Enes Kanter Believes Thunder Could've Won 2017 NBA Title with Kevin Durant

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMay 13, 2020

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) talks with center Enes Kanter (11) as they walk up the court during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Orlando Magic in Orlando, Fla., Friday, Oct. 30, 2015. The Thunder won 139-136 in double overtime. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter believes his tenure with the Oklahoma City Thunder could have resulted in a championship if the team had stayed together for longer.

In an interview with Stadium's Shams Charania, Kanter discussed blowing a 3-1 series lead against the Golden State Warriors in 2016 and subsequently losing Kevin Durant in free agency (beginning at three-minute mark):

Stadium @Stadium

Celtics center @EnesKanter told our NBA Insider @ShamsCharania he has been offered WWE deal and plans to accept after career. Kanter also discussed his public approach with his native Turkey, Russell Westbrook's policy for opponents and more. https://t.co/gOvZhfYGae

Kanter admitted to being upset when the Thunder failed to win the 2016 Western Conference Finals, but he noted that he felt confident they had everything they needed in order to vie for a championship the following year.

Because of that, Kanter said he was "heartbroken" when Durant left to join the Warriors in free agency. Had KD re-signed, Kanter is of the belief that the Thunder could have won it all in 2017.

Instead, Durant led the Warriors to two consecutive NBA championships and was named the NBA Finals MVP both times.

The 2016-17 season was Kanter's final campaign in OKC, as he was traded to the New York Knicks as part of a deal that brought back Carmelo Anthony after Oklahoma City was knocked out in the first round of the 2017 playoffs.

OKC has been ousted in the first round of the playoffs in each of the past three seasons. Paul George came and went, Russell Westbrook was traded to the Houston Rockets, and now the Thunder are a completely different team compared to where they were in 2016.

While Durant staying might have netted the Thunder a championship, there is a lot to like about where they are heading currently.

Before the 2019-20 season was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Thunder were fifth in the Western Conference with a 40-24 record. Much of their success has been due to the play of young guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who was acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers as part of the George trade.

The Thunder have a bright future, but the fate of the 2017 team had Durant re-signed will always be one of the biggest "what ifs" in NBA history.