Kevin Durant is one of the most gifted players to have ever played the game of basketball. He is nearly 7-foot tall and has a silky game we see few guards possess. He is also one of the best shooters the game has ever seen, which is why the league was up in arms when he left the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Golden STate Warriors in 2017.
KD would win two titles in three seasons, playing some sensational basketball. The success for Golden State came behind their team motion offense that saw the ball move from player to player. Many believe Durant assimilated perfectly, but there was a personal sacrifice he made to enable that team's winning.
In 2019, KD had expressed his dissatisfaction with the Warriors' offense. The season had the dark cloud of Durant's impending free agency, something many expected would result in KD leaving the team. Durant publicly criticized Steve Kerr for the offense and Kerr responded.
Durant had this to say when interviewed by The Wall Street Journal after he left the team in 2019 for the Brooklyn Nets.
"The motion offense we run in Golden State, it only works to a certain point. We can totally rely on our system for maybe the first two rounds. Then the next two rounds we're going to have to mix in individual play. We've got to throw teams off, because they're smarter in that round of playoffs.
"So now I have to dive into my bag, deep, to create stuff on my own, off the dribble, isos, pick-and-rolls, more so than let the offense create points for me."
Durant understands that the playoffs are a different animal, and teams slow games down to a point where team sets start being less effective. The greatest players made their name by becoming one-man offensive units by being unstoppable even when the game has reached those points.
A great example of that is the 2016 NBA Finals, where the Warriors were overcome by the individual play of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in the final games and especially Game 7.
Steve Kerr responded to these comments in an in-depth conversation with The Athletic and basically agreed with Durant.
“I wasn’t at all offended what Kevin said because it’s basically the truth,” Kerr said. “You look at any system, I mean, I played the triangle with Michael Jordan. The offense ran a lot smoother all regular season and the first couple rounds of the playoffs than it did in the conference finals and Finals. It just did.”
Kerr continued: “That’s why guys like Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant are who they are. They can transcend any defense. But defenses in the playoffs, deep in the playoffs, combined with the physicality of the game — where refs can’t possibly call a foul every time — means that superstars have to take over. No system is just going to dice a Finals defense up. You have to rely on individual play. I didn’t look at (his comment) as offensive. I look at that as fact…
“For us, with Kevin, I look at the ’16-17 season, his first year, as really our apex,” Kerr said. “We had great offenses every year. But that year, we had a great combination of movement and flow and systemic success combined with the brilliance of his 1-on-1 play. That was the peak of our offense functioning.”
As Kerr said, the 2016-17 Warriors' offense is often considered one of the most polished in the history of basketball. They found the perfect balance between team play and isolation play when needed. The 2017 Finals saw Kevin Durant have many isolation plays on LeBron James, including late-game daggers that enabled him to become the Finals MVP.
The Warriors were not built to last when Durant joined them. But they were built to dominate, as they did in their time together. Their three-peat hopes were squashed due to injuries to Durant and Klay Thompson. Despite their brevity over seasons, that team will forever be remembered as an offensive juggernaut that achieved what they set out to do until fate took it out of their hands with the injuries in the 2019 Finals.