Recent Kevin Durant development could spell bad news for Utah Jazz for years to come

May 8, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) dribbles around Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) during the first quarter in game four of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
May 8, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) dribbles around Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) during the first quarter in game four of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports /

Due to the report that Kevin Durant is willing to take a contract less than the max to keep Golden State’s core together, the Warriors look primed to be a major obstacle for the Utah Jazz and the rest of the Western Conference for the foreseeable future.

With the commencement of the 2017 NBA Finals mere hours away, fans everywhere are gearing up for part three of the Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers trilogy. A Finals match-up that many saw coming is now actually here and one can only hope that it will live up to the hype, and help overcome what has been a largely underwhelming postseason overall.

While both teams have been incredible during the playoffs and the Finals are bound to be a clash of titans, there’s no doubting that the Warriors’ dominance, which has included a 12-0 playoff record – the best in league history entering the Finals – has been a major story line.

Golden State was already an incredible team as evidenced by their consecutive Finals appearances, but after adding former MVP Kevin Durant to their already superbly gifted ranks, the team reached another level entirely. And they’ve lived up to expectations perfectly, going from a great team to a – unless Cleveland proves otherwise – seemingly invincible team.

And although as long as Kevin Durant and Steph Curry are suiting up for the same team, they’re bound to be a title contender, the one tiny glimmer of hope for the rest of the Western Conference was the fact that with Curry’s contract up at the end of this year after being on one of the friendliest deals in the league, and Kevin Durant facing a player option that would allow him to opt out and make a monumental amount of cash, Golden State may not be able to hold onto all of their pieces beyond this season due to financial implications.

That was always little more than a small hope, at best, as it would take more than shedding a couple role players for Golden State to truly slip from their throne, but unfortunately even that glimmer of a flame was absolutely snubbed out by a recent development regarding Kevin Durant. According to an ESPN report from this morning, sources have indicated that Durant is willing to take less than a max contract if it will help the Warriors keep their core together for the long haul.

That’s very, very bad news for the rest of the Western Conference and for the league in general. NBA Analyst Jeff Van Gundy recently said that he sees nothing preventing the Warriors from making it to eight to ten straight NBA Finals and as preposterous as that might sound on the surface, if this roster is able to stay together without the financial screws falling off, it very well could be the case.

Which makes for an interesting situation. Most players are lauded for being willing to take a discount to help a team improve while those seeking every penny they can grab have sometimes been portrayed as villains. Yet in this one instance, aside from his faithful Golden State followers, I can almost hear the excruciating collective groan from the rest of the teams’ fans upon hearing that Durant will settle for less than what he’s worth.

Some might wonder where that willingness was in OKC when he signed his max rookie extension, but that’s a whole different story. The fact of the matter is that Durant seems determined to keep the loaded Warriors together, no matter the personal sacrifices.

Unfortunately, unless unforeseen injuries occur or an unknown Kryptonite is discovered to slow this deadly Warriors squad, Durant’s unselfishness could essentially slam the championship door shut for many of the rest of the West’s squads including the Utah Jazz.

Make no mistake about it, the Jazz are a rising team with an extremely bright future. Even with an onslaught of injuries and while being incredible strides away from their full potential, the Jazz beat a veteran LA Clippers team in the first round of the playoffs. If the Warriors were to suddenly disappear from off the face of the planet, you could make an argument that the Jazz were right there in terms of title contention.

Sure, the Spurs would still be in the way in the West, but (as Golden State reminded us) they’re far from immortal. The Rockets are good as well, but the Jazz had their way with them in the regular season. Not to mention, between having young players gain more experience, getting healthier and perhaps utilizing cap space to add more help in the offseason, Utah can still get a whole lot better.

But unfortunately, the Warriors are here. And if Durant’s declaration is to be perceived as accurate, then they’re here to stay…for a long, long time.

A recent Sports Illustrated article by Lee Jenkins covered extensively what this “Superteam Era” could look like for the rest of the league. It’s an exceptional piece and I recommend any NBA fan (especially those of the “other 28 teams” that it alludes to) read it in its entirety. There are so many incredible quotes in it that I wish I could mention here, but for sake of simplicity, I’ll just include one that really stood out to me.

An unnamed Eastern Conference GM had the following to say about the current situation that teams not named the Warriors or the Cavs have to face:

"“You either start a rebuild and kill your fan base, or bang your head against the wall trying to win a round, maybe two rounds. But then what? Unless somebody gets hurt in Cleveland or Golden State, there’s no changing it.”"

As much as we’d all like to believe that “our team” will be the one to finally stick it to the Warriors, or to finally knock off the King, it certainly feels like a long-shot. And as that GM mentioned, it’s putting teams in an impossible situation – try to build the best roster only to fall short, or stockpile assets in hope that one day when the titans finally fall, you can be a contender once again.

Tempting though it might be to throw in the towel and accept defeat to the likes of the Warriors, the Jazz have made it clear that their rebuild period is over. They traded for a veteran point guard in George Hill last offseason. They inked Rudy Gobert to a lucrative extension. They’re going to go all in on Gordon Hayward this summer. There is no looking back.

The Jazz most definitely want to win now, and they should. They have the pieces to be a great team. However, it remains to be seen whether those pieces will be enough to take them over the greatest obstacle in their way – the Golden State Warriors.

And by the sound of things thanks to Durant’s announced intention, that obstacle could be firmly in place for years to come, crushing the championship aspirations of the rising Utah Jazz and many others along the way. As good as the Jazz have become and even with as much room as they have to grow, it’s hard to see them toppling an unprecedentedly elite Warriors team any time soon.

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Despite being in win-now mode, despite trying to take all the right steps to building a championship-caliber team and despite the progress they’re bound to make in the coming years, unfortunately it may still not be enough for the Utah Jazz.