Prior to the July 1 start to free agency, it was common knowledge that Kevin Durant was the most viable free agent and that his decision would change the landscape of the NBA. The primary analysis of Durant signing with the Golden State Warriors is that the Warriors became richer in talent while the Oklahoma City Thunder's chance at an NBA title evaporated.
While many are awarding the 2017 NBA crown to the Warriors, people need to be reminded championships are won on the hardwood, not on paper. But as we wait until June 2017 to determine who is the best in the NBA, one question that can be debated is who is the franchise player for the Golden State Warriors?
While the Warriors were able to acquire talent that developed into stars, such as Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, the undisputed star on the Warriors is Stephen Curry. Curry started to rise to national prominence when he was matriculating at Davidson. Curry took the small school in North Carolina to a magical two-year run when the Wildcats went to the Elite Eight in 2008 and the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament in 2009. While Curry had doubters when he entered in the NBA, he has proved them wrong by winning the last two MVP titles and an NBA championship.
Durant is also an individual who has received accolades during his NBA career. Durant is a seven-time All-Star, four-time scoring champion, and one-time MVP. While if Durant and Curry were on separate teams each would individually be the franchise player but who is the franchise player when they play for the same team?
The case for Curry
There are three reasons why Curry would be the franchise player over Durant. First, Curry had one of the most successful seasons in the history of the NBA by winning the MVP award along with accumulating an NBA record 73 regular season wins. Also, if Curry had one more playoff victory in 2016, the argument would be how does Curry rank among the icons of the game. Second, Curry is a homegrown talent that has only played with the Golden State Warriors. Before Curry arrived, the Warriors were a futile franchise for decades that had some rare glimpse of success but was unable to contend for an NBA crown. Curry was able to resurrect the franchise and bring them to the promised land that many thought would never occur. The third reason is the 2015 NBA Championship Ring. To be validated as an NBA superstar, an individual needs that title which Curry obtained.
The case for Durant
There are also three reasons for Durant to be the Warriors' franchise player. First, is Durant's ability to rebound. While Durant has a reputation of being a prolific scorer he had a career high in rebounds in 2015-16 with 8 per game which if he was on the Warriors, Durant would have been second only behind Draymond Green (9.5 rebounds per game). Second, Durant has an ability to score in the post. The Warriors led the NBA by scoring 114.9 points per game and that was accomplished without an interior scoring threat. Durant, standing at 6'9'', is usually guarded by smaller players and would be able to exploit his long frame for easy baskets. Third, Durant fits the style of play of the Warriors. The Warriors have a reputation of shooting 3s and running the floor which are two skills Durant has, therefore, Durant will not have to change his playing style once he arrives in Oakland.
If Durant went to any other team besides Miami and Golden State, Durant would be a franchise player. Durant would not be the franchise player in Miami because of Dwyane Wade, who recently left. Curry has the edge over Durant for three reasons. First, Curry's team defeated Durant's team in the 2016 Western Conference Finals. A player can not become the main man on a team that ousted him from the playoffs the year before. Second, Curry is homegrown and lead the resurgence of the franchise that was an NBA doormat for so long. Third, Durant is going to Curry's team. Durant chose which team would be able to help him win that elusive NBA title and that team is the squad that has Curry as their ordained franchise player.