Although many people may believe that this upcoming season may be predictable and insignificant, I am more enthusiastic and excited for the 2016-2017 NBA season than I have been in a long time. Obviously the offseason played a big part into my excitement as several teams added some key players that they hope will take their team to the next level. Most notably the Golden State Warriors added the second best basketball player on the planet in my opinion in Kevin Durant a practically 7 foot small forward who has an even larger wingspan. He is one of the best sharpshooters in this league, a very solid rebounder and an underrated defender.
Adding Kevin Durant to an already incredible Golden State Warriors team that has the back to back league MVP Stephen Curry, two other superstars in Draymond Green and Klay Thompson and a team that went 73-9 and was within a 3-1 choke of winning the NBA finals seems almost unfair. Many fans are angry about the signing of KD and think that he has ruined the regular season and made it not even worth playing. Notably, first take analyst Stephen A Smith called it a “weak move” saying that Durant by signing with the Warriors was making his rout to the championship easy and ruining competition. First of all, I would like to argue Smith’s point about Durant going to the Warriors being a weak move. I believe that just like Lebron going to the Heat, Durant going to the Warriors was a smart decision for his career. It was obvious at least in my eyes that the Thunder as constructed weren’t going to win a championship. Even though they got up 3-1 in that Western Conference series and dominated in the series before vs the Spurs, San Antonio was extremely old and couldn’t handle the athleticism of OKC and the Warriors for the majority of the series were bothered by size, strength and athleticism too.
However, when games would come down the stretch, they couldn’t close games. This occurred for several reasons. First, OKC hasn’t had a good coach in my opinion in the Durant Westbrook era. Scott Brooks had no offense at all and Billy Donovan wasn’t really able to improve the offense either. They mostly revolved around pick and rolls and isolation ball. This brings me to my second point. When Russ and KD were on the court together it was almost as if only one of them were in for stretches. Westbrook and Durant often didn’t trust each other down the stretch and both went isolation trying to win the game for their team. But they had no identity because Westbrook tried to turn into a 3 point shooter which he isn’t and force the issue because he felt it was his team. Durant would in response not pass because he didn’t know when he would get the ball again. Neither Durant nor Westbrook really trusted each other or their other teammates and because of their lack of chemistry/ true identity it seemed like they would never be able to win a championship and that the only reason they kept making deep postseason runs was their pure athleticism and talent alone.
In Golden State, they have a proven coach in Steve Kerr with a proven system that gets the ball moving. They also have a point guard in Steph Curry who is much more team first and passive passing up the good shot to get the great shot. This team has a ton of shooters that KD can pass to off of penetration as well as two amazing ball handlers/skilled passers in Draymond and Curry. Another reason fans are angry about Durant going to the Warriors is that they believe without Durant, Golden State would still win a title. Although it is very possible they could have, I think that Cleveland was clearly the stronger team and without Draymond and Iggy, they needed another guy to play some minutes guarding Lebron. Harrison Barnes is another key factor why the Warriors lost because teams would sag off of him and let him shoot and miss so there would be no floor spacing for the splash bros to do their thing. Durant is elite from behind the arc and inside as well as an extremely underrated defender with his length and wingspan capable of getting steals and blocking shots. Golden State was also doing virtually all their scoring from behind the arc and needed a post player to balance that out which Durant can be.
Overall, I think next season not only will Durant have an impact, but I predict he will have the best statistical season of any Warrior including Curry. So how does this not ruin the regular season? People all over the country are going to be intrigued to watch the Warriors play because they play beautiful basketball and are the most uptempo and entertaining offenses we may have ever seen. Also several other teams have made some huge signings that will help their respective teams out and even if in the end they wouldn’t be on the level of GSW, they will still be trying to take down the Goliath of the NBA and it will be like their NBA finals. As for the west even though the Spurs lost Tim Duncan, they rebounded with a solid big man who is past his prime but still serviceable in Gasol. The Memphis Grizzlies also finally addressed their lack of shooting by adding wing sharpshooter Chandler Parsons. However, the balance of power seems to have switched to the East. After the Cavs came back from down 1-3 in the NBA finals and won, other teams in the East have drastically improved to try and compete.
It’s safe to say that top to bottom the East may be better and more competitive than the West. Teams like the Raptors and Cavs lost very little of importance and should still be at around the top. Other teams such as the Celtics, Knicks, Bulls, and Pacers however added themselves into the mix with their moves. Boston added Al Horford a stretch big who can really benefit from playing alongside a playmaker like Isaiah Thomas. The Knicks built what they would like to call a Super Team adding pieces around their star Melo and future Porzingis such as three-point specialist Courtney Lee, former MVP point guard Derrick Rose and former defensive anchor Joakim Noah. Chicago built an intriguing team of their own adding point guard Rajon Rondo who I think will thrive in Chicago and is one of the first true pass first point guards they’ve had in awhile along with former Miami Heat star and three time NBA champ Dwyane Wade who still as a little left in the tank. With their new coming vets and young talent this team could be very interesting if they can find an outside game to work with their penetration and inside game.
The final team in my opinion who may have catapulted themselves as far as the 2 seed in the East is the Pacers. Indiana added potentially 3 new players to their starting five in point guard Jeff Teague, stretch four Thaddeus Young, and big man Al Jefferson. If you combine that lineup on paper with superstar Paul George and offensive wizard Monta Ellis this team is a nightmare to guard. The trick for Indiana is playing good enough defense to win ball games. Just because the Warriors and Cavs may be the favorites to go to their third straight finals, there is still a lot to look forward to in this NBA season. For example we get to watch how the chemistry is going to be for these super teams and how the teams these stars left are going to do. (Can’t wait for the Thunder to play the Warriors). We also get to watch out for what teams might make additional trades and signing to compete with Golden State. For example a team like the Cavs may see Chris Bosh not working out in Miami and once he’s released may go after him or Demarcus Cousins who isn’t happy in Sacramento. Another factor to consider is rookies and their progression this season. Even though Simmons is out for a couple months, guys like Ingram and Dunn are going to be battling for starting jobs and possibly a chance to make an immediate impact on their team in terms of wins. As an optimistic fan who loves the game, I am beyond excited for the start of the season and think it could be one of the most fun and entertaining seasons yet.