Well, I didn't really believe it would happen. Kevin Durant left a whole lot of money on the table - as much as $60 million - to leave Oklahoma City and help create a ridiculous collection of talent in Golden State. As time passed and he had yet to reach a decision, it seemed more and more likely that he could actually be serious about making a basketball decision and not a financial one, but until he actually did it I remained doubtful. The dust still hasn't settled - the decision has only been known for a couple of hours, but there is already a lot to think about here:
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It makes sense: If you didn't like Golden State already, or if you were a fan of the Thunder, Celtics, Spurs or Clippers, then you are going to be very critical of this decision. From a basketball perspective, though, it made endless sense. Durant is able to join the best team in the league and make them considerably better. He gets to take advantage of a perfect storm of circumstances that will never arise again - the ballooning salary cap that makes it financially possible, the Warriors losing the Finals, which made it palatable for him to make the move, and so on. He left a whole lot of potential salary on the table, but a couple of titles and the added endorsements those will bring will more than make up for that, and it's not like Durant is going to starve, anyway. Most importantly, though, Durant realized that while Oklahoma City was very good, they would need everything to fall their way to win, so he found a much better situation. Things might have been different if Westbrook was locked up long term, but that uncertainty certainly didn't help things.
The odds moved like crazy: As soon as the Finals ended, the Warriors were installed as +200 favorites at BetOnline, with the Cavaliers right behind at +350, and the Thunder the fourth choice at +850. Needless to say, that picture changed on Monday morning. Now the Warriors are favored to a ridiculous extent - they are at less than even money, sitting at -115. In fact, you even have the option to bet them at -115 or the field for -115. In other words, oddsmakers suggest that the Warriors are as likely to win as all the other teams combined. The Cavs are still the second choice, but they have climbed up to +350. The Spurs are still the third choice, climbing from +750 to +800 - a number that could be impacted very slightly if Tim Duncan retires as has been rumored today. Oklahoma City is now in a three-way tie with the Clippers and Celtics, but all three are at +2000. So, it all comes down to this - it's only early July, but NBA championship futures are essentially no longer bettable.
You think these odds are low...: It is crazy to think that the futures prices can be this low. That's nothing, though, compared to what kind of prices we are going to see in the first couple of games of the season. The public is going to pour money onto the Warriors early on in amounts we just don't usually see early in the NBA season. It will be ridiculous. The schedule isn't out yet, but if those first couple of games are against hopelessly-outmatched teams - instead of the just normally outmatched teams that now make up the rest of the NBA - then we could see favoritism like we have only rarely seen in a game. And if this team keeps winning like they will be capable of then we are going to see average odds at a level we've never seen. Value-seekers aren't going to need to pay much attention to the Bay Area this year.
Just try to guard these guys: They had two of the best shooters in the league - probably the two best from beyond the arc in real terms. Now they add another guy who is incredibly explosive and who shoots the lights out, too. It is absolutely impossible for an opposing team to guard all three guys - never mind the other two on the court at the same time. It remains to be seen how Steve Kerr and company choose to employ these weapons, but needless to say it is giving every other coaching staff nightmares already.
Chemistry isn't a major concern: In a some similar situations I would be very concerned about the ability of these guys to all get along. I don't have that concern here. In Cleveland the Cavs gelled when they all realized that they were all just pawns in LeBron's game and started to act appropriately subservient. It's not the same in Golden State. The guys that were already there showed no signs of anything but unified commitment to winning all the way along - they were shockingly short of ego given what they had accomplished. Durant would never have joined this team and wandered into Steph's playground if he was worried about being the king of the world. He made this move for one reason only - to win. They are all very likely to be good soldiers, and that is very bad news for everyone outside of the San Francisco area.
Depth is a concern, though: Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli are all casualties of this move already, and they likely won't be alone. Remember the Big 3 era in Miami? They filled out the bottom end of the roster with a wild collection of spare parts. We are going to see a similar drop off here.
Rest isn't going to be a four letter word anymore: The Warriors - and especially Curry - sure looked tired in the playoffs. They took all sorts of criticism down the stretch and into the playoffs because their pursuit of the win record meant they didn't take as many opportunities to rest as they could or should have. The stars got some fourth quarters off, but not full games. It hurt them. Now, though, this team can give any one of their core four off the court for a game and still put the best roster in the NBA out there. Fresher legs in the playoffs is yet another massive benefit of this move. Add it all up and it's really not fair to the rest of the league.
It's not over, but…: Let's not kid ourselves - if the Warriors decide they are willing to work hard enough and sacrifice enough to win then there is no one out there that can beat this team. The Warriors will be the 2017 NBA champions.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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