As the dust begins to settle and realization sets in that Kevin Durant is headed to the Golden State Warriors, there is one man who isn’t getting the credit he deserves: General Manager Bob Myers.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski, it was Myers — a gifted orator — who delivered one of the most powerful lines to Durant in the team’s two hour meeting last Friday in the The Hamptons.
In meeting, Bob Myers told Durant: Without you, we can another title or two. Without us, you might win too. Together? We'll win a bunch.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) July 4, 2016
Hours after winning the Durant sweepstakes, Myers and the front office weren’t lighting victory cigars. They were working the phones, trying to find a suitable center to pair with four All-Stars and Andre Iguodala. Prognosticators thought the Warriors would be sent on a wild goose chase to find a reliable big man who would take the $2.9 million mid-level exception — especially with how much cash has been falling from the skies to mediocre players the past week.
And then you forget about Myers’ people skills. He has a broad presence in the NBA agent world because he used to be one himself. He negotiated $575 million worth of deals in 14 years on the other side of the table.
Myers netted 6-foot-11 veteran Zaza Pachulia, who by most measurements is a top 15 center in the league. He can rebound, he hits 75 percent of his free throws and while his defense isn’t exactly on the level of Andrew Bogut’s, Pachulia now gets to play alongside a bevy of superstars for the first time in his career. Like those before him, the center will benefit from defending alongside Draymond Green and Durant.
So essentially, Myers traded Bogut, Festus Ezeli and Harrison Barnes for Kevin Durant, Zaza Puchilia and a second round pick. He put on his sorcerers robe and pulled off one the slickest magic tricks the league has seen in quite some time. Durant, an MVP and a four-time scoring champion, will make just four million more dollars than Barnes; Bogut will make nearly $13 million more than Pachulia.
Plugged in ESPN writer Zach Lowe was gauging reaction from across the league about the Warriors’ Fourth of July fireworks. People are seething at the fact Myers has been able to pull all of this off right under their noses.
I have gotten almost as many angry texts/etc from team execs about GSW getting Zaza for nothing as I did re: GSW signing KD.
— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) July 5, 2016
Let’s really give Myers credit for having the foresight not to re-sign Barnes and Ezeli at the money both were commanding during negotiations in the early part of last season. Even though both young players were performing at a high level before suffering injuries, Myers stuck to his guns and didn’t cave into the demands. The leftover money gave the Warriors the wiggle room to sign Durant. And, as we learned in the NBA Finals, Ezeli and Barnes’ fast starts were fool’s gold.
There are very little teams in sports history who gut 50 percent of the roster and become monumentally better on paper. The Warriors lost in the NBA Finals and Myers wasn’t going to rest until his roster was sufficiently upgraded to topple LeBron James and Cleveland — or so they hope. When Steph Curry and Klay Thompson went cold in Game 7, Green and an injured Iguodala weren’t enough to save the day. The rationale is that Durant gives this team insurance like we’ve never seen before. Any one of these five players can win a basketball game on their lonesome.
Myers isn’t your typical stuffy suit running things upstairs, and it’s gone a long ways with the players. Let’s recall two other selfless acts the GM turned in to show his loyalty during Golden State’s postseason run. He woke up at the crack of dawn to be by Curry’s side for X-rays on his MCL. He watched Game 5 of the NBA Finals from a suite at the Oakland Coliseum, seated right next to his suspended forward.
“When you say, ‘I want to be a Warriors forever,’ like, that’s the type of stuff that goes a long ways,” Green said.
Owner Joe Lacob had the guts to hire Myers as an assistant GM in April of 2011, when the then 36-year-old had zero front office experience. Myers wasn’t responsible for drafting Curry or Thompson, but he set the table for success. He signed Andre Iguodala, he drafted Green and now he’s landed Kevin Durant — and also hired Steve Kerr.
You don’t land three superstar players and call it luck. Myers has an eye for talent, he’s creative with salary cap money, but again, most importantly, he has a way with people. Heading into the Durant sweepstakes, nearly every indication from national reporters was that KD was very likely to return to Oklahoma City — The Undefeated even reported there was a 90 percent chance Durant returned to the Thunder.
Maybe one day Durant will let us in on who or what swayed him during his meeting with the Warriors. Iguodala reportedly brought the heat and reminded KD about their time together on Team USA, where he and Curry would worship together at a chapel.
But let’s not discount Myers. At a critical juncture for the franchise, the team’s GM stepped up to the plate and hit a home run well over the fence.
It wasn’t his first homer, and it won’t be his last.