up finishing with 67 wins and a record tying 41-1 record at home. Heading into the playoffs, many people had the West as a 2 team race between the Spurs and the Warriors. The Spurs were stunned and out-scored by the athletic Oklahoma City Thunder. Well, the Thunder don’t appear to be a playoff threat even if Westbrook averages a triple double. Like 29 other teams, the Spurs wanted Durant to give them a go-to scorer capable of taking over games. While they may not have acquired the Durantala, adding veteran star Pau Gasol will give the Spurs a big boost at Centre, especially with Captain Tim Duncan’s retirement plans up in the air.
The Golden State Warriors added Zaza Pachulia and former-Spur David West to the front court after losing Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli, Andrew Bogut, and Marquis Speights. If the Spurs are going to beat the Warriors, they are going to have to utilize their size. Outscoring the Warriors will be nearly impossible but dominating the boards, getting extra possessions, and controlling the paint on both ends of the floor can very well have the Spurs in a good position come playoffs. Oh ya, and a coach like Gregg Poppovich has zero problem if all the media attention is on Golden State.
During the 2010-2011 season, everyone had Heat-Lakers in the finals before a single game was even played. What happened? Both teams were eliminated by the Dallas Mavericks.. The 2004 Pistons (a core that had won 1 playoff series win in prior seasons) also found a way to take down a star-studded Lakers roster in the NBA Finals. If a friend of yours told you that these two teams were going to be Champions before the seasons had started, well, ask them for lottery number predictions as well.
So who are the X-Factors of the 2016-2017 season? *DRRRRRUMMMMROLLL* L.A. CLIPPERS!. The Clippers have a roster capable of winning a championship. Yet every playoffs they seem to underachieve and disappoint. Last season doesn’t count, with all-stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin both falling to injury. It remains a stretch for this Clippers team to be able to take down the Warriors. There is still a gap (especially defensively) at the wing and DeAndre Jordan’s horrible free throw shooting and lack of offensive command remains a big liability. So will a team like the Clippers advance to the NBA Finals? Not likely, but stranger things have happened.
LeBron James and the Beasts of the East
You are champs, until you are the champs no more. So for the fans posting crying Jordan face memes for the Cavaliers, you are stupid. That is only applicable to the Thunder. Chances are players like LeBron James and J.R. Smith are lying poolside hugging the NBA trophy, not crying over Kevin Durant. The Cavaliers overcame a big curse last season, coming back from 3-1 and ending a long championship drought in the city of Cleveland. Now that the monkey is off their back, the next season will be played much more loosely.
Unlike any team in the West, LeBron has always had an easier path to the finals with 6 consecutive appearances. Considered the “Leastern” Conference, the East is only getting better. With a few free agent moves, the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, and Boston Celtics all boosted up their rosters. While the Championship is always the big picture goal, taking down the Cavs in the playoffs is every Eastern team’s main goal.
The story-filled off-season has only added more anticipation for the next season. In the mean time, the only thing players can do is prep and the only thing fans can do is debate, speculate, and hate. Only three and a half more months until the season tips off. Let the countdown begin.