Imagine your boss walks up to you and says, “Bob, I’m giving you the choice of moving to any department you’d like and you can work with three colleagues of your choosing.”
Not like it would ever happen, but you’d take that deal, right? A new gig in creative services with close friends beats working in accounts payable alongside four randoms instead. Maybe your salary is a bit different, but it’s not enough to make you not wanna do it. You’d be a lot happier in your new situation and probably more motivated and successful.
That’s how I always justified Kevin Durant’s decision to join the Warriors. If the opportunity to join a better team and win a title presented itself, I’d certainly take it. And it wasn’t like KD rode the coattails of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to a ring; he was the finals MVP and the main reason why Golden State reclaimed the title after getting beat by the Cavs in 2016. People still think he took the “easy way out,” which seems stupid to me when you think about his 35.2 PPG in the 2017 finals.
Justifiable or not, Durant’s move did nothing to help parity in an already top-heavy league. So when DeMarcus Cousins decided to sign for the Warriors on Monday, we all found ourselves rolling our eyes again, thinking the Dubs will cruise to another easy title.
Think about this starting lineup:
- Steph Curry
- Klay Thompson
- Kevin Durant
- Draymond Green
- DeMarcus Cousins
I don’t see anybody beating that team in a 7 game series, definitely not the grouping of LeBron James, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Lance Stephenson, and Rajon Rondo. I have no idea what the Lakers are doing, but that feels like another column for another time.
Of course, the Cousins signing spurred some of the familiar thoughts we felt when Durant left Oklahoma City:
“He’s taking the easy way out!”
“The NBA is a joke!”
“Just cancel the season now!”
God forbid somebody take less money or restructure a contract improve the salary cap situation for current or future teammates, like Tom Brady or Dirk Nowitzki.
But that doesn’t even appear to be the case here. Cousins apparently didn’t have much interest from the rest of the league, so that’s how he wound up in Oakland:
Golden State Warriors newcomer DeMarcus Cousins told ESPN's The Undefeated that he had no significant contract offers when free agency arrived, but had already mentally prepared himself for possible disappointment due to his recovery from his Achilles' tendon injury. Cousins…
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) July 3, 2018
If it's true that Boogie Cousins had 0 offers as a free agent and had to take it upon himself to call the Warriors… Y'all have no reason to be mad… That goes for players, fans and etc. 🤷🏽♂️
— James H. Williams (@JHWreporter) July 3, 2018
Maybe it was the Achilles or attitude that scared teams away, and maybe there’s a chance those issues become a factor next year. Maybe he doesn’t get along with Draymond Green and maybe the whole thing blows up, but I don’t really see it. And it’s not like it matters anyway, since the Warriors just won consecutive titles with Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee at center, so if Boogie flames out in California, the Dubs are still the favorites, in my mind. Talent-wise, there’s no question that a healthy GSW has the horses to win 65 games, even in a stacked west that features the likes of Houston, New Orleans, Portland, Utah, Oklahoma City, and LeBron’s Lakers.
What, then, is the point of watching the NBA next season? Well, certainly the power shift to the west actually increases the Sixers’ chances of coming out of the east, which should be a three team race with the Raptors and Celtics. Imagine you’re Dwane Casey and you just won Coach of the Year after being fired, then the whole reason you got fired (LeBron James) decides to take off for Los Angeles anyway. I could see Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan taking another crack at the finals with LeBron out of the way, but it still looks like the Celtics have the best chance of getting swept by the Warriors in the finals. At least it’ll be somebody different in there.
A lot of this is just attrition. The Sixers can’t win it now, so you have to let aging talent run its course. If LeBron and Kawhi Leonard came to Philly, I think that team is good enough to challenge the Warriors in the finals. But it’s obvious that he didn’t go to LA purely for basketball reasons; he went out there to set up the next phase of his life, a place where he could make money, foster his business pursuits, let his children grow up, and maybe make one more finals appearance two years from now. Kawhi alone doesn’t do it for me, and I wouldn’t throw a ton of assets at San Antonio for a risky rental.
For now, Sixer fans will just have to enjoy watching the continued growth of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons while hoping that Drew Hanlen, who reminds me of the guy from Fifty Shades of Gray, will work some magic with Markelle Fultz. You should hope that core then stays together for the next 2-3 years while the new general manager continues to go “star hunting” for a player that can match whatever the west is putting out. Maybe Klay Thompson changes his mind about returning to the Warriors after this season and/or Zhaire Smith becomes this year’s Donovan Mitchell.
You never know. Stranger things have happened. But for now it looks like the Sixers are going to have to kick the can down the road a bit, take another crack at the Celtics, and hope the in-house talent rises to a level that can compete with the Warriors, Rockets, or Lakers. Otherwise we’re looking at a continued NBA imbalance and living out the same Groundhog Day that we’ve been experiencing for the last four seasons.
The good thing is that it’s not going to be Cavs/Warriors for the 4th straight year, so that’s at least one positive I can think of with the LeBron decision. In the immediacy, I think Sixers and Celtics fans will both be able to enjoy another 50+ wins against crappy east teams, but the inevitability of the Western Conference’s supremacy is something that has to stick in the back of your mind throughout the regular season and into the playoffs.
That’s the reality of the situation: super teams. Parity is mostly nonexistent in the modern-day NBA, but good on Adam Silver for instead taking issue with the way the Sixers decided to rebuild.
The Western Conference next season. pic.twitter.com/E0HcxG6OSq
— Randy Cruz (@randyjcruz) July 2, 2018