On day one of free agency, the Seattle SuperSonics made a plethora of decisions that will shape the NBA for years to come. In the midst of the most successful era in the franchise’s history, owner Steve Ballmer has turned an impossible situation into a net positive for a squad tasked with escaping an ultra-competitive Western Conference.
After purchasing the team over a decade ago, Ballmer has made and remade it abundantly clear that Kevin Durant will be the Sonics’ franchise player well into the future, signing the positionless monstrosity to a four-year extension totalling $164 million. Keeping the two-time Finals MVP in the green and yellow through his age 35 season ensures that Seattle’s potential remains as high as that of any team in the league.
James Harden’s departure after the 2017-2018 season left a clear void, as the league MVP headed to Houston to pair his skillset with that of former teammate and entrenched superstar Russell Westbrook. New General Manager Nick Collison worked tirelessly with Ballmer to fill this hole via committee, signing Isaiah Thomas and wily vet Luke Ridnour for the ensuing season. After failing to three-peat at the hands of Kawhi Leonard’s Raptors and their stifling defense, Seattle’s front office knew that stopgaps were no longer an option; they needed a second superstar running the offense.
Enter Kyrie Irving, a friend of Durant’s for years. Whispers around the league had foretold the potential pairing in the Pacific Northwest for the better part of a year and the duo made it official today. Seattle inked the guard to a max contract of his own, awarding him $140 million over four seasons.
Irving’s signing forced Collison to make the tough decision of letting perennial Defensive Player of the Year runner-up Draymond Green walk. Seattle’s infamous acquisition of Green — the former Warrior reportedly called Durant crying from the parking lot after Golden State blew a 3-1 series lead against LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the 2016 Finals, facilitating a trade demand — was the catalyst that allowed the team to win multiple championships consecutively, making this goodbye one of the toughest to stomach in recent memory. The debate of whether or not to extend Green came down to the wire, but the power forward’s penchant for assaulting penises ultimately swung the needle in favor of a deal for Irving.
The grouping of Anthony Davis, LeBron James, and likely a third max player — potentially Kawhi Leonard — in Los Angeles makes the loss of Green all the more frightening for the Sonics. Durant is clearly an elite defender, but the switchability of Green onto any opposing threat had been invaluable. To have any hope of contending with the suddenly-fierce Clippers, Seattle looks to be closing in on signing DeMarcus Cousins, a fierce defender in his own right. Though his play is still ramping up in the wake of a ruptured Achilles’ tendon, and he cannot realistically replace Green’s defensive prowess, Cousins hopes to recreate the top-tier rim protection of former Sonic Dwight Howard, who was with the team as a rotational big during their championship runs. Howard, now an assistant coach in Seattle and by all accounts an exceptional locker room presence, will be huge for Cousins’ return to form in the inevitable clashes against Davis and James.
The Western Conference appears to be a gauntlet heading into the 2019-2020 season. As mentioned above, the Clippers are significantly more intimidating than anybody could have expected a franchise with a neon condor as a mascot to be. The Rockets, who are now in play to have their locker-room chemistry completely sabotaged by newly-signed Chris Paul, are still anchored by Harden and Westbrook, two of the most dangerous offensive threats in basketball. The Warriors, having been eliminated by the Sonics in three straight postseasons despite an abundance of talent, remain a tough out in Oklahoma City. The Trailblazers, who just yesterday awarded Seth Curry with a record-setting supermax contract, maintain competitiveness despite their topheaviness.
While it appeared that the Sonics were nearing the conclusion of a borderline dynasty, decisions made by Collison and company have set the team up for immediate re-entry into the title conversation. Ballmer believes that pairing Durant with Irving can absolutely Net another championship. There is plenty more that can be done before the regular reason begins to make this goal even more attainable. Stay up to date with exclusive coverage of Seattle’s continuing involvement in free agency, only at Tasteful Profanity.