Photo via AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
Kevin Durant isn’t just going to be the difference in the Warriors winning this year’s title, he’s going to allow them to compete for the next five.
On Thursday morning, it was reported, via ESPN’s Ramona Shelbourne and Chris Haynes, that Durant may be willing to accept less than the maximum contract possible in order to retain the core of the Warriors’ team.
— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) June 1, 2017
First off, let’s think about this in a basketball perspective.
If Durant allows for the Warriors to potentially resign the 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, this superteam has the ability to remain one for a long time.
Warriors all-star guard Stephen Curry is only 29. After the NBA Finals conclude, Curry will sign a five-year “ultra-max” contract and will be locked into Golden State’s plans for another five years at least.
Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are just 27 years old. Thompson is under contract until 2019 when he will become an unrestricted free agent. Green is under contract until 2020 when he will also become an unrestricted free agent.
Green is in his prime now but will be able to play this high-level basketball where he gets his team involved and rattles opponents for many years to come. Thompson can get even better at some aspects of his game, for he can become more consistent shooting and play with the competitiveness on defense that lets him be a lockdown defender whenever he sets his mind to it.
You can bet that GM Bob Myers and the entire Warriors front office is going to do whatever it takes to keep these stars together for at the very least the next five years
Think about that, if these four players remain together for the next five years, this team will contend for Larry O’Brien trophies each year.
Outside of the Big Four, the Warriors of the last three years have gotten so much out of backup point guard Shaun Livingston and the leader of the second unit, Andre Iguodala.
The importance of these players cannot be undervalued.
Iguodala, a former all-star and NBA Finals MVP in 2015 can do anything the Warriors ask of him. He has not only shown that he will do whatever it takes on the court to win, he even listened to coach Steve Kerr when Kerr was hired in 2015 and decided to take Iguodala out of the starting lineup and bring him in off the bench.
Iguodala is a very smart player. He can shoot the three, drive to the rim and throw down a monstrous dunk, but more importantly he can be the most important defender the Warriors have.
In the past three years, Andre Iguodala has had one huge task to accomplish in the Finals with all others paling in comparison. That task: Shutting down the greatest player that plays today, Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James.
When the Warriors captured their first title in 40 years in 2015, Iguodala won Finals MVP because he came into the starting lineup and not only scored, he shut down James.
In that 2015 series when James was guarded by Iguodala, he shot just 33 percent from the field. In addition, Iguodala contested 85 percent of James shots and when he was contesting James, the King shot 11-46 to accumulate a percentage of 24 from the field.
In 2016, James was too unstoppable for even Iguodala to do more than hinder his amazing stats which finished at 29.7 points per game, 11.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists. To quote Rihanna “the King is the King.”
Okay, we get that. James is in the conversation of the greatest player to ever play basketball. No player is going to be able to completely stop him. But Iguodala does as well as anybody in the league.
Last night, LeBron James had pretty great stats but he didn’t have a great game. He finished with 28 points, 15 rebounds and 8 assists but it didn’t matter. He turned the ball over seven times. Seven. That’s three more than the Warriors entire team.
Iguodala looked so comfortable guarding James last night. He is so well-versed in what the King is going to do when he starts to isolate. James will back down until he gets at the rim and either throw up a tough-contested layup or try to make some amazing pass that leads to an open shot. Iguodala knows this.
For the Warriors to be able to contend with LeBron James for the next five years, they will need a defender like Iguodala who can make James work as hard as he possibly can for every single basket.
Shaun Livingston is a 6’7” backup point guard and a key member of the Warriors second unit. Livingston has the size and strength to back down any other backup point guard and shoot a fadeaway jump shot right over the top of whoever is defending him.
He doesn’t just shoot those shots, he makes them. He shot 54.9 percent from the field this year and with his height plays good, physical defense. He is a smart player and he has been a clear key to the Warriors success coming off the bench in the past three seasons.
There has been talk this season about the fact that this Warriors team will almost definitely lose out on at least one of these players after this season because they need to re-sign Durant and Curry to max contracts.
The Warriors would not be able to re-sign both Livingston and Iguodala without Durant or Curry accepting less than their maximum salary.
But then the report came out that Kevin Durant may accept less money to keep both players with the team. This should scare everyone not named the Golden State Warriors. If Shelbourne and Hayne’s report is correct and Durant is going to allow for Myers to keep the core of this team together for years, this team could easily win a handful of championships.
Let’s look at this from a human perspective though.
If Durant does decide to do this, it will be the first time a superstar decides to take less money to not gain another superstar but to retain the bench.
We saw Wade take less money to bring LeBron and Bosh to Miami but the NBA has never seen a player of Durant’s level decide that the players on his team are just as important to him as money.
Kevin Durant is one of the best basketball players in the NBA and will go down as an all-time great. A seven-footer who can score, rebound and run the floor the way he can is a sight in itself, but what’s more remarkable at this moment is his selflessness.
With this move, Durant would be acknowledging that the Warriors not only need Iguodala and Livingston but that he cares enough to make it happen.
Kevin Durant is absolutely thriving in the NBA Finals and, after Game 1, is the most likely player to be the 2017 Finals MVP if the Warriors win their second championship in three years.
Durant made the right decision joining the Warriors and now he’s going to get to smile and hold the Larry O’Brien trophy for the first time.
But I challenge basketball fans to not only admire his basketball talent but to look toward his unselfishness and the way he has fun with his team. He looks like a 10-year-old who just realized his favorite thing to do was play basketball.
He wants to keep playing with his friends and alongside another amazingly unselfish superstar, Steph Curry.
I’m an aspiring sports journalist with experience interviewing and reporting on collegiate and professional athletes since 2014. I study at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and am majoring in sports journalism.