Kevin Durant + Golden State Warriors = 0 Titles
‘The math equation that proves this free agent acquisition will not result in any championships.’
July 24th, 2016
It’s been the obvious hot topic in the sports world over the last several weeks and it will continue to be throughout the course of the NBA season next year. Of course I’m talking about Kevin Durant’s decision to play for the Golden State Warriors this offseason. The immediate response from the majority of the public is entirely fear based (a topic that I have discussed in previous articles) as everyone jumps to the conclusion of this becoming a ‘Super Team’ that will run off any number of consecutive championships and ruin the fairness of the NBA league. But that is actually very wrong. And what if I told you that I can mathematically prove that this will in fact NOT make the Golden State Warriors better, and will NOT make Kevin Durant, Steph Curry or Klay Thompson a better player? Well I can and I will. But first I need to soften to blow from these hard hitting facts by convincing you of a few other things that will lead to this ultimate conclusion.
Haven’t we all heard of the saying, “Don’t fix something that isn’t broken”? Of course you have, and what better example of this happening then what the Golden State Warriors are doing right now?! They won a RECORD SETTING 73 games in the regular season last year. Yes, that’s even better than the Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls people. And as if that isn’t proof enough… (You are going to counter argue me by saying that they didn’t win the Championship so that demands changes, right?) Wrong. That’s the lazy man’s argument. Take a moment and let’s dig a little deeper into the other effects that this move will create before jumping to conclusions.
The Warriors held a 3-1 series lead over the Cavaliers in the Finals with two of the remaining three games being played in Golden State. Everyone in the world at this point thought that this series was OVER, and it probably should have been, but then an injury occurred. Andrew Bogut was lost for the series and the dynamic of the entire series changed. Golden State lost its rim protector, and that’s about the only legitimate defense against LeBron James. Once realize the domino effect of this, it actually increases the efficiency and productivity of the Cavalier offense, which then decreases the efficiency and productivity of the Golden State offence. Also, more energy would have to be exerted on the defensive end from players that are not typically used to doing so.
The abbreviated version of this argument would be that they lost their best defense trait against the Cavaliers to injury, which is something that you can’t plan for, and THAT is the leading reason that they ended up losing the series. So why is everyone over reacting and jumping to the conclusion that drastic changes must be made in order to win going forward?? I watched Game 7 and let me tell ya, the last 3 minutes could have gone either way. But it’s funny how those short 3 minutes now changed the course of this entire offseason and probably the near future of the league. In conclusion; why are the Warriors fixing something that isn’t broken??
Moving on, I want to talk about two other dynamics that drastically changed due to signing Kevin Durant. The first being the result of losing other role players such as Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli, and even Marreese Speights (which rounds out all three of their 2015 centers). Did I mention that you need a decent rim protector at center to have a chance at containing LeBron James? Oh I did. Ok so Kevin Durant is great, but now they don’t have nearly the same level of roster depth that they did last year. And they don’t have nearly as physical of a team, and they have lost a substantial percentage of their rebounding presence. So who is going to pick up all the slack on the rebounding and defensive end? NOT Kevin Durant, I can tell you that.
In addition to the loss in roster depth (that will force other players out of their natural element in order to pick up the slack in rebounding and defense), did anyone consider the chemistry factor within the Golden State team? Of all the major sports leagues, none are more dependent on fewer players than the NBA. You can only have 5 players on the court at one time. So in what league would you guess that chemistry probably matters the most? My guess would be the NBA, because there are so FEW ego’s involved, if one or two go array, this can mean devastation for the entire team. And is Klay Thompson ok with now being the #3 go-to guy? Or is Draymond Green fine with now being irrelevant? It’s very easy to make a great roster on NBA2K when all you have to worry about is statistics, but when you have to incorporate ego’s (especially those of young, millionaires) it’s a whole different ball game. My prediction: everything is gravy at first and while they are winning games, but when the time comes that they have to face adversity, super ego’s will take over and ruin the ‘chemistry’ that they thought they had. Finger pointing will then ensue.
Which will now bring you to my final and most legitimate point of all. The math equation that PROVES this move will not make them any better, and will actually worsen the team. Let’s start with the number 100, which is a roundabout average of the number of possessions that an NBA team gets per game. The goal is to get the highest percentage shot every time that you are down the court. That’s easy when you already have ‘percentage-wise’ the greatest two shooting guards to ever play the game, and you just acquired another great one. It all sounds wonderful on the surface but when you think about it in a different light your opinion may change.
Steph Curry shoots 51% from the field over the course of his career, and Klay Thompson shoots 47% career from the field. So let’s establish that either one of these (and now including Kevin Durant – career 51% from the field) would be the best case scenario to take a shot whenever you have a possession. But as great as Kevin Durant is, he is only a 4.5% better shooter than the most comparable person that he is replacing on the court, Harrison Barnes (46.6%). Remember, each possession only accounts for ONE shot, so the total number of shots per game is a limited number. So Kevin Durant will theoretically increase the number of shots that you make per game by four and a half, or the equivalent of 8-14 points per game. Wait so what is the catch? I thought that you said this was an equation that proved this would FAIL, not something that proves the opposite. Well, you are forgetting a couple crucial factors that you lose with the acquisition of Durant.
What are those two important things that swing the pendulum so much that this becomes a bad move? Back to rebounding and defense. Although you are getting better in the shooting percentage area by 4.5 made shots per game, you are going to lose just as much through diminished rebounds and the lack on the defensive end. Try to stay with me as I theorize through this. I think it’s a fair assumption to make that between Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes, and any other player who would have been on the court instead of Kevin Durant, they are a very conservative ‘4’ rebounds better per game as a team. Then you theoretically make shots on 50% of those recovered rebounds each game, or the equivalent of 4-6 points per game difference. So now you are 4-6 points worse than the original estimated increase of 8-14 points per game by acquiring the better shooting Kevin Durant. Now our 8-14 points increase per game is down to only 4-8 points per game better, when considering only rebounds.
Now we will also take into consideration a new lack on the defensive end. One thing that I can absolutely assure you is that Kevin Durant is not as capable as Andrew Bogut on the defensive end, especially when going against LeBron James. This stat is hard to put into succinct numerical terms but I’m sure everyone would agree that any team is going to increase their shooting percentage by 4%, or 4 made shots per game, with Durant on the court and Green now forced to play the center position instead of Bogut and Barnes. Remember that these are all conservative estimates, and now the other team is 4 ‘made shots’ better every game, or the equivalent of 8-12 additional points per game. Now our original improvement of 8-14 points per game with Kevin Durant dropped to 4-8 points per game after the loss of rebounds and now will drop another 8-12 points due to the loss of defensive presence. I know that you are already doing the math in your head but here comes the big conclusion!
Simple math, take the high-end increase of estimated points per game (14) with Kevin Durant minus the low-end estimated point loss due to lack of rebounds (4), plus the low-end estimate of increased points to the other team due to lack of defense (8) and what does that give you?!?! I know I know you are screaming that this still leaves the Warriors better by 2 points per game! But remember that I estimated on the side of the Warriors advantage in every situation and you are still only 2 points per game better? Our best case scenario only has you 2 points better!? What if everything isn’t perfect, which more likely will be the case? In our worst case scenario, Kevin makes the Warriors only 8 points better originally, minus 6 points for the lack of rebounding, and finally adding 12 additional points to the other team for the lack on the defensive end of the court, and that would give us a team that is 10 points worse per game. So if we take the average of both outcomes, 2 points per game better on their best night, and 10 points per game worst on their worst night, gives us our average of 4 points per game worse than before. Now are you starting to regret this trade all you Warrior fans?
This all doesn’t even take into consideration the potential chemistry issues on the team or the increased player fatigue due to a thin bench! I won’t even try to quantify those numbers but I think I have made my point. Things that sound great on the surface may not always be. I’ve learned from experience throughout my life is that EVERYTHING has pros and cons, even the things that seem perfect on the surface. For example, the internet is great but how has that influenced our society’s obesity rate…? You get my point… let’s all watch the Warriors underachieve this year and Vegas will get rich on all those bad bets… My advice, save your money and read this article before you place your next wager…