Kevin Durant or Team Chemistry: Which is Worth More?

Should Kevin Durant leave Oklahoma City for Golden State, it would align Durant with three other All-Stars, and would add one of the NBA’s top-five ballers to an already historic team. Most team executives would immediately jump on this opportunity, but there are definite financial complications involved.

The Warriors would have the cap space to sign Durant, but only if they wave goodbye to Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes, and 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala. Adding to that, nearly every bench player free agent they bring in from somewhere else would have to sign for the minimum or midlevel exception, meaning that the second unit would be exponentially weaker than it currently is.

Kevin Durant vs. team chemistry: which is worth more?

Flawless chemistry is worth more than a max contract, and is harder to find than one player worth the max. Look at the Clippers, for example. They have three players earning max contracts, and established veterans J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford. However, a lack of chemistry has prevented them from making it past the second round.

Golden State’s 55-5 record proves that they have impeccable chemistry. Every player fits into the system with near-perfection, which is worth more than any single superstar, including Durant.

Financially speaking, it is in the best interest of the Warriors to build a team that will win championships. Championships create revenue through endorsements, ticket sales, merchandise sales, etc. A franchise typically increases its overall value after winning a championship, which is why Warriors’ executives should focus on bringing more rings to the Bay Area.

As the best team in the NBA, Golden State has a solid chance of repeating. The Warriors are on pace to win 74 games, so there is only minuscule room for improvement. If GM Bob Myers signs Durant and the transition is not seamless, then Golden State will see their championship odds decrease.

The Warriors number one priority will continue to be Steph Curry, who is a free agent in 2017. The reigning MVP will likely re-sign for north of $30 million per year, and will continue to be the focal point of the game plan. Durant will be the main sidekick, while Draymond Green and Klay Thompson will slide down into the third and fourth roles in the offense.

Signing Durant will have the biggest effect on Klay Thompson. Durant’s skill set covers everything that Thompson can do, which will mean fewer touches for the 26-year-old shooting guard. By default, Thompson would become the fourth best player, and would not get enough shots to average his usual 20+ points. He would likely put up numbers more comparable to Harrison Barnes, who is currently the fourth option. This would mean roughly ten shots per game, and not enough production to warrant more All-Star bids.

Thompson will be a free agent in 2019, at which point, he will either take a discount and stay in Golden State, or sign a lucrative contract elsewhere. With Durant on board, Thompson is no longer an absolute necessity, and he will thus not warrant a max deal to stay in the Bay Area. This is another example of how the addition of Durant will change the landscape of Warriors basketball; it could end well, but it is more likely to take away from the chemistry and continuity that Golden State has built.

To come to the Bay Area, Durant will need to sign a contract that is slightly less than the max. It is the classic case of a big name taking less money to chase a title. The four-time scoring champion will still be making over $20 million per year, but could sign a more lucrative max deal elsewhere. Durant’s worth would be deflated, but if he is willing to sacrifice dollars for potential rings, then it is financially rational on his part.

Golden State must consider the costs of their new stadium, which will open in 2019 in San Francisco. The Chase Center (a $1 billion project) is being privately financed by the Warriors. They reached a naming rights deal with JPMorgan Chase, which will help fund the arena. Nonetheless, there are substantial costs associated with building and opening a venue of this capacity.

Since Warriors’ ownership is already financing the arena, they may be reluctant to pay a significant luxury tax bill. This would put a limit on how much the team can spend on rotational players, if they want to avoid the progressive tax.

Marreese Speights, Leandro Barbosa and Brandon Rush are all free agents. The Warriors can bring them back, they have their Bird rights (right to sign your own player and go over the cap), but then they would have a huge tax bill.

Kevin Durant is a once-in-a-generation player. He is a former MVP, a seven-time All-Star, a five-time All-NBA First Team selection, and is right in his prime at 27. But adding him to something that is already nearly perfect is more likely to cause regression than progression. Signing Durant takes away from Golden State’s monetary flexibility, and prohibits the team from forming a great top-to-bottom roster. They would rely on veterans taking the minimum, such as what David West did to link with the Spurs this summer.

The Warriors recently defeated the Thunder twice in six days, which could make Durant want to try his luck on the West Coast. But because of the financial changes and uncertainty that Durant would bring, the Warriors’ front office should opt to keep things the way they are.

 

photo via llananba