Kevin Durant is on top of the NBA world right now and the superstar forward will continue to dominate the NBA landscape through the summer.
We will remember these NBA playoffs as the year where Kevin Durant went into full-on assassin mode. With no LeBron James in the postseason, the freakishly gifted 6-foot-9 scorer has our undivided attention.
Two NBA championships and two NBA Finals MVPs later, it’s clear Durant is the league’s best player. Right? Well, that depends on who you ask. You can make a case for Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, Stephen Curry, and even James. It’s hard to blame anyone who argues for any of those players over Durant. However, with the Warriors on the verge of a three-peat, Durant is in position to win his third straight Finals MVP.
Durant’s current situation is the NBA he dreams of—playing in the Finals, winning titles, and asserting himself as one of the most lethal scorers to ever grace a hardwood floor. (As if winning four scoring titles wasn’t enough evidence.)
“This is where this shit is fun, this is when it’s serious, and I’m just embracing it,” Durant said to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. “I’m just having so much fun right now. This time of year is what I’m geared for. I’m just hooping at a high level and enjoying the competitiveness of the playoffs. You go through such a long season to get to this point, and now it’s time to produce.”
The Warriors are up 2-0 on the Houston Rockets, a team many, including myself, viewed as their biggest competition. No disrespect (I’m about to be disrespectful) to the Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets, but the Rockets/Warriors is the Western Conference Finals. If Golden State breezes through Houston, their path to a fifth consecutive Finals will be all but a certainty.
The Eastern Conference has four legitimate challengers to dethrone the reigning two-time NBA champions, but each team has its flaws. The Greek Freak is missing a jump shot. Kyle Lowry is still a Toronto Raptor (enough said). The Philadelphia 76ers have questions surrounding their head coach and their two best players. And the Boston Celtics seem to come and go as Kyrie Irving‘s mood dictates.
So if/when Golden State makes the NBA Finals, they will be favored to win no matter who the opponent. Then, and finally then, maybe Durant can receive his just desserts as the NBA’s best player.
Durant can choose to re-sign with the Warriors in the offseason or take his talents elsewhere. The belief is that if he leaves, the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, and Los Angeles Clippers are all possible destinations.
Will the lure of teaming up with Irving in New York or Kawhi Leonard in Los Angeles be enough to make Durant leave the Bay Area?
The Knicks have been rebuilding since the term rebuilding existed. The Nets are trending in the right direction, but they don’t have the same history as the Knicks, which could be a good or bad thing. We could say the same for the Los Angeles Clippers (the little brother in LA,) who recently opened a lot of eyes when they pushed the Warriors to six games in the first round.
To me, breaking up the band before someone knocks you off the mountaintop doesn’t sit well with me. I know the NBA has this thing called a salary cap, but if Durant leaves the best shooting backcourt in NBA history, money shouldn’t be his motive—legacy should be.
I’ve never subscribed to the belief that Durant’s move to join the 73-win team that beat him hurt his legacy. But if Durant wants to truly separate himself from his peers and establish himself as an all-time great, the path lies in him being the alpha on his team. The Oklahoma City Thunder were Russell Westbrook’s team. The Warriors are Stephen Curry’s team.
What franchise will Durant lead?
Blame NBA fans, if you want to. Blame the media, which is unrealistic with their narratives. We are the ones who benefit most from Durant leaving—and of course, the 29 other NBA teams.
The future of the NBA rests on the shoulders of one superstar: Kevin Durant.
The same way we remember, or try to forget where we were when LeBron infamously announced that he was “taking his talents to South Beach,” you will remember this NBA free agency as the “Summer of Durant.”
Reality check: We are living in KD’s NBA, at least for now.