Hero Baller: Kevin Durant

“It’s just a great group of guys, great community, great arena, great fans. I’m just so happy to be a part of it.”—Kevin Durant

As Kevin Durant accepted the 2017 Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP from the 83-year-old basketball legend him after his Golden State Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, 129-120, to win the 2017 NBA championship, 4-1, it was fun just to watch his super-teammates react to the good news.

Holding his baby daughter and smiling wide as could be, Stephen Curry was most demonstrative, being the first to hug his celebrated teammate, even though the back-to-back MVP Curry had to sacrifice individual accolades along the way to reach this point.

Bobbing proudly nearby with his pre-teen niece, Draymond Green also clapped along proudly, even as he also saw his points and rebounds averages diminish in the regular season as well as the postseason in making way for KD.

Standing deep in the background, fitting for his new role, Klay Thompson appeared as if he relished his newfound stealthness, serving more as a defensive stopper and less as a famed Splash Brother, as Thompson too saw his postseason scoring average drop, now averaging only 13 points per game as his reputation as a defender grew.

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

“We learned from everything we’ve been through. Our perspective, being blessed to play on this stage three years in a row, it’s for these fans, bring ol’ Larry back home. I’m just excited to do something special. I’m ready to do it again.”—Stephen Curry

Each 2015-16 All-NBA Warrior may have seen their 2016-17 status diminish individually among league voters for various awards this season, but as these four future Hall of Famers stood side-by-side with their Golden State teammates amidst the postgame celebration, it was good to see that collectively, these four Dubs helped create one of the greatest NBA super-teams in league history.

The 2017 Warriors finished the postseason 16-1, setting a League record, only approached by the 2001 Lakers, who went 15-1 during their playoff run (which at the time, featured just a five-game series in the first round).

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The 2017 Warriors finished the postseason with a +13.53 scoring margin, the second-best margin of victory in playoff history, only behind the 1971 Milwaukee Bucks (12-2), who maintained a +14.50 average nearly a half-century ago.

Couple those marks with their 67-15 regular season record (tied for seventh-best all-time) and +11.63 regular season scoring margin (fourth-best all-time), and it is without a doubt that we say the 2017 Warriors are one of the greatest NBA teams of all-time, right up there with the 1960s Boston Celtics’ dynasty, the 1971 Milwaukee Bucks, the 1986 Celtics, the 1987 Los Angeles Lakers, the 1996 Chicago Bulls and the 2001 Lakers.

LeBron James, veteran of seven Finals, and his defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers will be the first to admit they ran into a juggernaut this postseason.

The Cavs may have gone down in five games to the most dominant team, but they made sure they did not go into the night easily—almost winning Game 3, winning Game 4 on their floor and battling on the road in Game 5 until the very end, getting as close as 6 points with 8 1/2 minutes left.

But KD and Company were just too much to handle, answering the Cavs bucket-for-bucket, in the third 245-plus point game during this high-scoring series of five contests.

Durant finished with 39 points on .861 true shooting percentage—making 5-of-8 three-pointers, 9-of-12 on two-pointers and 6-for-6 free throws—while also packing 8 rebounds, 5 assists and +18 plus-minus in 40 minutes.

It was the type of stat line coupled with efficiency that stood out from many with great stat lines in Game 5, yet it was similar production that we came to expect from Durant in these Finals.

It took that type of output to beat a Cavs team armed with LeBron (41 points on 30 shots, 13 rebounds and 8 assists), Kyrie Irving (26 points on 22 shots) and J.R. Smith (25 points on 11 shots).

Those type of complementary numbers show just how much KD also needed help to get over the championship hump, which he too got from Curry (34 points on 20 shots, 6 rebounds and 10 assists) and Andre Iguodala (20 points on 14 shots), who just may be the fifth Hall of Famer on this particular super-team.

Truth be told, however, as competitive as the valiant Cavaliers were, they never got within 6 points of the lead once they fell behind by 17 in the second quarter.

That is how dominant these 2017 Warriors were, out-rebounding their foes, 42-40, and keeping their own turnovers to a minimum (12).

By taking care of their two areas of potential weakness, Golden State enabled their Finals MVP to take care of the rest as KD had done in all five NBA Finals games, averaging 35.2 points on .698 true shooting percentage, 8.4 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.6 blocks and 2.2 turnovers in 39.6 minutes per game.

It was the stuff legends are made of, while simultaneously playing on a team that goes down as one for the ages.

Is there a better team in NBA history than the 2017 Warriors?

Who knows?

Maybe it’ll be the 2018 Warriors.

Truth be told, that’s the first team that came to mind.

Player MIN +/- PTS (TSP) 2FG 3FG FT REB AST/TO STL & BLK
Kevin Durant 40 +18 39 (.861) 9-12 5-8 6-6 8 5/4 1 & 0

 

Key: MIN minutes; +/- plus-minus; PTS points; TSP true shooting percentage; 2FG 2-point field goals and attempts; 3FG 3-point field goals and attempts; FT free throws and attempts; REB rebounds; AST/TO assists/turnovers; STL & BLK steals and blocks.