The 2015-16 NBA season was one of the wilder seasons in the history of the league. After coming off their first title win with the core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, the Golden State Warriors went on an absolute tear, going 73-9 and breaking the all-time single-season win-loss record held by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. But as many people said for years to come: “73-9 don’t mean a thing without a ring.” Also in the Western Conference, the San Antonio Spurs, and Oklahoma City Thunder showed they were true contenders that could’ve knocked the Warriors off their pedestal. OKC held a 3-1 lead against the Warriors before losing in seven in the Western Conference Finals. While the Warriors blowing a 3-1 lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals was shocking enough, the 2016 offseason would flip the league upside down. On July 4th, 2016, Kevin Durant announced his intentions to sign with Golden State. One of the top three players in the league joining the young Dynasty of the Warriors turned them from a superteam into a dynasty that would have its grip on the league for the next handful of years. Durant’s image would be destroyed in the eyes of some, but the success he and the Warriors saw with him cannot be denied.
Durant’s decision to join the Warriors would affect the entire league but hit a few specific teams harder. For Oklahoma City, it would be the end of championship contention for the foreseeable future. The Thunder would go from 55-27 in their last season with Durant to 47-35 in their first season without him. The relationship between Durant and Russell Westbrook would be destroyed and never repaired while his relationship would OKC fans would never be the same. While Westbrook would lead his team to the 6th seed and win his first and only MVP award, the man OKC fans referred to as “cupcake” would help lead Golden State to a 67-15 record, sweeps in the first three rounds of the playoffs, and a gentleman’s sweep of the Cavaliers, beating them in five games. Since the 2016-17 season, OKC has not made it any higher than the fourth seed and has missed the playoffs in multiple seasons.
For the Cleveland Cavaliers, it would end their legitimate championship hopes as well as playing a role in the implosion of their core. The Cavs would win 50 games each of the next two seasons and make deep playoff runs, only to lose to the Warriors in the Finals. The Cavs would lose in the five games during the 2017 Finals and get swept in the 2018 Finals. In the 2017 offseason, Cavs guard Kyrie Irving requested a trade after rumors of frustration and would be traded to the Celtics in a package including Isaiah Thomas a month later. The 2018 Cavs would be down with their second star gone and Thomas being nowhere near the MVP contending-level player he was the season prior. In the 2018 Finals, the Warriors would dominate the much weaker Cavs, sweeping them before LeBron would leave the Cavs the second time, heading to the Los Angeles Lakers.
The 2018-19 season would be another good season for the Warriors, but the cracks in the chemistry were there and for the basketball world to see. There would be noted locker room issues and even spats on the bench between Kevin Durant and Draymond Green. Even with the chemistry issues, the Warriors would go 57-25, but more problems would arise during the playoffs. Durant would suffer from a calf strain in the Western Conference Semifinals and would not return until the Finals. Durant would return in Game Five of the Finals against the Toronto Raptors. Down 3-1, Durant’s return would be a saving grace for the Warriors, but immediately turned into a nightmare as Durant would tear his Achilles tendon. The Warriors would win Game 5, but the nightmare got even worse in Game 6. In the second half of the game, Klay Thompson would tear his ACL, before the Warriors lost Game 6 and the 2019 NBA Championship to the Raptors. This would be the end of the Durant-era Warriors dynasty as KD would leave for the Brooklyn Nets in free agency.
In Brooklyn, Durant saw no true success due to injuries, drama, and more, eventually requesting a trade. He would end up with the Phoenix Suns, creating another superteam. For the Warriors, they would have a couple of down seasons missing Klay Thompson and Steph Curry dealing with injuries. Golden State would make it back to the top of the mountain, winning the 2022 championship. Many have discredited Durant’s championships, saying he took the easy way out and that he hasn’t seen any success since leaving the Warriors. Today, many wonder what could’ve happened if Durant re-signed with the Warriors in the summer of 2019.
While there have been several instances of superstars joining new teams to create superteams in the last handful of seasons, there hasn’t been a move of this magnitude, and it’s likely the NBA won’t see another move like this. The new CBA has created rules and provisions that will make this extremely hard while the league has increased its efforts to spread out the star power throughout the NBA. Teams like the Brooklyn Nets and Phoenix Suns (which both had and have Durant), as well as the Los Angeles Lakers, have all created superteams in recent years, but no team will ever come close to shaking up the league like the Kevin Durant-era Golden State Warriors.
- NBASeptember 14, 2023NBA Swing: Coaches on the Hot Seat going into 2023-2024
- BasketballSeptember 9, 2023FIBA World Cup: US Reaches Semi-finals, Then Lose to Germany
- NBASeptember 2, 2023FIBA World Cup 2023: Which NBA Stars Are Showing Out?
- NBAAugust 26, 2023NBA Swing: A Statue for the Kobe, FIBA Basketball, and Lillard & Harden Rumors