Video: What If Kevin Durant signed with the Boston Celtics in 2016
As I'm sure you remember the Celtics finished 2nd in the Kevin Durant sweepstakes during the summer of 2016. Strat-O-Matic did some sort of Back To The Future/ A Christmas Carol simulation for NBC Sports Boston to show what type of success the Celtics would have had with Durant.
There are no guarantees in life, but pretty sure the Celtics would have won more than one title with Durant. If there was one moment that was the difference in Durant choosing Boston vs Golden State it would be the Draymond Green suspension in the Finals that is credited with letting the Cavs back in the series. The rumor is Durant wanted to go to the Bay Area, but as the sensitive guy he is, he didn't think he could leave the Thunder after just losing to the Warriors to join a super team that had just won another title. But after the Warriors lost to the Cavs, he could sell the narrative ton himself that the Warriors were adding him to get back on top.
Durant has always been Danny Ainge's white whale. The Celtics tanked in 2007 in an effort to draft him, but just like in 1997 the Celtics pick fell in the lottery. Ironically the Celtics hit the lottery in 2017 and drafted Jayson Tatum, but that's kind of a what if in itself. Would Boston have drafted Tatum if they already had Durant. Or was part of Ainge's Hampton pitch that the Celtics will trade the future Nets picks to add more immediate help. Clippers had to do that to land Kawhi and the Cavs with LeBron. So pretty decent chance that Tatum is never drafted by Boston and Jaylen may have been traded as well.
Now what I didn't see as a possibility until Kyrie Irving already had his foot out the door was the potential signing of Durant in 2019 by Boston. Reportedly earlier in the 2018-19 season, Durant and Irving decided they'd team up the following year in free agency. If Kyrie hadn't for whatever reason turned on Boston and agreed to re-sign here like he said he would, I'm rather confident Durant would have as well. In fact, a Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis super team (with either Jaylen or Jayson still around) might have been the final product for the Celtics.
Ainge would have had to have made some trades to clear the cap space in 2019 to add Durant, but that would have been pretty easy. The main contract he'd have to have moved would have been Gordon Hayward. But we saw a year later that Hayward had suitors around the league. So yeah, the 2016 signing is a What If, but not the only one regarding Durant and Boston.
One thing that is for sure, I don't think anyone would have predicted back in the summer of 2016, that the Brooklyn Nets would be on top of the NBA world some four and a half years later.