Kevin Durant agreed a two-year, $54 million contract1 with the Golden State Warriors on Monday, guaranteeing them a championship in 2017 with a player option for a second in 2018.
The new and improved Warriors might be the greatest team of all time. At least the greatest offensive team and other senior superlatives. They were the greatest regular season team of all time and one of the greatest offensive teams last season — with Harrison Barnes2 at small forward.
Durant replaces Barnes, making the Warriors an unprecedented super team, with four All-NBA players — Durant, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson — in their prime. Four players who will be 26 to 28 years old next 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.
The Warriors are 140-24 with one championship over the past two seasons, and they would have won a second — if it wasn’t for that meddling LeBron James. They are the best possible version of the new NBA, a team built on the principles of pace and space and shooting. Durant will create better spacing and more open shots.
Curry, Thompson and Durant are the three best shooters in the league:
• Curry shot 57 percent from 2-point range, 45 percent from 3-point range and 91 percent from the free throw line last season.
• Thompson shot 51 percent, 43 percent and 87 percent.
• Durant shot 57 percent, 39 percent and 90 percent.3
Curry and Durant have won the last three MVP awards and five of the last seven scoring titles. Curry averaged 30.1 points last season. Durant averaged 28.2. Don’t expect either to lead the league next season, because of Golden State’s myriad offensive options. But Durant likely will lead his new team in scoring. He scores with ease, while Curry works hard for his points.
Draymond Green is the team’s versatile point forward and mouth who led the Warriors in rebounding and assists last season. He was automatically suspended for Game 5 of the NBA Finals after accumulating four flagrant fouls in the playoffs.
Andre Iguodala is one of the league’s best sixth men who usually finishes games as part of Golden State’s lineup of death. An excellent defender, he won’t have to chase Durant any longer.
The rest of the roster is under construction. Barnes and the center platoon of Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli are gone — all to make room for Durant’s contract. The Warriors used their entire mid-level exception to sign center Zaza Pachulia. They will keep backup point guard Shaun Livingston, who played well in the playoffs. They selected Damian Jones and Patrick McCaw in last month’s draft. Leandro Barbosa, Brandon Rush, Anderson Varejao and James Michael McAdoo might be back, but that’s not a good bench.
Many Jenga pieces collapsed to make Durant’s deal possible. The Warriors lost to the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, partly because Curry wasn’t healthy, Green was suspended for Game 5, Barnes missed open shots and LeBron was LeBron. If any of those variables are reversed, maybe the Warriors win the championship. Maybe Durant doesn’t sign with them, because he would be perceived as more of a bandwagon player instead of one trying to help them win. Had the Thunder beat the Warriors in the Western Conference finals, Durant likely stays in Oklahoma City. Then there’s the league’s collective bargaining agreement and its spiked salary cap, which allowed the Warriors to pay Durant more than $26 million next season.
The Warriors did one other thing by signing Durant. They eliminated the Thunder as title contenders. That’s the team they feared most. Not the Spurs or Cavaliers.
One less obstacle for the greatest team of all time.