Should the Warriors trade for Kevin Durant?
Kevin Durant stands out even among NBA superstars, a group of players with nearly unheard-of levels of talent and influence.
Without a doubt, he is one of the most polarizing NBA players in history. In an era of largely distant superstars, he has displayed a rare eagerness to interact with fans and detractors on social media.
Despite clearly wanting to be ‘one of the boys,’ he has also shown his willingness to wield the power that comes with him being one of the five best players in the NBA.
He drastically changed the power dynamic of the NBA when he joined the Golden State Warriors in 2016.
This summer, he flexed that power again by demanding a trade away from the Brooklyn Nets, just months after signing a four-year extension with the New Jersey franchise.
In this article, we examine whether the Golden State Warriors should trade to bring the prodigal son back into the fold or not. Read on below for our trade analysis!
It’s Kevin Durant, every team in the NBA will rightly harbor hopes of trading for him. However, only a few teams have the means to swing a trade that will actually interest the Nets.
Hypothetically, the Raptors have the best package but the player that Brooklyn will most likely demand as the centerpiece of the trade is the one player the Toronto-based franchise do not want to part with. And yes, Scottie Barnes is projected to be that good.
Insider reports have named the Phoenix Suns and the Miami Heat as preferred trade destinations for KD. Unfortunately for him, a Miami trade would send the very players he would like to play alongside to Brooklyn while the Phoenix Suns’ failure to complete a sign-and-trade with DeAndre Ayton has handicapped them.
Which leaves… the Golden State Warriors
Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors
There are events so momentous that years, even decades later, you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when they happened. Kevin Durant’s 2016 decision to join the Warriors in Free Agency was one such event.
A return to the Warriors, who won the 2021/22 NBA Championship, will pose interesting questions. Will the rest of the league be as ill-equipped to handle that union as they were the last time?
Read on as we analyze the Pros and Cons of a likely Kevin Durant return to the Warriors.
Risk/Reward: The NBA is a famously high-risk, high-reward league. While other teams kept their ammo dry, the Houston Rockets retooled and came at the Warriors courageously… and failed. The Rockets are still dealing with the decisions they made then and are currently in rebuild purgatory as a result.
The Toronto Raptors, on the other hand, saw their chance and took it when Kawhi Leonard wanted out of the Spurs. By trading for Klaw, they pushed all their chips to the center and came out holding the 2019 NBA Championship after a 4-2 NBA Finals win over the Warriors.
Trading for a player as good and impactful as KD is a no-brainer for a team that wants to win.
It’s KD: “I’m Kevin Durant. You know who I am. Y’all know who I am.” Over a 15-year career, the Texan has averaged 27.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists in 911 regular-season games for the Seattle Supersonic/Oklahoma City Thunder, the Golden State Warriors and the Brooklyn Nets.
Last season, he averaged 29.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists in the regular season on his way to a 12th all-star selection. He’s still the first-ballot hall of famer who can get any shot he wants at any time and will make a fantastic addition to a contending team.
We’ve seen this before: In three seasons for the Warriors, KD averaged 25.8 points/game, 7.1 rebounds/game and 5.4 assists/game with insane efficiency, almost averaging a 50/40/90 over that period. (For the record, he had shooting splits of 52/38/88.)
In his first stint with the warriors, no team was able to beat the Warriors at full strength and were only toppled when both KD and Klay Thompson suffered Achilles and ACL injuries respectively.
If the fearsome foursome of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green get together again, there is no team in the NBA that will be favored above them in a seven-game playoff series once again.
Lessons learnt: Kevin Durant and longtime friend, Kyrie Irving linked up at the Brooklyn Nets when KD finally left the Warriors in 2019. Like KD, Kyrie has a reputation for being talented but occasionally challenging to work with.
And so it proved. Unlike the lanky forward who wants to play every game he can, Kyrie’s obstinacy proved to be detrimental to the success of his team.
Last season, the point guard’s refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19 led to the Nets dropping to the 7th seed. This led to Brooklyn’s eventual first round playoff series against the Celtics and KD suffering the indignity of being swept for the first time in his career.
Back in San Francisco, Steph Curry led the Warriors to their fourth ring, highlighting the difference in quality and leadership between both point guards.
Right now, KD has learned a valuable lesson about the grass not always being greener on the other side and should be more amenable to teaming up Curry again.
More control: The last time KD inked a contract renewal with the Warriors, he signed a two-year $53 million deal.
He could have gotten more money and a longer contract if he wanted, but he took a pay cut to ensure that the Warriors were able to keep Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston around for another title run.
More importantly, he ensured that he had control over his future by signing such a short deal and inserting a player option for the second year in the contract.
That clause eventually allowed him to leave the Bay in 2019, giving the Warriors no choice in the matter.
This time, he’s under contract for at least three more years after signing a four-year $198 million deal with the Brooklyn Nets last August. If the Warriors trade for him, they will be able to have more control over his contract for the next four years.
Despite the Pros, there are also disadvantages that would come with a move for Kevin Durant, such as:
Discarding a promising youth program: It’s rare to win in the NBA while actively developing young players. In fact, a hallmark of teams that acquire/re-sign superstars like LeBron James is that every resident young player soon becomes a trade asset to acquire established help.
Which is why, when the Warriors made no attempt to trade their young core for an established superstar to pair with Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green last season, there was consternation around the NBA.
Pundits and fans wondered alike why the Warriors’ front office was wasting Steph Curry’s prime and predicted that their ambitious win now-develop talents plan would fail. We all know what happened next; the Warriors defeated the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals and showed that it is possible to win now and still develop future superstars.
Having proved the veracity of their plan, it’s hard to see the Warriors’ front office deciding to trade the combination of Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole, Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, James Wiseman and futire picks it would take to get EVEN Kevin Durant.
We’ve seen this before: It’s easy to forget, but when KD said “I’m Kevin Durant. You know who I am. Y’all know who I am”, it was in response to a Steve Kerr quote calling for him to take more shots.
In KD’s first stint with the Warriors, the best team in the league got even better. However, the drama around the team also increased with their new superstar addition’s arrival.
The drama around his arrival, the time it was discovered that he used burner accounts to defend himself on Twitter, Cupcake-gate and the on court blow-up with Draymond are just a few examples of the drama he brings with him.
The Warriors will be wise to weigh the drama he brings with him against the benefits his arrival would bring before pulling the trigger on executing a trade.
Potential decline: Despite a stellar season, KD suffered the embarrassment of being swept in the first round of the NBA playoffs last season.
Against the Boston Celtics, the Nets’ superstar averaged 26.3 points per game, 6.3 assists/game and 5.8 rebounds/game, all down from his regular season stats of 29.9 points/game, 6.4 assists/game and7.4 rebounds/game.
Despite recovering from the Achilles injury he suffered with the Warriors better than anyone expected, he will be 34 this September and is already battling father time. Expecting him to maintain this level of excellence until he’s 37/38 might be a tough ask for the Warriors, especially since they would have to trade their current depth away to acquire Durant.
Player power: While making a trade for Kevin Durant now would ostensibly leave any team trading for the superstar in the driving seat over the next two years at least, that would still be a risky proposition.
As Kevin Durant’s recent trade demand has shown, Superstars can still up and leave whenever they want. What the Warriors have to consider will be; long-term control of Wiggins, Poole, Kuminga, Moody and Wiseman or a couple of years of an ageing KD?
What do you think the Dubs should do? Trade for KD or stick with the mix of youth and experience that brought them their latest Championship? Let us know in the comment section!
Bet on where you think Kevin Durant’s team will be next season below.