The NBA’s free agency period has officially begun and we’re already seeing some players agree to terms with new teams or re-up with their old ones.
Hassan Whiteside is staying with Miami Heat to the tune of about $100 million for four years. Hornets boss Michael Jordan has secured the services of Nicolas Batum for another five years, as the savvy wingman agreed to a $120-million max deal. Timofey Mozgov is now a Los Angeles Laker after agreeing to a four-year $64-million deal. Demar Derozan and Bradley Beal are going back to the Toronto Raptors and the Washington Wizards, respectively, thanks in large part to the near-max deals they agreed to with their ball clubs.
Remember, no player can officially sign a new deal until the free agency moratorium is lifted on July 6, or five days after free agency started. It used to be 10 days, but the NBA shortened it by half this year to avoid having another “DeAndre Jordan Emoji Free Agency Drama.”
In any event, all players must wait until July 6 to cross out the t’s and dot the i’s on their new contracts. That includes Kevin Durant, the big fish of this season’s free agency class. Durant is reportedly not in a rush to make a decision, opting instead to meet with a handpicked number of teams, including the Oklahoma City Thunder, to hear their pitches on why he should sign with them.
So in lieu of the days that will pass before KD makes his decision, we picked out the likeliest destinations for Durant, from the most likely to the least likely. And if anybody’s wondering if we magically picked these teams out of a hat, the four teams here are part of the group of teams that Durant is actually meeting in the next few days.
What if Kevin Durant stayed with the OKC Thunder?
This isn’t so much a “what-if” as it is the most likely scenario. So in the event that Durant re-upped with the Thunder, he’s returning to a team that looks a lot deeper and more versatile than the one that came within a win of making the NBA Finals. Serge Ibaka is gone but the Thunder didn’t lose too much in the way of his services. Steven Adams has become a legitimate starting center and Enes Kanter proved himself capable of filling Serge’s shoes on one end of the floor. Plus, the Thunder still have Mitch McGary and scooped up Ersan Ilyasova and more importantly, rookie Domantas Sabonis as part of the Ibaka trade. They’ll likely lose Dion Waiters to free agency, but even then, they scored a big upgrade having Victor Oladipo take his place.
Oh, and they still have Russell Westbrook, who, you, know is pretty damn good himself.
What if Kevin Durant went to the Golden State Warriors?
If the Warriors were a so-called bandwagon team without Kevin Durant, imagine what they’ll be if KD joins Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green in the Bay. That’s about as potent a small ball lineup as you’ll ever see in the league. But there is a catch to Durant going to Golden State, one that will likely involve the team parting ways with Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala, and/or Andrew Bogut.
At least two of those three players will have to be dealt, or in Barnes’ case, let go in free agency, so that Golden State has the cap space to offer Durant a max deal. A Big 4 of Curry, Thompson, Durant, and Green is a video game lineup, but the Warriors would have to fill that roster out and they have to be smart on how they’re going to do it. Still, the thought of KD in Oakland? Wowza.
What if Kevin Durant went to the Los Angeles Clippers?
It’s a similar scenario with the Warriors because the main premise is bringing in KD to team up with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan to form a so-called “Big 4.” Again, it’s an enticing idea and one that we’re sure that fair-weather fans will gravitate to should LA pull it off. Here’s the issue though. The Clippers can’t offer KD a max contract without giving up one of its three stars.
A sign-and-trade with Blake Griffin is the most likely scenario that brings Durant to the Clippers, but Doc Rivers and company are trying to sell KD on taking less than the max to make this happen. It’s a little wishful thinking on the part of the Clippers but in the event they manage to score the top prize in free agency, they immediately become a legitimate contender. Throw in JJ Redick and his elite shooting and that’s about as potent as any starting lineup you’ll see these days.
What if Kevin Durant went to the San Antonio Spurs?
This scenario is probably the unlikeliest of the four, but considering it’s the San Antonio Spurs we’re talking about here, they deserve the respect of being mentioned simply because they’re the Spurs, or as LeBron James himself recently called them, “one of the best organizations in the world.”
Landing Durant is about as ambitious as it gets for San Antonio, but if they do manage to do it, they’re going to have to change the dynamic of the team just so they can have enough financial room to sign KD. A sign-and-trade with the Thunder is an option here, but don’t expect OKC to want anything from San Antonio besides Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge.
Another option would be for San Antonio to cut ties with Danny Green, Boris Diaw, Patty Mills, convince Manu Ginobili—if he does return—to sign another veteran’s minimum, and restructure Tim Duncan's contract, if he does return too. One thing that were sure of is that if Durant signs with the Spurs, it’s going to be a dramatically different San Antonio team than the one we’ve had in recent years. KD and Kawhi on the same team? Those limbs would never end.
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