SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) - Kevin Durant's announcement that he will leave Oklahoma City to join the Golden State Warriors, a blockbuster move that could shape the NBA's future, reverberated around the league on Tuesday.
Durant averaged 28.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists a game last season for the Thunder, who alongside star guard Russell Westbrook came within a game of reaching the NBA Finals before losing to Golden State in the Western Conference finals.
Now Durant, the 2014 NBA Most Valuable Player and a four-time league scoring champion, will unite with Stephen Curry, the 2015 and 2016 NBA MVP and this year's top scorer with 30.1 points a game.
"I wouldn't be surprised if they score 200 pts next year," tweeted Cameroon center Joel Embiid of Philadelphia of the Warriors' single-game scoring potential.
As well as Curry and Durant comes the core of a team that won a record 73 regular-season games last season and came within a game of repeating as NBA champions before losing the final to Cleveland.
"This is definitely one of the biggest moves in NBA history," Golden State forward Draymond Green told Sports Illustrated. "(Kevin) is one of the best players in NBA history. I'm excited and I'm excited for KD." A hike in the salary cap was enough for the Warriors to add Durant without having to destroy the heart of their lineup. They dropped free agents Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli to make room for Durant, sacrificing depth for star power.
Durant met with the Thunder, Warriors, San Antonio, Boston, Miami and the Los Angeles Clippers before announcing his decision Monday.
Durant agreed on a two-year deal worth $53 million that has a player option so he can opt out next year and make even more money when new NBA television contract revenue will send the league salary cap skyrocketing.
And Durant, who has yet to capture an NBA championship, gives himself a solid opportunity to claim a crown on a club that ousted Oklahoma City and offers 3-point sharpshooters Curry and Klay Thompson, Green and Andre Iguodala with him on the frontline and Shaun Livingston off the bench.
"If u can't beat um join um," tweeted NBA veteran Paul Pierce.
The move makes Golden State a prohibitive favorite to return to the finals with Cleveland seen as the most likely contender in the East, setting up what could be an unprecedented third consecutive meeting of the same clubs in three consecutive NBA Finals.
"Welcome to THE FAMILY KDTrey5 let's just do what we are setting out to do!!" Green tweeted.
Just as when LeBron James jilted Cleveland in 2010, only to return home after four seasons where he led Miami to four NBA Finals and two titles, Durant has spurned the team where he played nine seasons in hopes of winning with a "superteam" of talent.
James joined Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, whom he played alongside at the 2008 Olympics, in a "Big Three" and when he returned to Cleveland in 2014 rebuilt the same pillars with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, a 2012 Olympic teammate, joining him.
In 2010, Durant became friends with Curry and Iguodala while they were teammates on the US world championship squad. Durant was the tournament MVP for the American title team with 22.8 points a game.
"Relationships are important people!" Wade tweeted.
NBA rivals tweeted their reactions, mainly disbelief, with Portland guard C.J. McCollun calling the move a "sick change of events." Detroit center Andre Drummond warned of potential woes, noting: "Everyone is so hyped up on the match up problems on the offensive end? They still gotta come down the other end.. Not a very big team." And French center Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz pointed out what might be the Warriors' biggest trouble of all: "Only problem there's only 1 ball..."