New Orleans basketball has gone viral on Twitter, even though the city’s NBA team is now represented by a bird instead of a bee.
The topic of heated debate on social media among Pelican fans? Kevin Durant: Why or why not?
The NBA superstar asked the Brooklyn Nets to trade him last week, and it looks like the Nets are ready to accommodate his wishes. Personally, I don’t understand why – this is a Brooklyn team that traded all of their draft picks for the foreseeable future to Houston for James Harden (who already forced his way out of Brooklyn) so this is a team that must actually win now. Durant has four years left on his contract, so unless one thinks he would just sit back and give up over $200 million, or intentionally play poorly, I don’t see the influence he’s would have. And I don’t see him doing either of those things.
But the Nets seem to be at odds, and it’s likely Durant and teammate Kyrie Irving will soon have new addresses.
Could Durant be in New Orleans?
At any other time in the team’s history — heck, going back to the days of this franchise in Charlotte — I’d say the answer would be a resounding no. Durant is determined to find the perfect situation to win, and the Pelicans’ story is… how to put it…
What’s different now, however, is that this is a team that can effectively outbid anyone else, if they were willing to cash in on several of their considerable assets. A roster including a young superstar in Zion Williamson, an emerging force in Brandon Ingram, a veteran shooter in CJ McCollum, and a plethora of badass doing the right thing defenders who have cultivated an attitude that New Orleans fans have grown to love over the past season.
Equally important, however, New Orleans has several years of Laker draft assets to bid on, as well as the Pels’ own picks.
This could all be a moot point, as if Durant doesn’t see himself in New Orleans, the Pelicans are much less likely to pay the kind of price it would take to land him.
But we don’t know what he sees, and fans are debating about it.
Let’s look at both sides.
The case of a Durant chord:
It’s Kevin Durant. Soon to be Hall of Famer. One of the top five current NBA players. The kind of alpha dog marker that, frankly, you need to win a championship.
With Durant and a healthy Zion Williamson, you potentially have two generational talents that complement each other on offense – the gravitational pull of Williamson’s defenders with him in the paint and Durant’s on the perimeter. Assuming a somewhat Ingram-like deal, another play, and a plethora of picks, on paper you’ll be closer than ever to a championship. Durant has won them before. He was the NBA MVP. Finals MVP. And he might just be the most gifted goalscorer who ever lived.
The case to stay up:
Durant turns 34 in September. He tore his Achilles, and while he’s come back from that injury and proven he’s still dominant, that counts as significant wear and tear. He has played only 87 games in total over the past two seasons, including 55 last season. His absence hit Brooklyn hard, as the Nets went from the top seed in the East to No. 8. great considering recent history.
In terms of salary, there won’t be room to pay Durant, Williamson, Ingram and McCollum, so one or even two of the bottom three might have to work out a deal.
I think what bothers the “no trade” group the most is that they’re such a friendly team. Fans fell in love with this band – “Not on Herb”, Jose Alvarado, Ingram, McCollum, Jonas, late season stars like Larry Nance Jr. and Trey Murphy. The young guys listen to Willie Green, they have improved over the year and it was a nightmare to play against them at the end of the year. McCollum is a longtime leader in this league; Ingram an emergent. Both stars want to be in New Orleans. In fact, most of this team seems to love being in New Orleans, and the fan base loves them right away.
You also have a treadmill of draft picks from Los Angeles. If that team continues to deteriorate, you have another team tanking for you.
As great as Durant is, are fans comfortable with the idea that – on a whim – he might decide this isn’t for him, and blow things up here as it might produce in Brooklyn?
It might seem like I’m firmly on the “No Durant” side because I’ve been much longer in stating this case. But it’s more a function of Durant being so straightforward: getting Durant is the most direct route to a world championship. If the goal is to win it all, then on paper, a roster that includes Durant and Williamson is historically your best chance of getting there, as opposed to a slower build with more moving parts.
But while Durant might bring your chances to the top of the mountain for about two years (realistically, in my mind, given his age), this comprehensive list of youngsters, budding stars, and potentially high picks at coming could allow the Pelicans to become an NBA factor for several years – and, if things go well, indeed a world champion
And for a fan base that we know is dying to support a winner, and will do just that like no other when given the chance – this could change things forever in New Orleans. It could make it a certified basketball city.
For me, it’s side two. Unless a deal sends far less to Brooklyn than I foresee it would take to land it, I would let this young team grow, and its fanbase with it.