The Oklahoma City Thunder saw their hopes of reaching an NBA Finals birth against the Cleveland Cavaliers come to an end in their Game 7 loss to the Golden State Warriors. The question now… what is next for Kevin Durant who will become a free agent at season’s end?
You knew the question was going to be asked to Durant once he stepped on the podium following his team’s loss to the Warriors: what he is thinking about in free agency? As Durant and Westbrook were on the podium to discuss the outcome of their Game 7 performance against the Warriors, the question came quick as a reporter asked Durant about free agency. Durant’s response is one you would expect.
“I mean, we just lost like 30 minutes ago, so I haven’t even thought about it,” Durant told reporters in his news conference. “I’m just embracing my teammates and just reflecting on the season. I’ll think about that stuff, I don’t know when. But we just lost an hour ago, 30 minutes ago, so I don’t know.”
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The sweepstakes start now for Durant, who is an explosive player. Though it maybe unlikely that he leaves Oklahoma City for San Antonio, he in the past stated how much he admires the Spurs franchise and gushes over the man in charge in San Antonio: Gregg Popovich.
“Gregg Popovich, man, no matter how many moving parts they have on their team, he stays consistent with what he does,” Durant said recently, via CBS Sports. “Having a really good coach is probably the most important thing in this league. You can have all the great players you want but you have to have someone to orchestrate it. That’s what they have, a great coach that can put them in positions to utilize all their individual strengths and make them come together as a team. He’s the guy who’s been here for the longest, having someone like that to orchestrate what you do obviously helps.”
The Spurs had a perfect July 2015. They added LaMarcus Aldridge while retaining almost every key piece from their 2014-15 roster. The 2016 cap spike makes it theoretically possible to pull something close to a double by getting the best free agent yet again without losing much of what makes the team so amazing.
Durant deserves to get paid, and the Thunder are not going to be happy about sending him to one of their biggest rivals. Durant on the Spurs would be a scary image for any team hoping to compete for a championship, even the Warriors. That’s especially true when you factor in all the Spurs could keep in the process.
May 6, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) takes the floor prior to action against the San Antonio Spurs in game three of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Durant, the seven-time All-Star who has played his entire nine-year career with the Thunder, will this summer be one of the most highly sought-after free agents in NBA history.
With the salary cap skyrocketing, many teams — including the Warriors and Spurs, will be in position to offer a max contract, starting at almost $26 million per season.
But staying in OKC would be very lucrative. If Durant opts to remain with the Thunder, a five-year contract would be worth a projected $149 million. A max contract with another team would be a projected $111 million over four years. Big difference.
There’s another scenario, ESPN.com noted: Durant could sign a one- or a two-year deal with a player option on the second season. Given cap growth and the fact that Durant would reach the 10-year career threshold, he then would be eligible for the biggest max contract. Durant could make a projected $228 million over the next six seasons if he stays in Oklahoma City, or “only” up to $176 million over five years if he leaves the Thunder, this summer or next.
All eyes will be on San Antonio and how strong they will pursue Durant. Should be another interesting offseason for the Spurs.