Opinion: The Golden State Warriors are a better “team” without Kevin Durant, but they’re much less formidable

During the last two seasons and especially in the last week, many of my friends have directly said out loud or indirectly insinuated that the Golden State Warriors are better without Kevin Durant. My general response has been that they’re crazy, but have never really fleshed out why. I’ll try today.

Yes, they closed out on Houston in game six, defeated the Portland Trailblazers in game one of the Western Conference Finals, and are 26-1 when Stephen Curry plays and Durant sits, but the Warriors aren’t a more dangerous team without Durant. It simply ain’t true.

What’s true for me (and I assume those in the better without KD camp) is that the Warriors are a much more fun team to watch and they play better as a team when Durant isn’t in the lineup. A Warriors lineup without Durant is still a great team. A team that relies on ball movement, passing, speed and the magical powers of Curry, but the Warriors’ chances at a championship are way better with Durant in uniform.

Even without Durant, the basketball betting bookmakers still have the Warriors winning the NBA championship, only the updated odds don’t favor the Warriors as much as they would be with Durant.

Durant’s Historic 2019 Playoff Numbers

I shouldn’t have to dredge up Durant’s stats in this years NBA Playoffs, but let’s stoke the fire. Durant is averaging 34.2 points — the second-highest playoff PPG in the 25 years (LeBron James averaged 35.3 in 2009). Not only that, but KD is shooting 51.3% from the field and 41.6% from 3-point range. When’s the last time someone complained about a player shooting over 50% and over 40% from three?

Golden State recognizes the unique talent that Durant is, and the players overlook Durant’s iso tendency for the greater benefit of the team and having the ultimate safety valve. That’s to say that Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and the rest of the Warriors have all asserted that KD is the best player on the team and would rather have him than not.

Obviously, Steph Curry is Very Important

That’s not to say Curry isn’t important when Durant is playing. Over the past five NBA seasons, the Warriors have an .826 winning record of 296-62 with Curry and just .500 (26-26) without him.

He’s the reason the Warriors won their last three Playoff games. In Game Five of the Semis, Curry scored 12 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter then caught fire and scored 33 second half points in Game Six to close out the Houston Rockets. Against the Blazers, he drilled nine threes on his way to 36 points in a Game One win.

As Green said early in the season, Curry “isn’t just a big part of the system. He is the system.”

However, that system changes when the Warriors accommodate Durant’s exceptional offensive skills. When Durant posts up or takes his defender off the dribble, the isolation takes away from the free-flowing offense that the Warriors relied on pre-Durant. Now they have Durant, so why not use him?

That’s why I’ve said that the Warriors may be a better team without Durant, but they’re significantly less formidable, meaning their NBA Championship prospects are lower.

The Warriors Will Need Durant When Defense Tightens Up

As much as they didn’t want to, the Houston Rockets took the Warriors for granted in Game Six and completely choked (to the delight of the Warriors). On the other hand, Portland was coming off a grueling game seven and their defensive strategy was to leave Curry unguarded for seven of the nine threes he hit that game. That’ll change.

A more realistic, but not conclusive, comparison of would be if Golden State was to meet up with the defensive-minded team like the Milwaukee Bucks (#1 defense in NBA) or Toronto Raptors (#2) in the NBA finals without Durant. As a Golden State Warriors fan, I don’t want to see this, but we would then see the benefit and value of KD’s superior offense.

So when a team locks up the Warriors offensive movement, they have a 7-0 unicorn waiting on the wings. And when they don’t have Durant, they have the Splash Brothers. Anyone that’s played in several basketball leagues or tournaments in their life knows that the Warriors are a much more formidable team with Durant than without.

Can we just stop the nonsense?

 

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