What Just Happened?
The dynasty is dead. Long live the dynasty.
The NBA has always gone from one dynasty to the next. One dynasty dies, another rises to take his place. Not to steal from Game of Thrones, but the Lakers, Celtics, Spurs, Warriors... they truly are just spokes on the proverbial wheel, much like the Targaryens, Baratheons, Lannisters, and Starks.
Breaking that wheel has always felt like a novel concept, but it didn’t even work in a fantasy story like Game of Thrones. No one wants to watch or read stories about cities being razed to the ground by powerful warlords, dynasties, or dragons only to watch it all become some sort of strange democracy. We want the drama, we want the intrigue, but most importantly...we want the chaos.
The good news for NBA fans like myself was that free agency made June 30, an otherwise insignificant Sunday in the middle of summer, into the most chaotic day the league has seen in years.
Teams have smelled blood in the water for months and have been preparing for this day because the widespread feeling around the league was that Kevin Durant would leave the Golden State Warriors and open up a championship window for everyone else. LeBron James probably shared his tombstone cookie recipe with the entire league at this point. When Durant ruptured his Achilles tendon in Game 5 of the NBA Finals the league knew it was time to pounce...but when Klay tore his ACL in the following game, that’s when I knew free agency was going to be a full-blown feeding frenzy.
It’s not feasible for one man like myself to try and break down every move that happened during the start of free agency, but I can provide my thoughts on the moves that directly involved the Warriors...especially the death and apparent resurrection of a dynasty.
Heading into the day I had hope that KD would re-sign, that the extra year and the full $221,000,000 on a supermax contract would be too much to walk away from...but I think deep down I knew, much like most other NBA fans, that Kevin Durant would likely leave. The news broke around 2p.m. that Kevin Durant planned on signing with the Brooklyn Nets, and that was confirmed when he made his announcement via The Boardroom’s instagram page.
Kevin Durant is no longer a Golden State Warrior. The dynasty as we knew it officially ended. Their time at the top of the wheel is likely done. KD is on his way to Brooklyn to play alongside two of his best friends in the NBA: Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan. I can’t fault him for choosing to do that. Look, Kevin Durant came to the Bay and won two NBA championships in three years, while winning two Finals MVP awards...and then put his NBA career in jeopardy to try and win a third title. He doesn’t owe us anything...but he still did us a solid on the way out.
According to Woj, Kevin Durant and Rich Kleinmen helped facilitate the sign-and-trade that allowed the Warriors to make a move and help fill the massive void left by KD’s exit.
That move? Acquiring D’Angelo Russell from the Brooklyn Nets and signing him to a 4-year $117,000,000 contract, along with acquiring Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham and re-routing them to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Before I go on, let me first say this: thank you KD, you didn’t have to help the Warriors like that, you could have just left and moved on, but instead you helped set us up for the future. Thank you.
Now, into the details. Russell is one of my favorite players, was a finalist for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award, was named to his first All-Star team, and averaged 21.3/3.9/7 on 43.4/36.9/78% shooting. He’s an incredibly dynamic playmaker and shooter...oh, and he’s only 23 years old. He absolutely has his flaws, but any time you get the chance to land a young player like this, especially as some sort of consolation prize for losing the KD sweepstakes, you do it.
Yeah, you have the chance to land a player who can take over a game like THAT...you do it. No question.
I have long said that D’Angelo Russell is one of the most slept-on young stars in the league, and that his game this year reminded me of James Harden when he first got to the Houston Rockets, and the numbers match the eye test. Now, I won’t spew all the numbers right here because that’s exhausting, but I’ll attach the basketball-reference player comparison from Harden’s age 23 season (fourth NBA season, first in Houston) versus Russell’s age 24 season (fourth NBA season, second in Brooklyn). The numbers are very comparable, and the per 36 numbers are eerily similar. Here are the numbers from basketball-reference.
So, I am stoked about the addition of Russell. Yes, he has his shortcomings and doesn’t appear to be the best fit in the current Warriors system, but this could also signal a bigger change. Could Steve Kerr finally be willing to give in and run the pick and roll more often now that they don’t have Durant to bail them out when their ball movement offense stalls? Russell thrives in the pick and roll, Draymond Green thrives in the pick and roll, Stephen Curry thrives in the pick and roll...I’m no expert but I think that a pick and roll centric offense might be the way to go (and the thing that Warrior fans like myself have been literally begging for over the last three years).
Adding Russell does complicate things for the Warriors though, and we saw the first casualty of that complication on Sunday when Andre Iguodala was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies to clear cap space.
Man, that one hurt. Andre was the first player to really see the potential that this young team had back in 2013. He was here at the beginning of the run, won a Finals MVP, and was the first man off the bench on a team that won three championships. He is easily one of my favorite players, I mean, just look at my Twitter feed from approximately 20 seconds after he did anything on the court.
There could be more wrinkles and complications in this deal too, but I don’t even get into all the possible permutations because I can’t even pretend to be anything close to an NBA salary cap expert. There is one thing that I am sure about though: the death lineup is officially dead, and that is incredibly sad. During their run, when healthy, they were unstoppable. Many tried to replicate what they could do but their perfect mix of chemistry and ability was too much to overcome. They were the most dominant lineup of all time, won three championships, and now their time atop the wheel has come to a close.
While I am excited about D’Angelo, I am sad about the loss of Iguodala and what that loss means. I am so glad I got to watch the Warriors in their prime, dominating the league in the era of Superteams. It was fantastic.
The Warriors did retain Klay Thompson (5 years, $190,000,000) and Kevon Looney (3 years, $15,000,000), which is MASSIVE for their chances in the West next season, so that, along with the addition of Russell, is what will help me cope with the loss of KD and Iguodala.
Though the question still remains: who will be the next spoke atop the NBA’s proverbial wheel? Will LeBron James form his third and most powerful superteam and rule the NBA once more? Will Kawhi Leonard stay in the East and clash with the titans out there to see who will run the league? Or will the Warriors be resurrected by the dynamic backcourt play of Steph, Klay, and D’Angelo? Only time will tell...but I have a feeling this team isn’t quite done yet.
The dynasty is dead. Long live the dynasty.