We still have a season of exciting NBA play ahead of us, but a lot of eyes are already focused on the summer of 2016 on the biggest prize since Lebron James: Kevin Durant. The scoring machine (lead the league 4 times in scoring) that finally dethroned Lebron as the MVP, missed the majority of last season with a foot injury, but that doesn’t seem to concern potential suitors (the fact that he has missed a couple of games these season doesn’t seem to concern as well). What KD brings to the table is undeniable: Offensively he is just on another stratosphere and we are seeing improvements defensively. Even on an injury-riddled he still boasted averages of 25 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists with a PER of 27.6. This season those averages are of 28 points and 7 rebounds so far. Therefore, and due to the fact that he has not committed long term with OKC, questions about his future are getting louder and louder. Let’s take a look at potential destinations:
Oklahoma City Thunder: No one, except OKC fans, want to hear this as we love to guess the impact he would have on another team and potential dynasties. The truth remains that he is likely to stay put. KD has said numerous times he likes living in Oklahoma and even said he would like to have his jersey retired with the Thunder. Basketball wise, it also seems like the best decision: playing alongside a top-10 player like Westbrook and a rim protector/floor spreader Serge Ibaka coupled with remarkable depth make OKC (again) a powerhouse in the West. Remember this team when healthy and clicking can destroy almost every team in the league. It also makes sense monetarily as OKC, having his Bird Rights, can offer him the most money. Obviously there are some downsides to OKC: Billy Donovan is a rookie NBA coach, Westbrook sometimes ignores KD and the pressure to win is starting to hit really high levels and another failure could propel him out of OKC. However, his best chance to win soon is staying, despite the early season struggles OKC as experienced.
Washington Wizards: His hometown team, with an exciting young backcourt have long been mentioned as a team he would consider (to the point even KD got a little sick of how he was being treated on an opponent’s arena). The factor of playing home is always important. To do it with current star (future superstar) point guard John Wall, who is likely to keep him constantly engaged and involved on offense (unlike a certain point guard that sometimes ignores him), in a weaker conference (besides the Cavaliers it does not seem that there is any other long term threat) should make for a nice pitch next summer. Not adding any nuclear contracts this offseason they kept their accounts in order to pursue KD next summer. However Beal still has not signed an extension (while it’s likely he will only sign it next summer a la Leonard in order to be able to sign KD) and he has struggled with injuries throughout his career. However, besides these two players and the emerging Otto Porter, they do not seem to have many other pieces. (Nonetheless, with a backcourt of Wall and Beal, Otto at the 3 and KD at the 4 that’s a pretty scary team), With the recent emergence of small-ball lineups, Washington would have one of the best ones in the game, and with Durant in town, they can use the rest of their limited cap space to sign some depth.
Los Angeles Lakers: Always in the conversation for every big name free agent, we have the Lakers. Let’s be honest: Since Jim Buss took over this has been a disaster, making Kobe’s last years in the league forgettable. Drafting a raw point guard with no athleticism (sorry D’Angelo, yes I know you have potential) instead of a ready to-go center like Okafor will likely send them deep into the lottery yet again and they may not even be able to get that top draft pick (if it is outside of the top-3 they owe it to the 76ers). However, the potential that Russell, Clarkson and Randle have makes for the sight of a brighter future in Los Angeles. However, if you are KD, you are looking to win now. Not in 4-5 years which is likely what Russell will need to be a top point guard. So sorry Laker fans, I just do not see him going to Los Angeles.
New York Knicks: Enter the second big market team. Stephen A. Smith has said Melo will go the extra miles in trying to lure KD. While many have called the Knicks a disaster, this season things are looking a lot better than expected. Carmelo is still recovering from his knee injury so we will need more time to see how he will look 100% healthy. Kristaps Porzingis is looking like the steal of the draft each game that he plays. Adding a solid center this past offseason, Robin Lopez and a backcourt with potential (Grant and Galloway) and that could be enough to lure KD. Note, that it all lies with Melo. He would have to be willing to reduce his role on offense, and become more of a facilitator and defensive presence, which at this age, does not seem very likely. Nonetheless, mark New York as being a team that will surely get a meeting with KD.
Brooklyn Nets: Some have referenced the Brooklyn Nets as having a possible shot at Durant due to the market and the ties to Jay-Z, founder of the agency that represents KD. However, they are a mess and, not owning their own 1st round pick means help from the draft is not coming. Giving that contract to Brook Lopez and Young limits their cap ability to add players to suit Durant’s skill set. Brooklyn should not be considered a threat in these sweepstakes due to their poor roster and cap space being tied in other assets.
Miami Heat: Finally a pipe dream. What move could be more typical of Pat Riley than luring KD in a financial miracle like the Big 3? However, despite Wade only signing a 1-year deal, Bosh and Dragic are locked up with max deals and Whiteside is likely to demand a a near max deal himself (just keeping him could be viewed as a miracle). So yeah, despite the fun in imagining this scenario, it is just a dream for Miami Heat fans.
By: Step-Back J