CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – The only question going into the Durant-Era Warriors was whether or not all of the pieces would fit. With 96 games in the rearview mirror, the answer is unequivocally yes.
Now with the first ever 16-0 playoff run in reach, the only question on the topic is how and why that became the case. Warriors Coach Steve Kerr says he saw it before the moment adding Durant was a possibility.
“What we knew when we signed K.D. was that the fit would be pretty smooth,” he said. “It’s not like you’re trying to put two dominant ball handlers together who can’t shoot. That’s a much more difficult proposition.”
The NBA Champion player and coach also spent time in the front office, serving as President and General Manager of the Phoenix Suns from 2007 to 2010. His ability to analyze how an addition may fit led him to compare the opposite situation with the best player on the current opposing sideline.
“The example I would probably give you would be like Miami with (Dwyane) Wade and LeBron,” Kerr said. “I think that was a much tougher transition because you’re talking about two guys who generally in their careers to that point had been kind of point forward types, neither one was really a three-point shooter at the time.”
Kerr noted that it took a year in which they lost their first NBA Finals together to work out the kinks of their coexistence. Now coaching two of the best players in the world, Kerr said that meshing Durant and Stephen Curry was made easier by their regularity in playing off the ball.
The 16-year NBA vet also noted that his two star pupils share similarities as people and not just players.
“They’re both just very naturally unselfish and relatively quiet,” Kerr said. “They understand the power they possess together and I think that that’s an important dynamic. It’s not about one or the other, it’s about both of them.”
Known mostly for his offense, the former scoring champion goes somewhat unrecognized on the defensive end. Durant averaged a career-high 1.6 blocks per game in his first season with the Warriors, adding five more in the first two games of the Finals.
Again, Kerr said he saw what the former MVP was capable of defensively, and that he would fit in quickly with the team’s scheme. It became even more apparent when the Warriors and Durant’s 2016 Oklahoma City Thunder team squared off in the Western Conference Finals.
“He was a monster defensively, blocking shots, guarding everybody,” Kerr said. “So we knew he could guard multiple positions, block shots and protect the rim. That’s what we envisioned. And putting him with a lot of like-size, like-minded guys, Draymond (Green) and Andre (Iguodala), Klay (Thompson), and all the switching we like to do. So we knew he would fit perfectly into what we already did, but make us better.”
Durant is made even better defensively when his team’s success in small-ball lineups force the opposition to match up in a similar way. When the 6-foot-10 small forward can play as his team’s power forward or center, defensively, he thrives.
“When you go small a lot, you’re forced to play underneath the basket more,” Durant said. “But we’re playing smaller and we’re playing Draymond at the five more, and it’s forcing me to guard bigger guys.
“I got to fight a little harder now than I did before.”