“There’s a lot I need to learn about the game of basketball,” Durant said after the Warriors beat the Los Angeles Clippers by 45 points in their second preseason game. “I’m not as smart as I thought I was about the game. It’s played a different way here than I was used to playing. It’s not a knock on Oklahoma City. It’s not a knock on my past teammates or that organization. … I mean it’s different here. It’s fun here.”
1. It is a knock on Oklahoma City.
2. He’s right.
The Warriors — who open the season tonight against the San Antonio Spurs — do play the game a different way. They play with pace and space and transition 3-pointers. They had the league’s best offense1 last season and made a record 1,007 3-pointers, led by Stephen Curry’s record 402 3-pointers. They play a new beautiful game — and now they play it with Kevin Durant.
The Warriors play chess. The rest of the league plays checkers.
The Thunder, which had the league’s second-best offense,2 averaged 53 wins over the past seven seasons, because Durant and Russell Westbrook were just that good. They took turns dominating on each possession. They didn’t play together. They just happened to be on the same team.
The Warriors signed Durant two weeks after losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. Durant — a 7-foot small forward who won four scoring titles in five seasons — makes the Warriors an unprecedented super team, with four All-NBA players in their prime. Durant, Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson will be 26 to 28 years old this season. That’s what separates them from the 72 Lakers, 1980s Lakers, 86 Celtics, 1990s Bulls, 08 Celtics and 12 Heat. Those teams had a Big Three. The Warriors have a Fab Four.
Durant also gives the Warriors three of the best all-around shooters in the league.
Adding 2-point shooting percentage, 3-point percentage and free throw percentage is a good measure of an all-around shooter. Curry is the league’s best, Durant second and Thompson fifth.
|Stephen Curry, Warriors||57||45||91||193|
|Kevin Durant, Thunder||57||39||90||186|
|J.J. Redick, Clippers||48||48||89||185|
|Kawhi Leonard, Spurs||53||44||87||184|
|Klay Thompson, Warriors||51||43||87||181|
|Darren Collison, Kings||52||40||86||178|
|Chris Paul, Clippers||50||37||90||177|
|Khris Middleton, Bucks||47||40||89||176|
|Evan Fournier, Magic||51||40||84||175|
|Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks||48||37||89||174|
Curry’s 193 total shooting percentage is second all-time behind Steve Nash,3 who shot 194 in 2006-07. Durant’s 186 is one of the top 20 seasons of all time.
“I was just like a kid, like, in a candy shop,” Durant said of watching the Warriors in the NBA Finals and the possibility of playing with them. “I’d get wide open 3s. I could just run up and down the court, get wide open layups.”
Curry, Durant and Thompson and the rest of the Warriors will get even more wide open shots this season.
The Warriors won 73 games last season, but their margin of victory and offensive and defensive ratings say they were really a 65-win team. ESPN’s real plus-minus projections predict 66.8 wins, FiveThirtyEight predicts 68 and the Las Vegas over / under odds have them at 66.5.
Those predictions are safe bets. But 73 wins or more wouldn’t surprise me.
The rest of the league (with my predictions):
|1. Warriors||Depth|||||Kevin Durant||67|
|2. Spurs||Tim Duncan|||||Pau Gasol||56|
|3. Clippers||Jeff Green|||||Raymond Felton||50|
|6. Rockets||Defense|||||Mike D’Antoni||44|
|7. Trail Blazers||Change|||||Stability||43|
|9. Grizzlies||Dave Joerger|||||Dave Fizdale||40|
|10. Mavericks||Chandler Parsons|||||Harrison Barnes||38|
|11. Pelicans||Injuries|||||More injuries||37|
|13. Kings||Rajon Rondo|||||Ty Lawson||35|
|14. Suns||Brandon Knight|||||Devin Booker||28|
|15. Lakers||Kobe Bryant|||||Brandon Ingram||23|
|1. Cavaliers||(Unrequited) love|||||(Kevin) Love||54|
|4. Pacers||George Hill|||||Jeff Teague||45|
|5. Hawks||Al Horford|||||Dwight Howard||44|
|6. Pistons||Reggie Jackson4|||||Ish Smith||43|
|7. Hornets||All-Star Game|||||HB2||42|
|8. Wizards||Injured Beal|||||Max deal||41|
|9. Bulls||Bad shooting|||||Worse shooting||39|
|11. Magic||Victor Oladipo|||||Serge Ibaka||36|
|12. Knicks||Summer of Melo|||||Fall of Rose||35|
|13. Bucks||Khris Middleton5|||||Matthew Dellavedova||34|
|15. 76ers||The process|||||The future||22|