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After the Greatest NBA Season Ever, What’s Next?

Kevin Durant’s move to the Golden State Warriors followed possibly the greatest NBA season ever and was part of one of the more interesting offseasons in recent memory.

Broken records, incredible collapses, and sensational wins kept us entertained from beginning to end. It began with the most impressive month of basketball ever by the Warriors. With Luke Walton, of all coaches, at the helm, Golden State sprinted to a 24-0 record.

Stephen Curry one-upped himself and put on one of the best individual season performances ever, and won unanimous MVP. His playstyle ushered in a new era of the NBA and social media, with Vines, Snapchats, and Twitter feeds filled with his quick-hitting threes.

After an incredible Finals Game 7 that went above and beyond the hype, Golden State joined the New England Patriots, Seattle Mariners, and Detroit Red Wings in the “Failed to Win Title After Best Regular Season Ever” Club.

The volume shooter era’s biggest star ended his career in spectacular fashion (Kobe’s final game couldn’t have been more perfect). Tim Duncan played another age-defying season and went out in the only way he knew how — quietly. LeBron James brought his career full circle and led the Cavaliers to the biggest Finals upset ever against heavy odds. The dunk contest returned to its former glory and put on one of its most exciting shows. The rookie class was the deepest it’s ever been.

Deep breath. It would be hard to write a script for a better season! The Thunder and Warriors’ 3-1 collapses and LeBron’s legacy-defining championship are some of the NBA’s most impactful and emotional moments ever.

2016 NBA Finals - Game Seven
The offseason didn’t let up. Contract money went through the roof; players and their franchises are worth more than ever before and the financial side of the NBA is in a great place. Wade, Durant, and James all signed enormous deals — Wade with a team other than the Heat, previously thought of as impossible. 35 percent of the Lakers’ cap is owed to the likes of Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov. Woah.

It begs the question: how can this coming year or the next possibly top that?

The storyline we will all pay attention to is obviously “The People vs Golden State.” In one night, Kevin Durant went from of one of the NBA’s most respected figures to its resident villain, while Golden State’s reputation remains somewhat split.

My knee-jerk reaction to his choice is that it would make the following seasons boring and the 82 games a monotonous tromp to a predictable postseason. Parity is essential to keep NBA brand authentic, I thought.

But then a podcast with my fellow writers at The Sideline changed my mind. I was so focused on the short-term picture of a ruined hope for parity that the truth evaded me. The 2011-12 Warriors were led by David Lee and Monta Ellis and finished at 23-43. The Cavaliers, a year removed from Lebron’s departure, sputtered to a 21-45 record with Antwan Jamison and Lester Hudson as the #2 and #3 scorers.

Now, these teams are our past two champions. Is it better to have a few strong teams at the top with ample room for upsets and team growth through intelligent drafting and roster moves? Or a league where every team is somewhat even, and Indiana — Memphis Finals become the norm?

Of course it’s the former. Following that principle, it’s possible that Durant joining the Warriors is good for the NBA.

The casual fan would find it hard to wade through all the sensationalized media hate aimed at Durant to arrive at that conclusion. The heart of a champion doesn’t follow the “If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em” mantra. What good can come from a team so far above the competition in talent and star power? 

NBA press and social media was dominated by such narratives for the months following “The Decision 2.0”. Saying any more on the subject would be beating a dead horse. Thankfully, most of the hoopla has died down, and the storylines are focused on the actual basketball implications instead of the inevitable Warriors-dominated NBA 2k17 online games.

All signs are pointing to another fun and exciting season. It’s easy to forget how super teams never live up to expectations until well into the season. Or never (see: 2012-13 Lakers). This will be especially true for the Warriors, a team that already peaked at 73-9 last year.

Their offensive system and chemistry was perfect. Now a ball-dominant scorer like Durant joins the mix? That system and chemistry will be affected. How will Curry, Thompson, and Green react to a shifted shot distribution?

Those questions are important, and show why the popular belief that the season is over before it begins is ill-formed. Yes, last season is likely the greatest ever. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything to look forward to.

LeBron and the Cavaliers are just as well-prepared as last season to go deep in the playoffs and perhaps win another championship. Milwaukee and Boston have young and exciting teams that can make the playoff race interesting very soon. Minnesota looks like a monster just waiting to emerge, and watching that team grow  into a potential Western Conference challenger will be great.

The NBA’s future truly is brighter than it’s past. Buckle up, reject the popular opinion, and recognize the many exciting storylines up ahead.

Grant Thomas View All

18 year old Washington sports fan and Penn State freshman. I'll cover the MLB, NFL, and NBA.

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