With the heated argument between Draymond Green and Kevin Durant at the end of their game against the Clippers, rumors of KD leaving have intensified. This offseason, Durant, Klay Thompson, and Demarcus Cousins all enter free agency. Next offseason, Green is also a free agent. Luckily for the other 29 teams, there is no way the Warriors can resign everybody. This has led to people suggesting KD will leave for LA or New York next season. This isn’t an unreasonable rumor. After taking pay cuts the previous 3 seasons, Durant has stated he wants a max contract. There is no way the Warriors can do this, so KD would obviously have to leave.
If KD did leave, would the Warriors miss him? In the 2 seasons prior to KD’s arrival, the Warriors won a championship and set a new regular-season win record. But, they also infamously choked a 3-1 lead in the Finals. Despite the blown lead, this team was great without Durant. Now, 3 years later, can they return to that level of dominance? Or have they become too reliant on KD?
When It Was Fun: the 2014-2016 Warriors
Originally this team was built around three draft picks. Steph Curry was selected 7th overall in 2009, Klay Thompson 11th overall in 2011, and Draymond Green 35th in 2012. With these three core players, Steve Kerr and the Warriors developed a fast pace, 3-point heavy offense. Previously people in the NBA community frowned upon taking so many 3-pointers, but after the Warriors success, they had no choice but to accept it. In the 2014-15 season, the Warriors finished with 67 wins, the best record in basketball. Additionally, they led the league in pace, points per game, assists, field goal percentage, and three-point percentage. Curry won his first MVP averaging 23.8 PPG, 7.7 APG while shooting 44% from three on 8 attempts per game. Between the core three and key role players Andre Iguadola and Harrison Barnes, the Warriors went on to win a championship.
Next season the Warriors set the record with 73-wins. Again, they led the league in pace, points per game, 3 pointers made, assists, field goal percentage, and three-point percentage. This dominating performance throughout the regular season didn’t last in the playoffs. They faced a 3-1 deficit against Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder and lost in 7 games to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the finals. This is what made this team fun. Although they were dominant, they weren’t unbeatable. That is until the offseason.
The Durant Era
After blowing a 3-1 lead and losing to the Cavs the Warriors, specifically Green, recruited Kevin Durant. Because of Curry’s remarkably cheap $11 million salary, and a huge cap spike that offseason the Warriors were able to sign Durant under the salary cap. Everybody knows what happened next. The Warriors essentially became unbeatable, beating the Cavs 4-1 in 2017 and sweeping them in the 2018 finals. Durant considering leaving has led people to believe this dominance will suddenly end, but they may return to 2016 form. Not unbeatable, but dominant.
The biggest flaw in this idea is the decline in key players such as Green. After Durant’s arrival, Green’s averages dropped from 14.0 PPG (49/39/70), 9.5 RPG, 7.4 APG to 10.2 PPG (42/31/71), 7.9 RPG, 7.0 APG. His defense was still very good, but he clearly wasn’t the same player. This is concerning because without him the Warriors don’t have a second shot creator on offense. Obviously, adding a player like Durant the decrease in stats is understandable because Green got fewer touches on offense, but the issue is his efficiency. His three-point shooting plummeted and is still awful and he shot significantly less efficient despite, theoretically, having better shots.
Even with Green’s decline is it possible for Curry and Thompson to carry the offense? It may be. Thompson and Curry’s efficiency has skyrocketed with KD and they would likely be able to take a few more shots per game without it dropping. This season we’ve seen Klay go off for 52 in 29 minutes and Curry looks like an MVP candidate. The Warriors would also have more money to bolster their bench if KD decided to leave in the offseason. Returning to their “Strength in Numbers” slogan of the 2014-2016 seasons could bring back a less dominant, yet more entertaining Warriors team.
Overall, even with Green’s decline and the potential KD leaves this offseason the Warriors should be fine. They will no longer be the unanimous favorites to win the Finals, but they should still compete. Bob Myers has proven to be an excellent GM and will no doubt put a competitive team forward no matter what happens this offseason.