The Kevin Durant sweepstakes is the biggest free agent frenzy since LeBron left Cleveland for Miami in 2010. The former MVP has narrowed the search down to 6 teams. He will meet with his current team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, in addition to the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, and Boston Celtics. I will breakdown why each team could land Durant and why he wouldn’t go there as well as predict his landing spot.
Why: They can offer more money than any other team long term or short term. They just traded Serge Ibaka who according to Royce Young “butted heads” with Durant on occasion. That trade brought Victor Oladipo to the Thunder. He is an upgrade from Andre Roberson and Dion Waiters at shooting guard. He knows he can contend in OKC because they beat the Spurs and had the 73 win Warriors on the ropes. Russell Westbrook is a free agent next year so if Durant signs for one year with a player option like many expect, he and his longtime friend/teammate could decide whether to stay or where to go together in 2017.
Why not: They have struggled to finish games and even series in the past. They had the most loses when leading going into the fourth quarter and blew a 3-1 series lead to the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. Oklahoma City also is not going to attract big name free agents.
Golden State Warriors
Why: If you can’t beat them join them. Not only did the Warriors come back from a 3-1 game deficit, but they won 73 games and were less than a minute away from being back-to-back champs. He would have a chance to be the third “Splash Brother” and join the Death lineup.
Why not: The Warriors only have about $14 million in cap space and need $26 million to sign Durant. This means they would have to cut Shaun Livingston and trade either Andrew Bogut or Andre Iguodala in addition to letting Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli walk. Ezeli and Barnes underperformed in the Finals but Shaun Livingston might be able to start for half the league and Iggy and Bogut are two of their most important defensive players. The Splash Brothers make them contenders but they wouldn’t have won an NBA championship one season and 73 games the next without their depth. They have the bird rights to Marreese Speights and could bring back Leandro Barbosa for mini midlevel-exception or minimum but the Warriors would mostly be relying on veteran ring-chasers and young, cheap players like Kevon Looney and Ian Clark. Draft picks Damian Jones and Patrick McCaw could also be thrust into the spotlight. Some people would view this as a cop out saying he is going for an easy championship and he would likely receive criticism similar to LeBron James when he left Cleveland.
San Antonio Spurs
Why: He would have a chance to play for the best coach, in the best organization, and form a Big Three with Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. The Spurs could use a small ball lineup of Tony Parker, Danny Green, Leonard, Durant, and Aldridge that could compete with the Warriors Death lineup. Tim Duncan coming back for a 20th season would be icing on the cake.
Why not: Like the Warriors, they don’t have a lot of money to work with. Even if Tim Duncan retires, they would have to cut Boris Diaw, who like Livingston is a highly valued role player. This would hurt their depth down low. They could also have to move Patty Mills, Parker, or Green.
Los Angeles Clippers
Why: If they stay together, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and Durant would make the best foursome in basketball. Doc Rivers has a ring as coach of the Celtics. LA is a big market. Paul and Jordan are not known as scorers which would make him the undisputed number 1 scoring option.
Why not: They also have very limited cap space. The Clippers would have to choose between breaking up the Big Three or gutting their entire roster to bring Durant to the Staples Center. In the 5 years Paul, Griffin, and Jordan have been together, they haven’t even been to the conference finals. You can’t question their talent, but you can question whether or not they are winners. The lack of playoff success also makes you question the competence of their management.
Why: They have the more cap space ( $44.3 million) them the other teams vying for Durant’s services. Pat Reilly will take the same approach he did with LeBron and drop his rings on the table. If all their key pieces return, they’ll be the only team in the East that could compete with the Cavs.
Why not: Dwayne Wade is 34, Chris Bosh has had issues with blood clots recently, and Hassan Whiteside is a free agent. Even if Whiteside stays, their championship window smaller than some of the other teams on this list.
Why: $42 million in cap space. Brad Stevens is one of the best young coaches in the league and they have a lot of young talent and future draft picks that can either be used as trade assets (Demarcus Cousins anyone?) or be developed. Durant has spoke positively about their tradition. The East is weaker than the West.
Why Not: Out of all the potential Robins to his Batman (expect Golden State where he’d be Curry’s Robin) Isaiah Thomas is the weakest. He’s more like a Batgirl if anything. The picks are not guaranteed to pan out and young talent can turn into busts. He could have to wait for guys to mature before they can actually contend.
My Prediction: I actually think the Spurs are the best fit but he is not going there. Reports indicate that the Warriors and Heat are the biggest threat to the Thunder. I think that he is staying in OKC… for now. He will sign a one year contract with a player option so him and Russell Westbrook can decided whether to stay in OKC or find a new place to play in 2017.