Ziller wisely suggests legacy pitch for Durant; should Thunder be among suitors?

Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, OKC Thunder (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, OKC Thunder (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

 SB Nation’s Tom Ziller suggests the best Durant recruitment pitch is to focus on his legacy. In this scenario the OKC Thunder is probably his best option, but should they be among suitors?

Arguably the biggest off court NBA debate this summer has centered on former OKC Thunder star Kevin Durant joining a super team to win. Although two years removed from his departure the narrative returned to the forefront of fans minds when Durant guested on CJ McCollum‘s podcast and subsequently the pair exchanged in a twitter war of sorts.

At the heart of McCollum’s viewpoint is Durant took the easy way out by joining a star laden squad coming off a 73 win season. In turn, their face off sparked copious conversations on super teams and whether they’re a bad or good thing for the league. It also opened discussion on Durant’s impending and likely return to free agency this summer.

The ‘legacy’ pitch:

One of the best takes on the subject (and a must read) is by SB Nation writer Tom Ziller who suggests teams looking to recruit Durant this coming summer might employ a pitch centered around his legacy. Among the many valid points Ziller makes as items to include in recruitment:

  • Despite two titles and playoff MVP’s. KD’s accomplishments aren’t taken seriously
  • He’ll be remembered for joining a 73 win team instead of all the other records and awards he’s amassed in his career
  • He isn’t the most popular player on his former or present team
  • KD isn’t even viewed as the best player on the Warriors (or why they won in the first place – Curry is)
  • Despite beating LeBron James twice he’s not considered a better player than his nemesis

"Is he worried that future generations of Oklahomans will laud and remember Russell Westbrook, not him, and future Warriors fans will herald the rise of the golden child Stephen Curry as the franchise’s savior, not Durant? Is he worried this will happen despite being objectively better than Westbrook during his time with OKC and at least on par with, if not superior, to Curry as a Warriors?"

Should the Thunder be among the suitors?

No doubt, we’ll revisit this topic over and over this coming season. And, at some point we’ll ask the question is the only way Durant checks off the items on that bullet list via returning to the OKC Thunder?

Guaranteed some will point to what LeBron James did when he left the Cavaliers for the Miami Heat. However, this is no where near the same apples to apples comparison. First of all, the Heat weren’t a 73 win team the season prior (they won 47 games). Nor were they one win away from the championship – they lost in five games of their first round playoff series.

Moreover, aside from Dwyane Wade there were no stars on the team. The closest thing to a secondary star was 10 year vet Jamaal Magloire. And, the Heat were four years removed from the title Wade and Shaq won. Most importantly, James was leaving a team without anything close to the talent on the Thunder when KD chose to leave.

Cutting to the heart of the matter, there is validity to Ziller’s argument. And where the James equation is similar for Durant is the one team which could check off most of the boxes KD would need to gain credibility would be the OKC Thunder. In particular a return to his former team and bringing OKC their first title would be substantial.

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Yet, even in that equation it’s not a certainly Durant’s legacy would be fully repaired. The Thunder is Russell Westbrook‘s team now.  Even if Durant returned that scenario is unlikely to change. Furthermore, would Westbrook, the franchise or OKC Thunder fans even want him to return? That may seem like a redundant question for a player considered at worst the third best in the NBA. But, it’s a reasonable question.

The elephant in the room:

Let’s imagine for a second Russ and KD could put the past behind them and find a way to coexist. Even in this scenario there’s no guarantee Durant could regain what he had prior to his departure. The minute Westbrook signed the extension that same summer he ascended to becoming the face of the franchise. His commitment and subsequent effort to will the team into the playoffs without similar roster assets pushed Russ past every accolade and accomplishment Durant achieved during his Thunder tenure.

Even Westbrook’s MVP season dwarfs Durant’s based on the triple-double average and records. Durant’s MVP season (2013-14) was played with Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson, Thabo Sefolosha and 46 games of Westbrook. Hardly an even asset talent comparison.

No doubt TI will put more thought into this in the coming season. For the moment, the main component which makes me think it’s a non sequitur is Durant would never be able to regain the cult-like, princely position he held prior to the decision.

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And, while KD may say that doesn’t matter, at it’s very basic core it must. Otherwise why engage CJ McCollum or open burner accounts in order to throw shade at your former team?