The nature of the pairing of Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant is unique in its relatively flawless fit. It lacks the mushy bromance and redundancy of roles issues of the Lebron James-Dwyane Wade era Miami Heat. It’s completely devoid of the explosive bitterness and envy of the Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant Lakers power play. Curry and Durant share the floor together in a fluid combination of on and off-ball brilliance, stretching defenses to figure out impossibly complex floor geometry at high speeds.
From my memory, there were only three dramatic hiccups in this grand experiment: Durant’s unraveling against Memphis, Curry disappearing on Christmas Day in Cleveland, and Durant being lulled into terrible isolation basketball against Houston last playoffs while Curry was reintegrating back into the lineup after injury.
For there to be so few public issues in such a high profile basketball partnership is a true testimony to the humility of Curry and the low-maintenance attitude of Durant. The combo has been almost peculiarly void of drama. Many “superstar pairings” in the NBA either fizzle out before they get traction, or succumb to what basketball guru Pat Riley referred to as the “Disease of More” as everyone starts looking out for themselves.
The NBA drama fiends have been eyeballing the Warriors’ situation like starving dogs searching for fallen scraps underneath the table of the king’s feast.
Did people expect more drama between these two killers because of how they came together?
Durant joined the team in 2016 after Curry won two consecutive MVP’s (one unanimously), won a title, and needed only one leg to survive Durant’s Thunder team in their only playoff meeting. Durant had already one won MVP and tallied several scoring titles, but had never won an NBA championship playing on the cursed Sonics’ burial ground that is the Oklahoma City Thunder. After the Warriors’ 73-win team knocked off Durant’s team in May of 2016, Curry graciously entreated Durant to join the Golden Empire.
Since Durant’s arrival, they have spearheaded a reign of terror that has only wrought banners in Oakland’s rafters and destruction upon the NBA at large. Their games are so complementary to each other, and their basketball IQ so high, that their meshing period has been relatively smooth, all things considered.
Their pick-and-roll tandem is arguably the greatest in NBA history. They are even ruthless together when they are both off of the ball.
Durant has fused rather seamlessly with the Golden State machine, transforming them from dominant to unbeatable. Most of the growing pains of their relationship has been suffered by their opponents. Still, there’s one question that can trigger an argument amongst the more petty members of Dub Nation...
Who is better, “Unanimous” or the “Slim Reaper”?
That’s a question that several NBA publications have tried to tackle this fall as they release their “Best players of 2018-2019” lists. Let’s take a look at what the outside world thinks of the two players that joined forces to control the basketball globe with indisputable force. They are presented in order virtue of each publications’ Top 100 ratings, along with said publications’ commentary.
ESPN: Curry #2, Durant #3
“When the Warriors welcomed Durant in the summer of 2016, questions arose about the impact the arrival of such a supernova would have on Curry, the two-time reigning MVP. In the two years since, Curry has seen measurable drops in some of the rawest of raw stats (e.g., points per game). But he’s simultaneously solidified his standing as the greatest shooter in NBA history (his .675 true shooting percentage in 2017-18 was far and away the best single season by a high-volume perimeter player)”.
Sports Illustrated: Durant #2, Curry #3
When Curry has been on the court during the Steve Kerr era, the Warriors are 244-45 (.844)—a perpetual 69-win pace.
In the West finals, Durant was cast as the scapegoat for Golden State’s choppy offensive execution, with critics blaming his isolation looks for interrupting Curry’s free-flowing style. This was a truly uncomfortable place to be—stuck between a beloved franchise icon and his adoring fanbase—yet Durant responded with 34 points in a Game 7 road win over Houston. The opportunity to get defensive, check out and pick a new team in free agency was right there on a platter in late May.
Instead, he collected himself and eliminated Lebron James for the second straight June, scoring 43 points in a Game 3 road win and finishing off the sweep with his first career postseason triple-double.
Bleacher Report: Curry #3, Durant #4
Durant is more likely to rack up Finals MVPs. His ability to rise and fire over defenders is a postseason-friendly formula Curry can’t physically replicate. But even Durant is partially dependent on Curry. He enjoys fewer double-teams and turns into the NBA’s best-ever afterthought for a moment or two at a time. His effective field-goal percentage predictably took a nosedive last season whenever Curry stepped off the court—both during the regular season and playoffs.
The Warriors as a whole encounter similar setbacks without their star floor general. Their net rating plunged by nearly 12 points per 100 possessions with him on the bench. No one else’s absence impacted them by more than 4.8 points per 100 possession.
I’ve come to the conclusion that Curry and Durant are just two distinctly different, highly gifted basketball savants who have joined forces to learn more about limits of true basketball excellence. Which teammate is superior to the other is an irrelevant storyline in the shadow of upper echelon basketball brilliance. In this rarefied era of championships and record breaking, the only question that matters is...
...can the teammates win together?
Curry and Durant have answered that affirmatively in stellar fashion, rankings be damned.