Durant’s arrival in Oakland brought about many changes. For one it almost surely obliterated KD and Stephen Curry from the NBA MVP race while also starting a soft rebuilding stage for the Thunder. But the biggest impact that Durant’s choice to join Golden State had on the NBA was that it pretty much guaranteed basketball fans one of the most star-studded Finals matchups in NBA history.
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Kevin Durant Calls 2017 Finals ‘Perfectly Even Matchup’
LeBron James and the Cavaliers had steamrolled their way to the NBA Finals since his return to the franchise in 2014. After completing a historic upset, trailing 3-1 to the Golden State Warriors to win the franchise’s first NBA title in 2016, most were expecting them to cruise back there in 2017.
However, for the Warriors, their road to the Finals was a lot bumpier. Like the Cavaliers, Golden State trailed 3-1 in the 2016 Western Conference Finals against the Thunder. Oklahoma City was the only team to pose any type of threat to the Warriors in the Western Conference. With Durant parting ways with the Thunder to join the Warriors who had just won 73 games the previous season, Golden State had a clear path to waltz into their third consecutive NBA Finals in 2017. It was a Finals that Durant believes is the best NBA Finals since 2016 because it was a “perfectly even matchup.”
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2017 Finals Wasn’t as Unbalanced as It Seemed
Many fans continue to hold on to the narrative that KD’s two NBA titles “don’t count” because the Warriors stacked the deck when he decided to sign with them. But when you look at it in retrospect Durant makes an extremely valid point.
First and foremost, the narrative that KD joined a 73 win team in 2016 is simply untrue. To sign Durant the Warriors had to make a lot of changes to their roster which included parting ways with two of their starters in Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut.
Secondly, when you look at the roster top to bottom the scales were not as unbalanced as they seemed. LeBron, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving were All-Stars who had just gone to back-to-back NBA Finals and each had superior offensive ability. They also had above-average role players such as Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson, and Kyle Korver.
On the Warriors side, they had Curry, KD, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green which gave them one more All-Star than the Cavaliers. However, if there was a downside to signing Durant it had to have been that they became a very top-heavy team as their bench was extremely lackluster.
The real reason most fans believe that the 2017 NBA Finals was an unfair matchup is that the Warriors cruised to a championship and beat LeBron’s Cavaliers in five games, one of the most lopsided NBA Finals losses of his career. The reality was that Cleveland lost because Durant was clearly the best player in the series averaging 35.2 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game en route to his first NBA Finals MVP award.