Greatest free agency signings in NBA history: 3. Kevin Durant- Golden State Warriors, 2016
It’s easy to chide Kevin Durant for joining a Golden State team that won a record-setting 73 wins the previous year, housed two of the greatest shooters of this or any generation, and were on the precipice of winning their second straight NBA Title, particularly because of Durant’s own insecurities on the subject.
But here’s the thing, the Warriors lost the NBA Finals that year. Blame it on whatever you want — Harrison Barnes’ sudden aversion to accurate shooting, Draymond Green’s Shinsuke Nakamura impression coming back to haunt him, Andrew Bogut’s injury, Steph underachieving — but the fact is they didn’t have enough to get the job done.
Enter Kevin Durant, who announced his intention to sign with the Warriors via the thinly-veiled native advertising site The Players Tribune. The 2014 league MVP’s ability to create his own shot and punish defenses as an off-ball floor spacer made for a seamless transition into Steve Kerr’s free-flowing, pass-happy scheme, in theory.
In practice? The Warriors were arguably better in 2016-17 than their 73-win outfit — if you go by Basketball-Reference’s Simple Rating System (SRS) — and Durant put up another MVP-caliber season, averaging 25.1 points, 8.3 boards and 4.8 assists with a .537/.375/.875 shooting line, 27.6 PER and a league-leading .278 WS/48. Of course, the Warriors capped this off by avenging their loss to the Cavs by steamrolling them in the 2017 Finals.
2017-18 was pretty much a repeat of 2016-17 and 2018-19 looked to follow the same trajectory until Durant injured his leg in the conference semis and exacerbated it to a torn Achilles in the Finals against the Toronto Raptors. After that, the Warriors became a bit more human.
Remember this the next time a talking head or fan calls Durant’s decision a “weak move”.