The Phoenix Suns’ groundbreaking acquisition of Kevin Durant at midseason had plenty of people picking them to reach the NBA Finals, if not win the championship.
Instead, they went out meekly in the second round of the playoffs to the Denver Nuggets, losing the clinching Game 6 by 25 points. Durant played poorly for most of the series, and Pro Football Hall of Fame and Fox Sports 1 personality Shannon Sharpe feels he cannot carry a team to a championship, neither now nor ever.
.@ShannonSharpe debunks the notion that Kevin Durant can still carry a team to a title: pic.twitter.com/mhfLRSPPYv
— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) May 12, 2023
“When was he ever?” Sharpe asked of the notion Durant can carry a team to a championship. “I mean outside of Golden State. I mean Skip keeps harking on, ‘He took them over the promised land,’ but I’ve seen Golden State get there with him, get there without him. They got there without him before he joined them. They got there without him after he left. … The opportunity for him was to go to Brooklyn. He chose Kyrie [Irving] — no matter what you think of Kyrie, Kevin Durant chose to go link with him, just like he chose to link with Steph (Stephen Curry). … So this notion that you drug Kevin Durant anywhere and they’re an instant title contending team isn’t true. It was never true. But because of the success he had in Golden State, we forget what Golden State was before he got there.”
Durant played his first nine seasons with the Seattle SuperSonics/Oklahoma City Thunder, and he helped transform them from a moribund team to one that quickly became a contender. With the help of a young Russell Westbrook and James Harden, Durant took the Thunder to the 2012 NBA Finals, where they lost in five games to LeBron James’ Miami Heat.
Harden left shortly afterward, and the Thunder couldn’t get over the hump. The closest they got afterward was taking a 3-1 lead over the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 Western Conference Finals, only to lose the series.
Durant joined the Warriors as a free agent that summer and won championships the next two seasons, then departed to join Irving with the Brooklyn Nets in 2019. Some thought the Nets would therefore become the NBA’s next historically great team, but they never even reached the Eastern Conference Finals, leading to many saying that Durant simply isn’t a true leading man.
Phoenix gave up a lot to get Durant, surrendering four future first-round draft picks plus good, young complementary players. The deal left the team bereft of depth and supporting talent, and it showed in its loss to the Nuggets.
Durant played well, while fellow All-Star Devin Booker went into volcano mode in Game 3 and Game 4, but when one or both of them struggled, the Suns simply had no one else who could step up and create his own offense. In addition, their defense was lackluster against a very potent and balanced Denver team.
Moving forward, the Suns will have their work cut out for them if they are to win their first-ever NBA title. Durant and point guard Chris Paul are aging and injury-prone, and they may have a lack of tradable assets that can replenish their supporting cast.