As family and friends gathered together, preparing to celebrate our nation’s Independence Day, Kevin Durant, the most-coveted prize in the 2016 NBA free-agency period, decided to set off some fireworks of his own, announcing on The Players’ Tribune that he was officially taking his talents to the Golden State Warriors:
This has been by far the most challenging few weeks in my professional life. I understood cognitively that I was facing a crossroads in my evolution as a player and as a man, and that it came with exceptionally difficult choices. What I didn’t truly understand, however, was the range of emotions I would feel during this process.
The primary mandate I had for myself in making this decision was to have it based on the potential for my growth as a player — as that has always steered me in the right direction. But I am also at a point in my life where it is of equal importance to find an opportunity that encourages my evolution as a man: moving out of my comfort zone to a new city and community, which offers the greatest potential for my contribution and personal growth. With this in mind, I have decided that I am going to join the Golden State Warriors.
There was always a possibility that Durant would bolt from Oklahoma City. Still, after falling one victory shy of a birth in the 2016 Western Conference Finals, we never imagined it would actually happen.
The Thunder made quality moves on draft night and seemed ready to make another deep postseason run this season. But now, thanks to this shocking news, everything has changed. Prior to this decision, a few teams had favorable odds of winning the 2016–17 NBA Championship. However, with one announcement, Durant and the Warriors completely flipped the script. See for yourselves.
Oklahoma City Thunder
It’s safe to say that basketball in Oklahoma City will never be the same. From May 29 all the way up until the morning of July 4, the Thunder were given 8-1 odds of capturing the title in 2017. With one announcement, this all changed.
The news of KD joining the Warriors completely decimated the Thunder’s chances of winning the whole thing, as the team’s odds plummeted all the way to 30-1, according to the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. The Oklahoma City Thunder, at least for one season, are officially Russell Westbrook‘s team. For their sake, we hope it stays that way past 2017.
Los Angeles Clippers
After realizing they were out of the Kevin Durant sweepstakes, the Los Angeles Clippers made the call to re-sign guard Austin Rivers on a three-year, $35 million deal and up their offer to swingman Jamal Crawford. Of course, just because the best team in Hollywood was able to remain intact doesn’t mean they weren’t hurt by the shocking news.
After opening July 4 with 16-1 odds — the same as May 29 — of winning the title, the news of KD’s departure caused the Clippers chances to fall to 20-1. The powers that be (Vegas oddsmakers, obviously) clearly don’t believe the “Big Three” pictured above have enough firepower to take on the newly formed “Core Four.” We can’t blame them.
San Antonio Spurs
With the growing feeling that San Antonio staple Tim Duncan is “leaning strongly” toward retirement, the Spurs hoped to replace one superstar with another. By landing power forward Pau Gasol, Gregg Popovich and company secured one of their key targets of the offseason.
Unfortunately, they weren’t able to bag the biggest fish of the free-agency period — and they took a little hit for it. Although the Spurs still hold the third-best odds of winning the 2017 NBA Championship, their chances of being the last team standing went from 6-1 to 8-1. We wonder how the Vegas oddsmakers will feel if The Big Fundamental decides to call it a career.
The Golden State Warriors may have weakened the competition in the Western Conference, but from an odds perspective, the newly-crowned NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers remain totally unfazed by recent events.
The Cavs were 5-2 favorites dating all the way back to May 29, and those odds carried all the way through July 4 and the news that Durant was heading to the Bay Area. We guess that’s what happens when you have LeBron James on the roster.
Golden State Warriors
If you thought a team made up of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green was unfair, you haven’t seen anything yet. With the addition of Kevin Durant, the two-time Western Conference champs are locked, loaded, and poised to start a dynasty in the Bay Area — and the odds definitely reflect that.
Prior to Durant’s decision, the Dubs had the best odds of winning the title in 2016–17 at 3-2. With KD joining the fold, those chances increased to 2-3. By taking the team’s motto of “Strength in Numbers” to a whole new level, the Warriors now have the opportunity to be something truly special — we can’t wait to see how it all plays out.
Information courtesy of The Players’ Tribune.