On July 4, 2016, Kevin Durant shocked the NBA world by signing with the Golden State Warriors. On July 4, 2017, Gordon Hayward . . . didn’t shock anyone. He did what many people thought he would do, signing with Boston to play for former Butler coach Brad Stevens.
These Independence Day decisions are not on the same level. Not even close.
“A year ago, Kevin Durant made his decision on July 4, and it was a huge deal because Kevin Durant is Kevin Durant,” NBA analyst Antonio Daniels said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “But this year, we were sitting on pins and needles (as if) Gordon Hayward is Kevin Durant – and he’s not. He’s not. With all due respect, he’s a very, very good player. Averaged 21 points, career-high, 5.5 rebounds – this was his first All-Star appearance that he’s had thus far, so I don’t know when along this whole process that Gordon Hayward became an organization-changer.”
Perhaps he isn’t, but if the NBA is an arms race – as Houston’s Daryl Morey said it is – then adding Hayward was a good move for Boston.
“I agree with (Morey) because the more weapons you have, the better off you are,” Daniels said. “Right now, Golden State is winning this arms race and all 29 teams are chasing the Golden State Warriors. The only way to compete with Golden State is to continue to add weapons to your roster. So if you are Boston, you put in Gordon Hayward. You still have Isaiah Thomas. You still have Avery Bradley. You still have Al Horford. Now you’re trying to put some pieces together – maybe not for this year, but for next year.”
Or the year after. Or the year after that.
“There will come a point when LeBron James starts to decline,” Daniels said, “and when LeBron James starts to decline, you want to be that next team that’s stepping up and saying, ‘Now it’s our turn.’ All you can do now is put ourself in position for the future – and right now, Boston’s doing it the right way.”
In the West, meanwhile, Oklahoma City made a splash of its own, trading for Paul George.
“I was really surprised,” Daniels said. “I was surprised from Indiana’s side because you got Victor Oladipo and you got Domantas Sabonis, and that was it. You let Paul George go, who is one of the best players in this league. If you’re Sam Presti and the Oklahoma City Thunder, it is a great risk. The worst thing that can happens is Paul George stays for this year – and if he stays for this one year and he happens to leave and go to L.A., which a lot of people think he’ll do – then you’ll at least have gotten rid of Victor Oladpio’s $84-million deal. You’ve gotten that off your books so now you can continue to move forward and add pieces to the puzzle.
“But on the flip side, what if it does work?” Daniels continued. “What if him and Russell Westbrook are a great tandem? What if that does work out? Now you’re hoping that Russell Westbrook’s passion, his heart and all that he plays with will help lead his team to more wins. And you’re thinking if you’re Paul George, ‘Maybe we can keep him in Oklahoma City a little bit longer.’”
But if you’re expecting the second coming of Kevin Durant in OKC, slow down.
“What you have in Paul George is different than what you have in Kevin Durant,” Daniels said. “Kevin Durant is one of the top two or three guys in this league, and Russell Westbrook has an alpha-dog mentality. So Paul George, from his side, he needed a change of scenery. This is something that he needed. He needed to get out of Indiana. For him to tell them in advance, he needed and wanted and welcomed a change of scenery. Now he got it. Now he got it. So now you pair him with a guy like Russell Westbrook – a guy that had all the offensive responsibility for the Oklahoma City Thunder – now they can play off one another.
“When one of those guys is out of the game, you can run your offense through the other one – and that was not a luxury that Oklahoma City had last year. You saw in the playoffs when Russell Westbrook left the game, the team fell off. You really saw that against Houston. Now it’s a different game because you you have a guy in Paul George who can give you 25 or 30 points a night. Now you’re really talking about something that could really work in the long term.”