The NBA’s best epics have been constructed round a meteoric star crash touchdown in a small market, galvanizing town round their greatness in hopes of delivering glory. Assume LeBron James in Cleveland, Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas, Tim Duncan in San Antonio, Isiah Thomas in Detroit, Hakeem Olajuwon in Houston, Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee, and Invoice Walton in Portland. Kevin Durant deserves to be on that listing. However he can be the one one unable to deliver a championship to town that drafted him. Solely James can relate to the acrimonious divorce either side felt when he left in 2016.
Oklahoma Metropolis had no thought how good they’d it. They instantly knew greatness once they have been gifted the Supersonics franchise and Durant from Seattle in 2008. The next yr, below the elite acumen of GM Sam Presti, they drafted Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka. The subsequent yr James Harden. These 4 gamers fashioned one of many best younger cores in NBA historical past. The Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder have been projected to be a dynasty, with the one factor standing of their means being the maturity of their younger superstars.
Then the dominos started to fall, first in the summertime of 2011 when Presti declined to re-sign Harden, as a substitute delivery him to the Houston Rockets. From that time on, Presti did his finest to stability out his slite draft historical past with a collection of horrible trades, free agent signings, and training hires. It culminated in Durant’s eighth season in OKC, mentally and bodily uninterested in sharing the ball with Westbrook and brunt out carrying the load on offense. Durant left the franchise holding its ego in its hand as he bolted to form the most effective groups of all time in Golden State.
Durant is dealing with an identical scenario in Brooklyn with a mercurial level guard and a revolving door of teaching ineptitude. Durant is taking part in on the second-highest utilization charge of his profession at 32.5 however with a win-share proportion of .213. Durant is again to averaging 30 ppg for the primary time in eight seasons. Nonetheless, it hasn’t translated to wins, because the Nets went 8-9 within the first 17 video games after firing former head coach Steve Nash, in addition to suspending Irving for sharing anti-Semitic propaganda on his social media.
Durant was so fed up with the circus the Nets have turn into that he issued a commerce request this previous summer season. He retracted it after prolonged discussions with Brooklyn management, however the specter of him circling again to it has haunted this season’s poor begin. If he does, there’s one narrative that might restore the villainous flip Durant has fought off and, at instances, embraced since leaving OKC. When Durant instructed the staff he needed a commerce mere months in the past, Brooklyn discovered the commerce market dried up with the form of blockbuster provide they have been in search of. To commerce Durant would require a nuclear rebuild to the roster, making picks probably the most priceless return.
Just one staff can provide this, and in a couple of means, it seems like Oklahoma’s hoarding of draft capital over the previous couple of years has led to such a second. If Durant decides to depart Brooklyn, he ought to return to Oklahoma Metropolis, repairing his relationship with the basketball-crazy fan base and his picture as a participant who can’t win all of it on his personal. The Thunder’s roster, as at present constructed, might sacrifice two or three of their younger core, let’s say, Chet Holmgren, Josh Giddey, Darius Bazley, and wage filler whereas sustaining appreciable expertise round Durant. If Durant might be a part of a Thunder squad consisting of present MVP candidate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, defensive ace Lu Dort, bench spark plug Tre Mann, bettering two-way freak Aleksej Pokusevski, regular bench guys Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Mike Muscala, Jalen Williams, and Jaylen Williams, the Thunder might be proper again to the place they have been in the summertime of 2011, stacked with expertise and one of the best offensive participant within the sport.
The Thunder would additionally must half with a lot of the 15 first-round picks they’ve amassed over the previous couple of seasons. Presti has clutched his pearls concerning these picks, refusing to incorporate them to enhance the roster within the quick time period. An SGA/Durant duo is the form of two-man mixture that may win a championship. SGA is the antithesis of Westbrook, and every little thing about his sport and demeanor exhibits he would defer to Durant because the alpha on a staff that may be almost unstoppable with him because the second choice. There are nonetheless questions over whether or not improvement coach Mark Daigneault is the best man to teach a Durant-led staff. However that’s the place Presti has to indicate he’s advanced and be keen to switch Coach D with a revered identify if Durant calls for it.
Durant would get an opportunity to show to the haters he can win a championship on a roster led principally by his brilliance. The Warriors groups he received two rings with have been already champs earlier than he joined. Many have criticized him for quitting attempting to win one the laborious means and taking the simple means out in Golden State. Returning to OKC can be akin to James returning to Cleveland in 2016 after he left to staff up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with the Miami Warmth. Durant would additionally get to restore his relationship with the Thunder fan base and entrance workplace, who he has gone forwards and backwards since departing, blackening what was an instance of small-town glory.
Most NBA observers outdoors of Oklahoma Metropolis, these not carrying water as Presti-apologists, can admit the Thunder royally fucked-up one of the crucial unbelievable younger cores within the historical past of the NBA. However they’re within the distinctive alternative to have a second probability. By the second section of elite participant analysis, Presti has once more amassed the most effective younger cores within the NBA. He can proceed on the trail of the sluggish rebuild, ultimately cashing in his picks for one more star and constructing towards an eventual return to rivalry. Or he can throw the method into fifth gear and convey dwelling the best participant in franchise historical past, Durant. Whereas the primary choice is clearly extra prudent, NBA lore is constructed on those that make their very own future. And as Presti has stated himself, “scared cash don’t generate profits.” We agree, Presti. Now deliver Durant again dwelling.