The biggest story of the NBA season so far has come from the best possible place. No, it isn’t that 76ers former No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz is now seemingly unable to make free throws. No, it is not that forward Kawhi Leonard has returned to his former glory and has established himself as a top three two-way player once again. And it definitely is not that the Los Angeles Clippers are currently leading the Western Conference as I am writing this.
The biggest story in the NBA is that the Golden State Warriors are currently experiencing a turmoil unlike any that we have seen during their past three years of dominance. As I am writing this, they have lost four out of their last six matchups, including a three-game losing streak against every Texas team and a 28-point drubbing against their rival Oklahoma City Thunder. The Warriors are struggling right now, and it all started with the highly publicized spat between two of their All-Stars, Draymond Green and Kevin Durant.
It began with this: The Warriors are tied with the Clippers with five seconds left in the game as Draymond collects the rebound off of a Lou Williams missed shot. As he gathers the board, Kevin Durant is clapping his hands, demanding the ball for the last shot. Draymond ignores him, takes the ball up the court, attempts to dribble across the lane and proceeds to trip in traffic and lose possession of the ball, allowing time to expire and sending the game to overtime.
What immediately followed has sent a shockwave throughout the Warriors franchise and the rest of the NBA as well. During a confrontation in the huddle, when pressed by Durant about why he didn’t pass him the ball, Green responded saying, “Who the fuck are you talking to?”
Green continued on, calling Durant a “bitch” multiple times and accused him of making the entire season about himself, even though Durant was probably going to leave after the season. He also aired out his criticisms about how Durant has handled his upcoming free agency. He allegedly also said, “We won without you, just go, we don’t need you.”
The media frenzy surrounding this event lasted for days, as reports came out that Durant’s feelings were hurt and that many in the Warriors’ locker room felt as though this was the final nail in the coffin in terms of Durant’s free agency decision.
In a rash move to appease its superstar, Golden State fined and suspended Draymond for one game. However, the damage may have already been done. The lack of respect and adoration, as well as the constant criticism that Durant has faced may finally push him out of the Bay Area at the end of the season.
Some may be sad to see Durant go, but I believe that it is time investigate the very real claim that Draymond (allegedly) spewed during his rant in the huddle.
“We don’t need you.” I really need to get to the bottom of this so we can make the KD to the Knicks coke dream a reality.
I believe that it is apparent that Durant is not the most important superstar on the Warriors, not by a long shot. That mantle belongs to guard Stephen Curry. Golden State’s record when missing either superstar makes that very apparent. In the two-plus seasons Durant has been on the Warriors, the team is under 0.500 when Durant plays and Curry does not. When Curry plays and Durant sits, the Warriors are a startling 25-9.
The numbers go even deeper than that. In the games that Curry does not play, they make five fewer threes and total six fewer assists per game. With Steph on the floor, the Warriors’ offensive rating is a striking 121.7. Without Steph and only Durant, their rating drops to 108.
Even Kevin Durant himself plays astronomically worse when Curry is not on the floor. His true shooting percentage goes down by seven percent and he shoots a whole six percent worse from the three point line. His net rating on the court is reduced to 3.7 from 13.7.
The lack of Steph Curry has caused a distinct incompetence in the Warriors’ efficiency and ability to produce as a team. The ridiculous amount of attention that Curry demands with his constant cutting, moving and threat to pull up from legitimately any spot on the court takes the pressure off of the rest of the team. The Warriors play a better overall brand of team basketball with Curry on the court. With Durant leading, they have the tendency to defer to his hero-ball play style that has been a part of his game since his time in Oklahoma City.
While it is true that the Warriors are blessed with the embarrassment of riches of five All-NBA players, it is possible that the presence of Durant is not entirely necessary. Remember the record breaking 73-9 season, the season in which the Warriors reached a plateau that no team had ever reached before. They achieved this accolade without Durant. It was achieved with ridiculous play from Steph and a ridiculously deep bench presence.
It is true that the Warriors have cruised since Durant arrived. The past two Finals wins have been undeniably easy. But we know for a fact that the Warriors have the ability to do it without him. The fan base does not even truly love Durant. As fans and haters will be quick to point out, they will never love him as much as they do Steph. He’s nothing more than a powerful snake for them. They don’t really need him.
But as I’m sure any Warriors “fan” will tell you, they’re happy to have him. For now.