What the Absence of Kevin Durant Has Taught Us

When KD landed on his opponent’s foot awkwardly and, twisted his ankle, which resulted in a right ankle contusion, some might have thought that Warriors were the dark horses going into games vs Houston and OKC. Little did they know that, in the next two games, Golden State would end Houston’s nine-game winning streak and then, three days later, demolish OKC by 22 points.

Warriors are no strangers to playing and winning games without KD. After all, they have won their first Championship without him. Furthermore, the latest addition to the team, Demarcus Cousins, is the kind of center that can not only rebound the ball consistently but also bring it up the court. Even if his first pass doesn’t lead to an immediate assist, it still takes the pressure off the guards who can look for an open shot either in transition or by using screens once the defense is set. Furthermore, Boogie is the kind of player that can hit an open shot, even behind the three-point line, on a somewhat consistent basis. Hence, if the opponent plays man-to-man defense this leaves a paint open for cutters to exploit. Steph or Klay can definitely use this fact to their advantage.

Both Curry and Thompson excel when the ball moves and screens are being set. Both need only a few milliseconds to release the ball and hit a three-pointer in the opponent’s face. Both are intelligent enough to realize that you should be twice as aggressive when you give up the ball. In order to utilize those qualities to the maximum, the team has to be willing to run plays for them on regular basis, in order to keep them on their toes when they don’t have the ball in their hands.

Kevin Durant definitely attracts the attention of the opposing team but at the same time, he attempts 18.8 shots per game. While his effective Field Goal is at .562% and he also manages to dish out 5.7 assists per game, it is also clear that the team can be as effective with more ball movement. Golden State averages 319.4 passes per game in 2018-2019 and this number did not differ much when KD was absent but what was different was that execution of their half-court sets was spotless.

We are so accustomed to Golden States star performers that we tend to forget that they have such veterans as Andre Iguodala, Shaw Livingston, and recent addition Andrew Bogut, who of course has played a vital part in the victorious 2015 season. Essentially, those players can play a major role down the stretch in the Playoffs run, in case one of the starters gets injured, even if it is going to be KD. Of course, role-players won’t be able to replicate what Kevin does with the ball on the offensive end but at the same time team will be still able to run plays that lead to a good opportunity for the shooting player to convert his attempt.

According to Kobe Bryant: “Kevin Durant. That was the one I retired without being able to figure out how I can stop him.” That kind of praise coming from one of the greats to play the game is definitely something to be reckoned with. A player who can create something out of nothing, and do it on a game-by-game basis, is pretty much what the NBA is all about. However, from the perspective of the coaching staff, it makes more sense to run plays that involve active ball movement and multiple players involved, rather than the hero ball. At the end of the day, Steve Kerr has to find an equilibrium of how to utilize his star players and keep them happy at the same time.