The persuasion game is over. It worked. The Warriors didn’t stop coaxing and cajoling until Kevin Durant broke into a smile and gave the answer they wanted.
Yes. I will become a Warrior.
The first reaction among Warriors fans is disbelief, followed euphoria and then intoxication. The four-time NBA scoring champion and 2014 MVP is joining their favorite team. Hallelujah!
Then come the sprinkles of concern. What about the rest of the roster? Will sharing be an issue? Will chemistry, which has been such a large part of the team’s identity, be compromised?
The Warriors considered all these factors while pursuing Durant and concluded he was worth it. And they’re right.
As for those questions, well, let’s ponder . . .
The Warriors are Steph Curry’s team. Curry’s relationship with Durant goes back to the 2010 FIBA World Championships, where they won gold medals. Also on that team was Andre Iguodala, who joined the Warriors in 2013. Curry and Iguodala, along with Draymond Green, have been covertly recruiting Durant for a year. The three of them, along with Klay Thompson, agreed to travel to New York as part of the team’s delegation making a three-hour pitch to Durant.
Each of these players is completely on board. Each understands how this increases their chances not only of winning a championship, but also of establishing historical greatness.
Chemistry occurs when the roster buys in. The core of this roster is all in.
Coming off their 2015 championship, the Warriors made some subtle changes to their offense. Curry did more shooting, averaging a career-high 20.2 shots per game while averaging 6.7 assists, his lowest total since 2012. Green, meanwhile, experienced only a slight increase in shots (10.1 per game) but led the team in assists with 7.4 per game – doubling his 2014-15 average. Klay Thompson’s shot attempts went up slightly, from 17.5 per game to 17.3.
With the shooting ability of this squad, there will be no need for coach Steve Kerr to preach about moving the ball. It will happen organically. Curry’s assist totals should rise, while Green’s may take a slight dip. Durant not only is a willing passer, but also is a much better playmaker than Harrison Barnes.
Green may take fewer shots. Thompson almost certainly will take fewer questionable shots. Curry and Durant will carry most of the offensive load, with Thompson becoming the man most likely to draw the weak defender. He could feast.
One ball ought to be enough. These guys will want to share it. They’ll enjoy it.
The Warriors, as long as they were adding Durant, were not worried about this. They were prepared to part with Barnes and believed they could find a team willing to take Andrew Bogut. Check and check, as both are destined for Dallas. They felt they had a plan, and it didn’t take long for them to begin implementing it once Durant made his decision.
Seven hours after Durant committed, the Warriors found their fifth starter, reaching agreement with free agent center Zaza Pachulia.
So, in essence, the Warriors are trading backup center Festus Ezeli, Barnes and Bogut for Durant and Pachulia. They win.
Returning bench players include Shaun Livingston and Iguodala, and it’s possible Leandro Barbosa could return for another year at something at or slightly above the veteran’s minimum, which for him would be $1.55 million. Forward Kevon Looney, the team’s first-round pick in 2015, played only 21 minutes due to surgeries but is expected by the Warriors to return and actually contribute.
Rookies Damian Jones, who could miss the first few weeks of the season, and Patrick McCaw, may not get into the rotation but could challenge for playing time.
Ex-Warrior Ognjen Kuzmic will be returning to join the Warriors' Summer League team in Las Vegas, where he will be joined by former Stanford standout forward Landry Fields. One of them also could make the roster with a minimum contract.
This is what the Warriors wanted. It’s not unlike closing the deal on your dream house insofar as you use what’s left of the budget to furnish it to your satisfaction.