Free agency is just days away, and the hottest name on the market is Oklahoma City’s star forward Kevin Durant. The former MVP of the league has been a lightning rod of speculation, and has left everyone wondering where his future will lie. Before the postseason, bets were leaning toward Durant calling somewhere other than OKC home next season. But after an amazing postseason run, where the Thunder got about as close to a title as you can without playing in the Finals, speculation has more or less died down to an expectation that Durant will return to the Thunder next season.
But who are the contenders for Durant’s services? Let’s go through a rundown of the main players, and their pros and cons.
Golden State Warriors: Golden State is the main suitor for Durant’s services that gets the most air time. The Warriors are obviously the most talented squad in the league, and are coming off two back-to-back trips to the NBA Finals and one championship. Playing in the Bay would allow Durant to pair with the Splash Brothers and Draymond Green, and give himself the best shot at winning his first championship. On the flipside, Durant would be cast in the shadow of the league MVP, and would immediately become the beacon of criticism LeBron James could only dream of being.
San Antonio Spurs: The other powerhouse in the running for Durant is also a dynasty in the making. Durant would become a centerpiece of a Spurs team loaded with talent, forming a new Big Three for San Antonio with Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge that would terrify the league. But the fit here doesn’t seem to work. The Spurs’ offense especially would look weird with Durant, and you’d have a smaller Aldridge either playing at the center, or moving either Durant or Leonard to the shooting guard. It just doesn’t seem like a good fit basketball-wise, but if anyone can figure it out, it’s Gregg Popovich.
— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) June 28, 2016
Boston Celtics: The Celtics are a team loaded with assets and picks and cap space out the rear. The Celtics have been hunting a star since breaking up the Big Three, and Durant would be their man. Durant could play in Boston Gardens and play with a strong supporting cast around him. It would also enable Durant to play in the East, with a much less difficult path to the Finals. But Boston doesn’t have nearly the star power of the other teams on the list. Who is the Big Three in Boston with KD? Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley? Boston is a few pieces away.
Miami Heat: It seems like Miami gets tossed around with every big free agent, and of course Kevin Durant will meet with the don Pat Riley in South Beach for free agency. If anyone can sell Durant on the talent in Miami, it’s Riley, who already successfully recruited LeBron James. The Heat certainly brings a strong cast in Dragic, Wade, Bosh, and Whiteside (if they can re-sign him), and could compete with anyone with that lineup. But, that lineup is only half a guarantee. The future of Bosh is highly questionable, and Whiteside may be on the first plane out of town for more money elsewhere. And with Wade not getting any younger, is Miami still a destination for top free agents?
— Rich Eisen Show (@RichEisenShow) June 27, 2016
Los Angeles Clippers: The Clips have come far in getting a meeting with Durant before the Lakers, and it shows the growth of this franchise. The Clippers offer the endless possibilities of Durant and Paul, who would be the only point guard you could honestly say wouldn’t be a drop off from Westbrook right now, and either DeAndre Jordan or Blake Griffin, as it’s unlikely they could keep both and Durant. Durant would get a big market, and the Clippers would become a great show again. But, they dropped off for a reason. Griffin has struggled to stay healthy, and DeAndre Jordan is good, but not huge-money good. Is he that big of an upgrade over Kanter and Adams?
Oklahoma City Thunder: Of course, the favorite is the hometown team. OKC has been Durant’s home since the team moved there, and Durant has imprinted himself on the franchise. The Thunder has surrounded him with great talent, and with the most recent trade, has shown they are still trying to. The Thunder were one game away from playing for it all a year ago, and blowing it up may not be the best bet. In fact, Durant’s best chance at winning, outside of joining the dark side in San Antonio or Golden State, is just staying home.
— ESPN (@espn) June 27, 2016
Overall, I think the odds on favorites are OKC. But the Thunder will get tested to keep Durant this summer. The decision will be big, and will truly change the championship race in the NBA. And expect to never stop hearing about it until that decision is made.