The Golden State Warriors are back in the NBA Finals just two seasons after finishing with a 15-50 record during the 2019-20 season, which was the worst in the league. They struggled to cope with star players Steph Curry and Klay Thompson’s injuries, while they also watched Kevin Durant leave in free agency to team up with Kyrie Irving on the Brooklyn Nets.
It’s an impressive turnaround fueled by a return to health and a new wave of talent joining the roster. Curry and Thompson are back on the court, as is their partner-in-crime, Draymond Green. They have replaced Durant’s contribution with guys like Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole, and when you add in a top-tier defense to go along with their offense, it’s no surprise Golden State is back in the Finals.
The Warriors had a ton of talent on the sidelines during their recent stretch of losing, but how they managed to replace Durant’s impact quickly remains impressive. One Twitter user suggested that the Dubs managed to replace Durant with Wiggins and still make it to the Finals before he could get there with Irving and, at one point, James Harden out in Brooklyn.
What did Durant have to say about this tweet?
It’s no secret that Durant isn’t afraid to respond to his trolls on social media, particularly Twitter, so it wasn’t surprising to see Durant take the time out of his day to acknowledge this take. Yet rather than go on a defensive tirade like he usually does, Durant kept his response short and sweet, saying he believes Warriors fans need to move on from his departure:
Durant’s time in Golden State wasn’t always perfect, as there was some animosity in their locker room during his time there. It makes sense, given that there were almost too many mouths to feed on those Warriors teams. They probably could have become one of the premier dynasties in NBA history had Durant stuck around, but the players ultimately couldn’t coexist, and Golden State fans have blamed Durant for his time with the Warriors coming to a swift end.
Did the Warriors replace Durant with Wiggins?
The immediate suggestion that Durant and Wiggins are the same caliber of player is blatantly incorrect. Durant is one of the most talented scorers the NBA has ever seen, while Wiggins isn’t. You don’t replace Durant with just one player.
However, Wiggins fits Golden State’s scheme better than Durant did. With Durant on the Warriors, their offense often felt cramped. Curry needed to get his shots, Durant needed to get his shots, and Thompson needed to get his shots. The offense never really had a consistent identity. It looks deadly on paper, but that’s often the issue that arises when forming these superteams; there aren’t enough shots to go around for everyone.
Wiggins gives the Warriors a third, or sometimes even fourth, option on offense to play behind Curry, Thompson, and sometimes Poole. He’s not going to take 20+ shots per game, and that’s fine; Golden State doesn’t need him to. Combine that with his stellar defensive play, and he’s a perfect fit for what the Warriors really needed compared to what they thought they needed.
Wiggins and Poole have combined to make up for Durant’s lost production on offense; to say Wiggins did it on his own is wrong. But he’s a better fit for the Warriors’ overall scheme, and it’s no surprise that they are back in the Finals. Wiggins isn’t solely responsible for Golden State’s success. Still, after a rough couple of years, he helped them get back on track and has finally become the player everyone expected him to be when the Cleveland Cavaliers took him with the first overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.