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 record. 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 each side felt when he left in 2016.
Oklahoma Metropolis had no thought how good they’d it. They instantly knew greatness after they had 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 following yr James Harden. These 4 gamers fashioned one of many best younger cores in NBA historical past. The Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder had been projected to be a dynasty, with the one factor standing of their method 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 an alternative transport 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 bored with 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 top-of-the-line groups of all time in Golden State.
Durant is dealing with the same state of affairs 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 share 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 time. 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 would restore the villainous flip Durant has fought off and, at occasions, embraced since leaving OKC. When Durant advised the group he needed a commerce mere months in the past, Brooklyn discovered the commerce market dried up with the type of blockbuster supply they had been searching for. To commerce Durant would require a nuclear rebuild to the roster, making picks essentially the most helpful return.
Just one group can supply this, and in a couple of method, it looks like Oklahoma’s hoarding of draft capital over the previous few 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 not win all of it on his personal. The Thunder’s roster, as at the moment 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, enhancing 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 had been in the summertime of 2011, stacked with expertise and the most effective offensive participant within the recreation.
The Thunder would additionally should half with a lot of the 15 first-round picks they’ve amassed over the previous few 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 type of two-man mixture that may win a championship. SGA is the antithesis of Westbrook, and every part about his recreation and demeanor reveals he would defer to Durant because the alpha on a group that may be practically unstoppable with him because the second possibility. There are nonetheless questions over whether or not improvement coach Mark Daigneault is the correct man to educate a Durant-led group. However that’s the place Presti has to point out he’s developed 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 largely by his brilliance. The Warriors groups he received two rings with had been already champs earlier than he joined. Many have criticized him for quitting making an attempt to win one the arduous method and taking the simple method out in Golden State. Returning to OKC can be akin to James returning to Cleveland in 2016 after he left to group 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 exterior of Oklahoma Metropolis, these not carrying water as Presti-apologists, can admit the Thunder royally fucked-up probably the most unbelievable younger cores within the historical past of the NBA. However they’re within the distinctive alternative to have a second probability. Via the second section of elite participant analysis, Presti has once more amassed top-of-the-line younger cores within the NBA. He can proceed on the trail of the gradual rebuild, ultimately cashing in his picks for an additional star and constructing towards an eventual return to rivalry. Or he can throw the method into fifth gear and convey residence the best participant in franchise historical past, Durant. Whereas the primary possibility is clearly extra prudent, NBA lore is constructed on those that make their very own future. And as Presti has mentioned himself, “scared cash don’t earn cash.” We agree, Presti. Now deliver Durant again residence.