In one of the most stunning free-agency developments in NBA history, the Golden State Warriors signed Kevin Durant to a two-year, $54.3 million contract Monday.
Thus, a team that won an NBA title in 2015 and an NBA record 73 games in 2016 just added a former MVP whom many analysts consider one of the three best players in the world.
How in the world did the Warriors pull this off?
“They’ve already laid the major groundwork,” Sporting News and RealGM.com cap expert Danny Leroux said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “The main thing they had to do was choose one of Barnes, Bogut and Iguodala. They did that. They chose Iguodala by trading Bogut and letting Barnes go. And then they had to choose one of Festus Ezeli or Shaun Livingston. They chose Livingston by making Ezeli an unrestricted free agent.”
Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut will both join the Mavs, while Durant, who averaged 28.2 points per game last season, will join forces with Steph Curry, who averaged 30.1 points, Klay Thompson, who averaged 22.1, and Draymond Green, who averaged 14.0.
Curry, the two-time reigning MVP, is now the fourth-highest paid player on his team.
“They’re going to have an incredible luxury bill in 2017 and moving forward,” Leroux said. “Curry, because of his cheap salary, actually has a really cheap cap hold in 2017. Even if Durant opts out – which is what everybody expects – they can still sign him with cap space again in 2017 if that’s what he wants to maximize his salary.”
Oklahoma City, meanwhile, must pick up the pieces after squandering a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference Finals and losing one of the best players in the world to free agency.
It’s going to be a tough couple of days for Thunder GM Sam Presti.
“You’re trying to do two things at once,” Leroux said of Presti. “One is that you want to see if Russell Westbrook is going to do an extension. They can raise his salary for this season. They’d be giving him a rise during the year using cap space and then give him an extension of that to give themselves more security, give Russ more security. But at the same time, (you have to prepare) yourself (for the idea) that if he says no to that, to trade him. Whether it would be at the deadline or earlier, they cannot let him go for nothing. If they lose both those guys for nothing, it will be more devastating that it already is today.”
Warriors fans, on the other hand, are on cloud nine.
“It’s jubilation,” Leroux said. “It is different, though. Durant, he’s an incredible talent and I think people can’t really wrap their minds around how good this team is going to be on paper and to watch it. But I think that there was kind of this pall that was over the Bay Area when the Warriors gave up the 3-1 lead in the Finals, and this takes that away. I will believe in my heart forever that Durant would not have come to the Warriors if they won the Finals. So if fans feel that way, that takes the sting out of losing. If they win with Durant, then you go, ‘Okay, well, that wouldn’t have happened without falling to Cleveland.’”