For three years, the Warriors were the greatest team in basketball’s modern era; an absurd assemblage of talent, led by Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and the incomparable Kevin Durant.
By now, we know why Durant left the Dubs. Or, at least we’ve come to terms with his exit to Brooklyn.
But with his return to the Bay Area and his first visit to the house that he helped build (remember that insane ground-breaking ceremony — was that the moment he wanted out?), it’s fair to wonder what Durant left behind when he went east after the 2019 season.
Durant left to start something new. The Nets are his team. And as a franchise that has never won an NBA title, his successes there will be viewed favorably by the league’s proletariat and bourgeoisie alike.
A Nets title might arrive as soon as this season. Brooklyn is undoubtedly an awesome team with him, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving on the court together. He might even win a few there.
And to that, you can only tip your hat and be happy for his success. Life’s too short to hold grudges, especially unfounded ones.
I don’t know how Durant would have found fulfillment in Golden State. But if he had found it here — if he received what he sought in the summer of 2016 — there’s little doubt in my mind that the Warriors would go down as the greatest dynasty in modern basketball history.
Now, had Durant re-signed with the Warriors after their NBA Finals loss, I don’t think much would have changed in the subsequent season.
Remember, the Warriors would have been without Klay Thompson and Durant and the team’s depth attrition — something that was undeniable in the Warriors’ 2019 playoff run — would have likely been glaring.
(That said, we would not have been subjected to the play of D’Angelo Russell, a big bonus.)
But I do think that the Warriors would still have Andre Iguodala in the Bay.
And my, what the Dubs wouldn’t do to have him back in the fold.
But I don’t know if Curry would have played the full season or if Draymond Green would have been more engaged, or if the Warriors would have added worthwhile veterans (at insane luxury-tax prices) to fill the gaps.
The Dubs probably would not have looked dynastic. I’d imagine their stay in the bubble would have been shorter than expected.
It’d be the reset year that the entire organization, deep down, secretly wanted. Being exceptional every day for five years takes a toll on you.
But had Durant stuck around, the Warriors would be the title favorites again this season, with or without Thompson.
And with Durant still in the fold, the Warriors would have been able to lure ring-chasing free agents, something they were no longer able to do this season after Thompson’s injury. Durant’s stunning return to his old form, next to this Curry, would be more than enough for the Warriors on a nightly basis and in the playoffs.
There are some great duos around the NBA, but no one is even coming close to Durant and Curry as a one-two punch.
And in the years to come, that title favorite status would have likely remained intact. Currently, Durant and Curry might be 32. Thompson 31, and Green 30, but would it be ridiculous to think that they could continue to be the NBA’s dominant force until 2025? Who would have been able to assemble enough talent to take down that four-headed monster, even if their games started slipping a bit with age?
Had Durant remained a Warriors, Golden State might have fulfilled the prophecy: they might have truly ruined the NBA. How many titles would they have won with the two greatest shooters in NBA history, a sport-changing defender, and the greatest scorer the league has ever seen?
Five? Six? Seven?
It wouldn’t be boring from our perspective, but the rest of the country — maybe even the world — might have turned the channel. Inevitability doesn’t sell.
But it does create immortality.
To win as many titles as a continued Warriors dynasty could have stacked, in an era built for parity, against 29 teams, would have put Durant and company in a class of their own in the history of the NBA. No offense to Bill Russell and those Boston teams that won 11 titles between 1957 and 1969, but that was an era of expansion, as the league went from eight teams (with only two not making the playoffs, and one being in Fort Wayne, Indiana) to 14 during that stretch.
The Warriors’ only comparable would have been those dynasties from other sports.
Forget the day-to-day narratives and Twitter commentary, Durant knew all of that was possible for Golden State when he left.
He’s a certain Hall of Famer, a perennial MVP candidate, and his number should be retired in three different cities, including in San Francisco. That’s locked in.
But if it’s all about titles — I’m told on the internet that it is — then it’s ok to lament the missed opportunity, and to wonder how incredible the Warriors might have been, how dominant they would be, and how long they would have kept it up, with the great Durant in blue and gold.
Contributed by local news sources