Stunning news out of the NBA as Kevin Durant as has chosen to leave for Golden State in free agency. Can you say 82-0 next season for the Dubs? They are clear title NBA Betting favorites.
What If Thunder Had Beaten Warriors?
Of course the Warriors nearly lost to Durant's Thunder in the Western Conference Finals this past season, rallying from a 3-1 series deficit. There's probably no way that Durant leaves Oklahoma City if the Thunder win that series -- regardless of what had happened in the NBA Finals against Cleveland. Golden State blew a 3-1 series lead in the Finals to the Cavs.
I'm looking forward to all the major sportsbooks posting an 'over/under' wins total next season for the Warriors. They set the NBA record with 73 regular-season wins in 2015-16. I'd imagine any total would be at least 75 wins now. How does a team with Kevin Durant, two-time NBA MVP Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green lose a game? They will absolutely be favored in all of them. By the way, Durant, Curry, Thompson, and Green are all 28 years old or younger. There have never previously been four All-Stars age 28 or younger on any NBA team. Durant averaged 28.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 5.0 assists last season, and he scored at least 20 points in 67 straight games. Even without Durant, the Warriors had the best offense in the NBA last season at 114.5 points per 100 possessions.
So this club is going to be unbeatable, barring major injury, for probably at least the next five years.
Some people already are criticizing Durant for going "title-chasing." He couldn't beat the Warriors so he had to join them? This is a bit different than when LeBron James left Cleveland for Miami. And here's what's ironic -- Durant tweeted this six years ago when James did head to Miami with Chris Bosh to make that a super team: "Now everybody wanna play for the Heat and the Lakers? Let's go back to being competitive and going at these peoples!"
Here was Durant's justification in an article he wrote on the Players Tribune: "The primary mandate I had for myself in making this decision was to have it based on the potential for my growth as a player — as that has always steered me in the right direction. But I am also at a point in my life where it is of equal importance to find an opportunity that encourages my evolution as a man: moving out of my comfort zone to a new city and community which offers the greatest potential for my contribution and personal growth. With this in mind, I have decided that I am going to join the Golden State Warriors."
Durant will sign a two-year, $54.3 million contract. It will include a player option after the first year. But that just allows Durant to sign a bigger long-term deal next season when the salary cap rises again. Durant's contract -- as with all free-agent deals -- can be finalized Thursday.
The Warriors are going to lose two starters, but that hardly matters. Forward Harrison Barnes, who really struggled in the Finals against Cleveland, has agreed to a huge offer sheet with the Dallas Mavericks and the Warriors won't be matching that. Golden State also will surely trade starting center Andrew Bogut, clearing his $11.7 million salary off the books. After signing Durant, Golden State would have the $2.9 million room exception available and would have to fill out the remainder of the roster with players making the minimum. Currently at BetOnline their NBA odds, the Warriors are now -105 to win the 2017 NBA title. They were +110. The Cavaliers are +350 to repeat.
By the way, how smart are Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber looking now? They were criticized for paying $450 million for the Warriors six years ago. By adding Durant, the team is worth nearly $2 billion, according to estimates.
What does this mean for the Oklahoma City Thunder? Nothing good. I would imagine that their other superstar, Russell Westbrook, leaves in free agency next summer. He's an L.A. guy and been linked to the Lakers, for example. Perhaps Westbrook told Durant he wasn't sticking around. Might the Thunder instead trade Westbrook to get something before he walks away? OKC has risen to +2000 on NBA picks to win next year's title.
I can also all but guarantee you this: the Warriors and Thunder will either play in Oklahoma City on opening night or on Christmas, which is the NBA's marquee day of the regular season. The NBA should release the 2016-17 schedule sometime next month.