On July 4th, 2016, Kevin Durant created some fireworks of his own and joined Western Conference juggernaut, the Golden State . The same team that not even a month prior eliminated his former team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, in the 2016 Western Conference Finals after they held a 3 games to 1 advantage. The same team that lost the very next series, the 2016 NBA Finals, to the Cleveland Cavaliers after holding the very same advantage. Despite intense scrutiny, he had one goal in mind – to go to the best place where he could finally earn a championship ring and avenge his embarrassing 2012 NBA Finals loss to LeBron James and the Miami Heat. We recently learned the Warriors had similar plans, with Draymond Green calling Warriors’ GM Bob Myers and Kevin Durant immediately following the heartbreaking Game 7 loss.
To many, Durant’s move decided who the 2017 NBA Champions would be before the season even tipped off. It was just a matter of who would emerge as the Most Valuable Player from the Warriors, now adorned with 4 NBA All-Stars and future Hall of Fame inductees (KD, Green, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson). Durant proved how dominant he could be with a change of scenery and team-playing style, ultimately earning the NBA Finals MVP after averaging 35.2 points per game with 3-time Finals MVP King James defending him.
The Warriors as a whole dominated this season, finishing 67-15 en route to earning yet another No. 1 Seed and home court advantage throughout the playoffs. They did not lose a game in these playoffs until Game 4 of the Finals, due to a heroic and record-breaking effort from the Cleveland Cavaliers who were desperately fighting off elimination. Game 5 would prove to be less fruitful, as everything clicked for the Warriors upon their return to Oracle Arena and they sealed the deal.
LeBron and KD shared a genuine embrace as time ticked down in the 4th quarter, with KD in his post-game interview acknowledging LeBron as his toughest competitor in the NBA and being the first player ever to average a triple-double (points, rebounds, assists) in the NBA Finals. He then engaged in a passionate celebration with his mother Wanda Durant, best known as “The Real MVP” from his emotional 2014 MVP speech.
LeBron James, having been in his 7th straight and 8th overall NBA Finals, left everything on the court. He proudly claimed after the loss that he put forth his best effort and had no reason to hang his head. Kyrie Irving praised LeBron’s leadership and effort in a challenging series against arguably the best team ever assembled in the NBA. The Cavaliers got great effort from JR Smith and Tristan Thompson in Game 5, both of which struggled early on in the series. Irving and Kevin Love posted a few big games as well. Overall, despite the firepower the Eastern Conference Champions possessed, there was a lack of synergy throughout these Finals that ultimately made them unable to compete with the elite long range shooting, defense and teamwork of the Warriors.
This third installment of the Cavaliers and Warriors battles in the NBA Finals during this decade now has the Warriors leading 2-1. Kevin Durant and LeBron James are tied 1-1 in their NBA Finals matchups, each with an MVP. Unless another team makes a big move in the offseason, with players like Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry, Paul George, and Gordon Hayward potentially on the market, it is likely we will see these “super teams” battling yet again. In this day and age where teams load up on superstars, though, the possibilities are endless as to what the Cavaliers starting lineup is going to look like when next season rolls around.