Kevin Durant is an NBA Champion. He’s also an NBA Finals MVP after the Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in game 5 of the NBA Finals. The debate is over, Kevin Durant made the right decision when decided to join the Warriors in the summer of 2016. But how did he get there?
Maybe it all started on May 30, 2016 when the Golden State Warriors came back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Or maybe it started on June 19,2016 when the Warriors blew their own 3-1 lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Or maybe it started way back in February when Steph Curry knocked down a 32 footer in overtime to beat the Thunder.
Nobody really knows when it started but on July 4,2016 Kevin Durant announced to the world that he was leaving the Thunder to join the Warriors. The Warriors were coming off a 73-win season and the masses were in an uproar. Most basketball fans called him soft for joining the Warriors, basketball analyst said he was taking the easy way out to win an NBA title.
Throughout all the backlash it never hit levels of hate like when LeBron left Cleveland for South Beach but people were still upset. How could KD leave for a team that just beat him in the playoffs? There isn’t one exact answer but Kevin Durant wanted to play a fun brand of basketball, he wanted to grow as a player, and he wanted to learn how to be a champion.
As soon as he joined the team the Warriors were massive favorites to win the title again. In his first regular season game he scored 27 points but the Warriors lost by 29 points at home to the San Antonio Spurs. Kevin Durant would then go down with an injury on February 28 and returned on April 8th. The Warriors were fine without him as they cruised to 67 wins in the regular season.
In his first year with the team Durant played in 62 games. He attempted just 16.9 shots per game which is a career low. He averaged 25 ppg, 8.3 rpg (career high), 4.8 apg, 1.6 blkpg while shooting 53% from the field and 37% from 3-point range. Not a bad first year considering we all knew his shot attempts would go down and he missed some time.
Offense is the easy part for Durant. He’s the best offensive player in the game. But if watched the Warriors play during the season you could see Durant’s commitment on the defensive end. He was buying into the system. He wasn’t just a one dimensional player and that’s what makes the Warriors so incredible. All of their All-Stars are dedicated two-way players. Steph Curry may not be a lock down defender but he buys in and he gives the effort on the defensive end. Outside of the year he was limited to 27 games Durant took at least 1200 shots every year; this season he took 1026. The team outcome was greater than individual success.
Durant missed two games in the first round series against the Blazers as he was getting his groove back. As the playoffs went on Durant got better. Each series he got better. His shooting, his defense, his points all increased as the playoffs went on. In the postseason he averaged only 17.9 shots per game, also a career low for a postseason but still managed to put up 28.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 4.3 apg, 1.3 blkpg on 55% shooting and 44% from 3-point range.
At points during the season Durant was trying to fit in, pick his spots and continue to grow on the defense end as he gelled with his new teammates. On the biggest stage of his career Kevin Durant never looked better. He joined the Warriors so he could be on that stage and he did not disappoint. All the criticism did not matter, he is a great player and he went to a great situation so he could accomplish great things as a player and as a man.
Five NBA Finals game, five 30+ games. At times he looked like the best player in the world. He dominated on both sides of the ball. In game 2 he had 33 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, five blocks, three steals and shot 59% from the field. He wasn’t just trying to fit in anymore, he was taking over games. He didn’t just join this team so they could take him to the promise land while he sat back and coasted.
In the Finals he averaged 35.2 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 5.4 apg, 1.6 blkpg, on 55% shooting and 47% from 3-point range. In game 3 he knocked down the biggest shot of his career over LeBron James to give the Warriors the lead for good.
We can’t criticize players for not winning and then criticize them for joining a team that puts them in the best position to win. If Durant stayed in Oklahoma City for the next 10 seasons and never won anything people would continue to criticize him. Loyalty is overrated in sports; he honored his contract and made a basketball decision so he could win.
On June 12,2017 Kevin Durant’s decision to join the Golden State Warriors was justified. He was finally a NBA Champion and a NBA Finals MVP. Call him whatever you want but just don’t forget to call him a champion.