Two years ago today Kevin Durant decided to pull one of the weakest moves of any NBA superstar ever. He grabbed a knife and plunged it right into the heart of the state of Oklahoma by deciding to sign with the team that had just beaten him in the playoffs, the Golden State Warriors. Two years ago today is also the anniversary of the famous cupcake photo that Russell Westbrook posted on social media. That picture foreshadowed KD’s future nickname, “Cupcake.” Much time has passed since those events, but how has Kevin Durant’s departure from Oklahoma City affected both the Thunder and Warriors for the past two seasons?
For the Warriors, they have began to rival the Detroit “Bad Boy’’ Pistons of the old days for the title of, “Most Hated NBA Team Ever.” They definitely haven’t declined in terms of how good they are. Adding Kevin Durant just added to the insane amount of talent already on their roster and NBA fans will be talking about the insane super team the Warriors were able to put together for years to come. The Warriors have found themselves as back to back champions since they have added Durant and with the signing of DeMarcus Cousins this offseason they are looking to win the championship for a third year straight in 2019. Kevin Durant has also found himself with more hardware than the two rings he’s won so far. KD won the NBA Finals MVP trophy in both the 2017 and 2018 NBA Finals.
As far as draft picks and free agency goes the Warriors have done very well. As previously stated, the Warriors were able to sign DeMarcus Cousins this offseason. They have also made moves to acquire players like Nick “Swaggy P” Young. Draft-wise the only player who is notable for the Warriors is Jordan Bell. While Jordan Bell didn’t have a stellar season during his rookie year, he was able to put up some impressive numbers playing for a stacked team like the Warriors. In 57 games played, Bell averaged 1.8 assists, 3.6 rebounds, and 4.6 points per game to go along with his 62.7% shooting from the field. It hasn’t been perfect for the Warriors though, they have lost a few good pieces on their roster in the past two seasons. In order to make space for Kevin Durant in 2016, Harrison Barnes found his way to Dallas and during this offseason, the Warriors lost JaVale McGee to the now LeBron-lead Lakers. The good is better than the bad has been for Dub Nation for the past two seasons and their future is looking brighter than ever.
For the Thunder, things haven’t been particularly pretty. In 2016 Sam Presti was able to trade Serge Ibaka for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova, and Domantas Sabonis prior to KD’s departure. These would have been valuable pieces to go along with a roster lead by KD and Russ but unfortunately KD was bitten by the, “If you can’t beat em’ join em” bug and he decided to join the Warriors. This left a gaping hole in the Thunder’s roster. The Thunder fought tooth and nail all throughout the 2016-17 NBA season, eventually ending with a historic Westbrook season of 42 triple-doubles and an MVP trophy, a 47-35 record, and the sixth seed. In the playoffs the Thunder found themselves knocked out of the first round in five short games at the hands of the Houston Rockets.
In the 2017 offseason Sam Presti was THE man. Sam stunned the NBA with a blockbuster move that brought Paul George from Indiana to OKC in exchange for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. But that wasn’t the only move that Presti made, he also traded Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott for Carmelo Anthony, another good move. Or was it? The attempt of the OK3, as the trio of Melo, PG, and Russ would eventually be called turned out to be a huge flop. Melo had statistically the worst season of his career as his playstyle and ego didn’t fit in the Thunder’s system. In 78 games played Melo averaged 16.2 points per game, 5.8 rebounds per game, and 1.3 assists per game, all while shooting only 40% from the field and 35% from the three-point line. The Thunder ended the 17-18 NBA season the same way as the 16-17 season ended. Oklahoma City found themselves knocked out of the first-round of the playoffs but this time around it was at the hands of a young Donovan Mitchell-lead Utah Jazz team. There were a few factors that played into their first-round knockout, most notably the injury of Andre Roberson, as well as the poor play of the OK3.
Things have begun to turn around for the Thunder in the 2018 offseason with Paul George making a huge decision to stay in OKC and chase rings with Russell Westbrook rather than going to play with LeBron in L.A. Things aren’t all good for the Thunder this offseason though. Melo accepted his player option with the Thunder for $27.9 million (Though most expect him to soon find his way off of the Thunder Roster.) And with the addition of Nerlens Noel and the recent re-signing of Raymond Felton, the Thunder, as of the time this article was written have found themselves over $300 million in luxury tax. A historic moment in the NBA but definitely not a good one. Despite the misfortunes of the Thunder, they have seemed to be making a good comeback from the KD departure.
KD and Russ
Kevin Durant’s return to OKC included cupcake posters, boos, and slanderous signs all throughout Chesapeake Arena. It seems that every matchup including OKC and Golden State is a heated one, but are Russ and KD cool now? During the 2018 All-Star Break, KD and Russ were sighted cracking jokes with each other numerous times. Does this mean that Russ and KD are cool now or is it all a publicity stunt to get the media to quiet down on the Russ and KD rivalry? NBA fans might never truly know the answer to that question. One thing that NBA fans do know however is that Kevin Durant and the fabulous Golden State Warriors ruined basketball.