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How the Warriors’ Kevin Durant Gift Keeps on Giving in the 2022 Finals

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Golden State Warriors were in trouble. The Boston Celtics led 71–67 in the third quarter of Game 5 in 2022. NBA Finals, and Stephen Curry was in the middle of a party without earning a C. But Andrew Wiggins came to the rescue. The 26-year-old scored 10 points in the fourth quarter and grabbed 13 rebounds, the second most of his career while playing defensively against Jason Tatum.

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Curry rarely wrestles on the biggest stage average 27 points per game for his career in the NBA Finals. The only other time Curry failed to make multiple trebles in the Finals was in Game 3 in 2018 against the Cleveland Cavaliers when he hit 1-for-10 from beyond the arc. Then-teammate Kevin Durant bailed him out with 43 points en route to the duo’s second straight league title.

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In a way, Duran bailed him out again on Monday night against the Celtics.

Let’s go back to summer 2019. The Warriors just lost a harrowing Finals to the Toronto Raptors, in which Durant tore his Achilles tendon and Klay Thompson tore his cruciate ligament in two straight games. To make matters worse, after a season full of media speculation about whether Duran would return to Golden State next year, the 2014 NBA MVP told Warriors general manager Bob Myers that he would like to go elsewhere as a free agent. .

The NBA has a soft salary cap that teams can only exceed under certain circumstances, one of which is re-signing their veteran players. With Thompson’s new five-year, $32.7 million contract going into effect in the 2019-20 season. space in the Warriors cap was limited. Durant didn’t just take his basketball talent with him.he took the maximum salary slot that the Warriors could not offer a new free agent from another team.

Myers, however, was determined not to let him just walk away.

Myers used his strong personal relationships with Durant to convince him to agree to a signing and trade that would allow Golden State to receive another major contract in return. To accomplish this, Myers also arranged a trade with Durant’s favorite team, the Brooklyn Nets, and brought their outgoing All-Star D’Angelo Russell on board to move to Golden State.

In the long run, the Warriors knew they needed a forward to replace Durant, not a defenseman like Russell. They also felt that former first overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins in Minnesota was up after nearly six seasons, and they knew that Russell was friends with Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns.

The Golden State did their magic again by arranging a trade for Russell for Wiggins and convincing Minnesota to add two key sweeteners. First, the Timberwolves chose a first-round pick, which was Jonathan Cuminga, who played 17 minutes per game for Golden State in the 2021-2022 season.

Second, the Warriors offloaded the contracts of Omari Spellman and Jacob Evans III to stay below the 2020 luxury tax threshold. Having already secured costly long-term deals for their three All-Stars, the Warriors were inevitably going to pay tax for many seasons ahead. Passing the threshold in 2020 allowed them to avoid paying a relapse penalty in subsequent seasons, which would amount to tens of millions of additional tax dollars.

It took a while, but Wiggins blossomed at Golden State. His offensive limitations, in particular shooting and play, are somewhat hidden when playing alongside Curry, while his commitment to playing on the other side of the floor made him arguably the Warriors’ second most important player in the 2022 Finals. The 6-foot-8 athlete has been Tatum’s main linebacker in all series, holding him to 23 points per night with well below average performance, while only fouling Tatum on only two shot attempts in five games is decisive.

Wiggins’ performance in a pivotal Game 5 put the Warriors one win away from another NBA title, and it all goes back to Kevin Durant, who is essentially doing a favor to his former employer before leaving.

The star lineup that allowed the Warriors to initially sign Durant back in 2016.— a huge jump in the salary cap as Curry is still in a discount deal —was a gift. Now, six years later, this gift continues to give.

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