Kevin Durant Warriors Knicks
Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors passes as Frank Ntilikina #11 of the New York Knicks defends at Madison Square Garden on February 26, 2018 in New York City. Elsa/Getty Images

Seven 2019 NBA All-Stars are set to hit free agency this summer, but Kevin Durant’s impending decision stands out as the one that will have the greatest impact on the league. Amid rumors that the back-to-back NBA Finals MVP will leave the Golden State Warriors for the New York Knicks, Durant has a chance to end a dynasty while simultaneously creating another championship contender.

The Warriors haven’t simply dominated the NBA for three straight years. When Durant joined a team that had just set a record with 73-wins, he removed most of the intrigue regarding how each season might end. Despite any bumps along the road Golden State encountered in 2017 and 2018, their titles were essentially inevitable, and the same might be the case this season.

Golden State does appear to be more vulnerable than ever to an upset. It won’t be stunning if the Houston Rockets eliminate the Warriors in the second round of the playoffs. An NBA Finals matchup with the Eastern Conference champion could also prove to be a tough series.

But the Warriors remain the odds-on favorites to become the first team since the early 2000’s Los Angeles Lakers to successfully complete a three-peat. Golden State’s core still consists of four future Hall of Famers, and it’s now led by maybe the best basketball player on the planet.

It’s no secret that Durant signed with the Warriors in hopes of being recognized ahead of LeBron James as the NBA’s top star. If he continues to perform as he has through seven playoff games, he might just get his wish.

After being the best player on two historic championship teams, Durant has somehow managed to raise his game. The forward is scoring 35.0 points on just 20.7 field-goal attempts per game to go along with averages of 5.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.5 steals.

When the Los Angeles Clippers tried to put a scare into the Warriors in the first round, it was Durant that ended any notion of L.A. pulling off a monumental upset.

After Golden State blew a 31-point lead at home and allowed Los Angeles to tie the series at 1-1, Durant scored 38 points in 30 minutes in a 132-105 Game 3 win at Staples Center. The Clippers kept their hopes alive with an inexplicable Game 5 victory at Oracle Arena, but the superstar dropped 50 points on just 26 shots in Game 6 to punch the Warriors’ ticket to the second round.

Durant was the driving force in Golden State’s win over Houston in their second-round series opener. All of the controversy about the officiating in Game 1 overshadowed the contest’s biggest storyline: James Harden, who just put together a historic offensive season, was outplayed by Durant.

The fact remains that Golden State is still borderline unbeatable with Durant on the team, and it’s why his future has created a cloud of uncertainty over the Warriors’ entire season.

If Durant leaves Golden State, it puts the Western Conference up for grabs in 2020. If he heads to the Knicks, as most insiders expect him to do, New York would likely become one of the best teams in the East overnight.

Adding Durant and no one else to the NBA’s worst teams certainly wouldn’t make New York a threat to win the title, but there’s little doubt that he would turn the Knicks into one of the top contenders in a weak Eastern Conference.

Just look at what LeBron James did with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He dragged one of the league’s worst rosters to the 2018 NBA Finals because he was playing at a level few players, if any, had ever reached.

The 2020 version of Durant won’t quite be equivalent to 2018 James, but the gap would be small enough that he’d make the Knicks a top-four seed with a chance to do some damage in the playoffs.

If Durant goes to New York, it’s a safe bet to assume he won’t be the Knicks’ only key addition. The team will have enough money under the salary cap to add another max free agent.

There are rumors of a potential Kevin Durant-Kyrie Irving pairing in New York. The Knicks will be among the top contenders in the Anthony Davis Sweepstakes. They’ve got as good of a chance as anyone to draft Zion Williamson.

Even if the Knicks end up using that next max slot on a second-tier free agent like Jimmy Butler or Kemba Walker, New York should be good enough to win 50-plus games with Durant leading the way.

That’s not even accounting for the possibility—or likelihood—of Kawhi Leonard leaving the Toronto Raptors and one of the Philadelphia 76ers’ starters signing elsewhere in free agency, potentially weakening the top of the East even more.

Since 2010, Durant’s teams have been all but guaranteed to reach the conference finals or win 60 regular-season games. The only one that failed to achieve either of those accomplishments was the 2015 Oklahoma City Thunder because a broken foot limited the star to just 27 games.

Never during that span was Durant considered to be the best player in the league.

The Warriors’ star might actually hold that title this summer, making his upcoming decision one that could completely change the landscape of the NBA.