Seth Curry was careful to say the Warriors are “definitely not a better team” without Kevin Durant in their lineup—which, duh—but it is the younger Curry’s opinion that the Warriors do move the ball and themselves more, and more quickly, when they don’t have Durant around. Durant makes the Warriors better, but the job of guarding people who are not named Kevin Durant becomes a lot easier when those people are stationed around the perimeter, calmly waiting for Durant to drop in another elbow jumper.
Whether that makes the team harder to guard or just more exhausting to guard—and whether being more exhausting to guard is the same thing as being harder to stop—there’s no question that reverting to their darting, passing, wildly kinetic pre-Durant style makes them more fun to watch. Keep your eyes on Steph Curry in this highlight—he does more running in this one possession than Andray Blatche did in his entire NBA career:
That’s a damn Family Circus comic. Curry drives the paint, loses the ball, collects it, and darts to the far corner. Then he pivots and drives baseline before veering out and dishing the ball off to Kevon Looney, continuing his run to the right wing. Then he head-fakes toward a handoff and slides to the corner. After pausing for one second to take a breath, Curry cuts baseline again, weaves through a screen and elbow traffic to get back to the left arc, and has the precision and presence to push off his right foot and slide back toward the corner, squared for a three. Poor Damian Lillard, desperate in pursuit, comes barreling out for the contest; Curry, who checked the shot clock at the opposite end of the floor on the catch, coolly lets Lillard fly by, then buries the three-pointer.
So, yes, Durant makes the Warriors better, and harder to stop. But nothing in basketball can possibly be more grueling to guard than this kind of relentless movement by a player who needs only the tiniest sliver of space in order to set the gym on fire. It’s not just good basketball, it’s torture.