Kevin Durant’s decision to sign with the Golden State Warriors immediately vaulted the team into the status of potential legends.
Golden State Warriors’ newest player Kevin Durant, center, joins head coach Steve Kerr, left and general manager Bob Myers during a news conference at the NBA basketball team’s practice facility, Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Beck Diefenbach)
Armed with Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, discussions have already begun as to whether Golden State could actually improve on last year’s record-setting 73-9 regular season record. The amount of star power in Golden State has most sports publications practically guaranteeing a third-straight Finals appearance, with the Warriors basically on autopilot throughout the season.
Things are never a given in any sport no matter how stacked the odds look. LeBron James’ hookup with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh looked bulletproof on paper when they first hooked up in 2010, but even that group didn’t win a championship in their first year together. Is it a slam dunk for Golden State next season, or should expectations be tempered? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.
Riley: The Warriors lacked a one-on-one scorer once things got tight against Cleveland in the Finals. Curry had been that guy all season, but he struggled to emulate the same magic in the championship round. Durant instantly becomes the team’s best threat, and gives the Warriors the type of dominant wing player that can match James’ heroics. Golden State’s biggest challenges in the postseason came from Cleveland and the now Durant-less Oklahoma City Thunder. They’ve made the power moves that they needed to make, all that’s left for Golden State to do is to remain healthy, avoid team dysfunction and stay focused. They’ll cruise to a championship if they can handle all three tasks.
Green: Nothing is granted in the NBA and honestly, I can see Cleveland beating them again if the two rematch in next year’s Finals. The level that James played at during the Finals was historically brilliant. It’s a level of basketball that we’ve never seen from anybody on the Warriors team. If we’re expecting Durant to just come in and live up to James’ magic, then we could be in for a letdown. Once James and Kyrie Irving got in a groove, it was over for the Warriors. Durant’s arrival isn’t going to solve the defensive issues that Curry had against Irving, or the lack of rim protection that James took advantage of once Andrew Bogut went down. With Bogut now in Dallas permanently, I can’t promise another Warriors’ title as long as James is still playing.
Riley: Don’t forget that Golden State was up 3-1 in the series against Cleveland. Let’s not act like James and Irving completely dominated from start to finish. Golden State just needed some tweaking, and instead they came away with a potential Hall of Fame forward. Golden State definitely has to be considered the title favorites and for great reason. They were a game away from a second consecutive championship, and now they’ve added a perennial All-Star who’s hungry for a ring. We all look forward to parity in the NBA, but we won’t find that next season. The Warriors will be favored as long as their quartet stays together.
Green: I agree, they will be the favorites to win it all. Just don’t bank on it as guarantee. I think the only thing we can surely guarantee is that the Warriors and Cavaliers will face-off against one another in the Finals for a third straight year. But even if KD outplays James, I think Irving will still give Curry problems. Plus, we have to consider that Golden State was great last season because of their depth: they were the only team in the NBA that could play 10-11 quality guys throughout a game. But gaining Durant came at the cost of losing Bogut, Harrison Barnes, Leandro Barbosa and Marquise Speights, all major contributors to the 73-9 team. Will that be a negative for GS next season? We’ll find out come October.