Two weeks ago, I wrote about where Zion Williamson should play basketball from a perspective of fun and fun alone, disregarding other factors like what the league would like best and which massive, annoying fan base would be most upset/happy to not have him/have him on their terrible team. I gave each lottery team a score based on how fun it would be to watch Zion on said team, and the New Orleans Pelicans — who will likely draft him — received a 6 out of 10. Not too bad!
This week, I want to talk about Kevin Durant, who will also potentially play on a new team next year. He is Very Good at basketball, and no matter where he goes, it will be fascinating to see what his uniquely awesome skillset looks like on a new team without such a loaded supporting cast (or maybe with a different loaded supporting cast). One of the greatest pros of players changing teams with such frequency now is getting to see how dynamic skill sets work in tandem with one another — it’s like 2K, but in real life.
Some of KD’s options are obviously more exciting than others, and I want to explore exactly which team(s) would be the most fun to see him join. For our purposes, I’m removing the question of how realistic the choices are; it’s not about if he would join a team, it’s about what it would be like — and how great it would be — if he did.
I’ve chosen eight teams that I think would be Very Fun, but I’m adding more factors than last time. When ranking Zion, I gave each team a rating out of 10, but this time, they’ll be judged in three categories, which are: Story, Fit, and Watchability (which, if you’re keeping score at home, is not a word; I knew that wouldn’t get by you, and I’m so proud of you for catching it).
Story refers to how interesting, from a narrative perspective, it would be for KD to join a team. The NBA is nothing without its characters and stories. Fit refers to how compatible he would be among existing members of the team (assuming current players remain on the team). Finally, Watchability factors in how much fun it would be to watch, even if you didn’t know who the players were. Here we go.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder
It’s bad writing to repeat yourself but I feel in this case I need to; in case you didn’t hear me, we’re removing all elements of realism from this. We all know that Durant isn’t even considering returning to Oklahoma City, especially considering what he’s accomplished since, as well as how the city and fans have treated him when he’s returned for visits.
Still, this is the most fun choice KD could make. I can already imagine beautiful magazine and website layouts as everyone on the internet publishes long-form pieces on Durant’s return to OKC and what that means for the league. But even if you don’t care about that and don’t have any narrative questions (what would his relationship with Russ be? What about Paul George? Would the city forgive him and welcome him back? [Yes; yes they would]), the on-court product — including a Big Three of Westbrook, George, and Durant — would be awe-inspiring. The Thunder are a long, athletic team with strong defense and mediocre shooting; KD’s presence would boost the former while helping to alleviate the latter.
Still, the story cannot be ignored (and it wouldn’t be). Whether he likes it or not, Durant’s career has always been linked to LeBron’s, as possibly the two best players in the league. Like LeBron returned to his former team to take on the next challenge, KD could do the same. Also, if he’s looking for true approval without the asterisk (rightfully or not) that many want to apply to his championships, OKC is the best place to find it.
2. Houston Rockets
If KD would prefer not to link himself to the fireball of Westbrook again but still wants to reunite with a former teammate and fellow MVP, the Rockets are an excellent alternative. While the Rockets have spent their offseason so far on the verge of implosion, KD would still fit seamlessly into their lineup. Year after year, Harden wears down and falters in the playoffs after such a tremendously high usage all season long. On the Rockets, Durant would instantly alleviate this pressure, likely making things easier for both players.
But honestly, the real reason he should join the Rockets is the fun factor, of course. The Warriors/Rockets rivalry has been riveting but extremely one-sided. Even if Houston falls apart this summer, Durant joining the team adds intrigue and longevity to one of the league’s more exciting matchups.
3. Brooklyn Nets
Finally, after almost a decade, the Nets have emerged from the self-inflicted prison they created in 2011 by trading a slew of draft picks and mortgaging their future for almost nothing and have become Actually Fun. With young, emerging stars like D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert, and Jarrett Allen, the team is only an All-Star (or two) from competing, if not contending.
While there has been a lot of discussion about Kevin Durant joining the Knicks, the Nets are, like it or not, simply a better option. If I wrote for an actual basketball website, I probably couldn’t write this, but: The Knicks are not cool right now. They have no brand presence outside their fandom, their team is awful but in a boring way (unlike say, the Suns or Hawks), and their owner doesn’t seem to care about the team.
Regardless, all signs point to Durant packing up for New York. If he wants to move there but also still wants to win basketball games, the Nets are the clear choice, with the right role players to help him succeed but not anyone so good as to threaten to steal the show (unless they managed to get Kyrie Irving and/or Anthony Davis which, personally, I don’t feel like Durant would complain about). Also their jerseys are really good. This is a slam dunk.
4. Los Angeles Clippers
For years, there’s been talk of big-name free agents joining the Lakers (with few results) since even before LeBron signed with the team in 2018. But if a star wants to win in Los Angeles, they might be better off on the city’s other team.
The Clippers are just better in every way. They have a great coach and smart ownership, enough cap space for two max players, and an already strong supporting cast boasting the best sixth man in the NBA.
After trading their best player last season, they continued to win and snuck into the playoffs, taking the Warriors to six games. Durant would fit easily into their current roster, not to mention the possibility of a second max player joining the show. If KD wants to prove he can be The Guy, staying in the Western Conference and succeeding on the Clippers might be a better way to do it than leaving for, say, the Knicks, who have none of the aforementioned support for a max player.
5. Toronto Raptors
As is the case with the Thunder, there’s not really a reason KD will consider Toronto. But if he is indeed looking to switch conferences and also continue to win, the Raptors are perhaps the strongest choice.
At the beginning of this, I said that for this game, we would pretend that all players on each team remained on the roster just to simplify things. With the Raptors, though, it works if Kawhi Leonard leaves or sticks around. If Toronto managed to snag Durant and keep Leonard, they would instantly become the next monstrous superteam, potentially for years to come.
But if Leonard leaves? Durant joining is just as interesting, if not more so, especially considering the Finals this year. In this case, Toronto fans — long beleaguered by players coming and going — would have (in only two years) replaced DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard, gone to the Finals, and then replaced Leonard with Kevin Durant. It’s as if someone delivered pizza to your home, only for another, more handsome delivery man to arrive shortly after with a bigger, better pizza, only for it to happen again.
6. Los Angeles Lakers
From a personal perspective, I do not want Kevin Durant to join LeBron’s Lakers, mainly because, like the Knicks, the Lakers’ strategy in the last decade or so has been to lazily tell free agents they are a premier team in a large city and then get confused and upset when players spurn them. It’s lazy, and when compared to the strategy of, say, the Clippers, it’s absurd.
Regardless, Durant and LeBron together is laughably exciting, and the coverage would be outrageous. Even if it went terribly, it would still be fun. The worst aspect of LeBron’s move to LA was that he essentially disappeared from The Narrative of the league. Both players are massive presences, and they could either coexist beautifully and burn the rest of the NBA to the ground, or collapse in a glorious blaze like a dying star. I’d be thrilled to watch either one.
7. Portland Trail Blazers
Yeah, yeah, this one is weird. Durant leaving for the Trail Blazers is basically a downgrade into a lesser version of his current situation. The Blazers are a west coast team in a smaller market than Golden State, with a scorching backcourt which would be considered possibly the best in the league if not for Golden State’s, and going there would force the Blazers to, like the Warriors in 2016, shed most of their depth.
Still, this would be a lot of fun; downgrading would actually allow us, the fans, to see just how good Durant could be without Steph, Klay, and Draymond on the outskirts. The Blazers have a reputation of collapsing, and KD could either be their hero and keep the ship afloat, or collapse with it, leaving us all confused and even more intrigued. Regardless, this is one that I’ll have to leave to 2K (I understand I’ll have to leave most if not all of these to 2K, and I’m going to have a lot of fun doing that).
8. Atlanta Hawks
Last but not least, my biggest “what if” scenario, which, even though it’s last, might be the most riveting if it were to happen. Kevin Durant joining the Hawks is so ludicrous that not only does it not make any sense for him, it might not even make sense for the team, who wouldn’t say no, but are trying to develop their extremely young new core. Still, if you have to choose one team from the bottom of the barrel, the Hawks are it.
Not only do they have Trae Young and second-year surprise John Collins, they also have two lottery picks at #8 and #10. Durant joining the team could have an adverse effect on the team’s young players who will need room to grow and learn, but he could also help create a good environment, and it would all be a blast to watch.