It has been less than 24 hours since the Oklahoma City Thunder were eliminated from the playoffs, but it seems that everyone is talking about Kevin Durant’s future.
Durant will be one of the most sought-after free agents this summer, and there is no guarantee that he will stay in Oklahoma City. While the possibility of staying with the Thunder is there, Durant has offered no details on his thought process up until this point.
The fact that one of the bigger headlines following last night’s Game 7 defeat is Durant and his upcoming free agency, and not the fact that the Thunder blew a 3-1 series lead, speaks volumes to how important Durant is to the franchise.
Durant has been asked his thoughts on his free agency in one way or another all season long. Everything he has said on the subject has been heavily scrutinized, especially when asked about certain teams that are considered the favorites to land him.
Just minutes after the Thunder’s loss last night, Durant was again asked about this summer and what his plans are.
“To be honest, I promise you I haven’t thought about that,” Durant told USA Today. “It’s hard to think about that. Especially right now, especially when you’re battling every single day. It’s hard. Give me a couple weeks and talk to me then, but I just don’t know right know, man.”
Durant is expected to be courted this summer by several teams, including the Washington Wizards, Miami HEAT, Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors among others.
The fact that teams are interested in signing Durant should come as no surprise. He was the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2014, and is one of the best players in the game today. It should also come as no surprise that Durant will meet with several teams this summer. As a free agent, it’s smart to do his due diligence – meeting with teams to hear their sales pitch.
Durant has maintained all season long the stance that he hasn’t thought about his plans this summer. There’s no question that he faces one of the most important decisions of his career. The Thunder organization (formerly the Seattle SuperSonics) is the only one that Durant has known and he will have to decide if the grass is really greener elsewhere.
Trying to predict where Durant might land has been challenging. One of the most-commonly asked questions NBA writers receive while speaking on sports talk shows across the country is, “Where will Durant ultimately land?” The answers are purely conjecture at this point, as Durant is likely the only one who knows what he wants to do. He said prior to the start of the season not to believe anyone except his close circle of advisers.
“I’ve got two people that I trust with my life: my agent and my manager, who’s my best friend as well,” Durant said back in October. “I trust them with my life. So if you hear sources or anything, don’t believe it if it didn’t come from them. I tell them everything. It’s not true if you didn’t hear it from Charlie Bell (Durant’s manager), Rich Kleiman (agent) or Kevin Durant.”
Durant’s message to fans regarding unnamed sources still hasn’t stopped some from publishing rumors regarding his free agency. Rumors have still surfaced, which has created even more buzz heading into this summer. While every team in the league has interest in signing Durant, the teams Durant will meet with will speak to where his mind is at.
We saw DeAndre Jordan nearly join the Dallas Mavericks last summer before he ultimately decided to re-sign with the Los Angeles Clippers. Jordan’s change of heart at the last second proves just how hard these free agency decisions can be for a player. Jordan had grown comfortable living in Los Angeles and didn’t want to leave what he had created with the Clippers.
One player spoke to Basketball Insiders recently regarding his upcoming free agency and he still was unsure what he was going to do. Most players are often so focused on the regular season and the work that goes into playing that they avoid the off-of-the-court matters until the offseason. These free agents often don’t want to begin looking ahead because they feel like they’ll let their teammates down by not being 100 percent committed to the season.
Regardless of where Durant will ultimately land, he will have a number of different contract options to work with. He can re-sign with the Thunder this summer for another five years or he can sign elsewhere for four years. He just completed his ninth season in the league and is eligible to earn 30 percent of the expected $92 million cap number next season. A five-year max-contract offer from the Thunder would be worth $150.2 million, while every other team can only offer $110.9 million over four years.
Durant can also take the route that we’ve seen LeBron James take over the past couple of seasons and sign a two-year deal with the Thunder this summer (with an opt-out after the first season) in order to take advantage of the rising salary cap. If he waits until next summer when he will have 10 years in the league, he will be eligible for 35 percent of the salary cap that is estimated to be around $108 million. If Durant takes this route, a max-contract for him would be worth $208.1 million over five years.
Most players who are set to hit free agency consider all of their options when choosing where to sign. Variables like money, playing time, teammates, coaches and how good a team is are all factors that players must think about. Durant just signed a new contract with Nike that is reportedly going to pay him $300 million over 10 years, so it remains to be seen if money will be a factor in his decision this summer.
If Durant waits until next summer before signing a long-term deal, he’d also be able to time his free agency up with Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka. It’s clear at this point that Durant has a ton of options available to him, and won’t have to make a decision until free agency begins on July 1.
In his last press conference of the season last night, Durant spoke very highly of the Thunder organization and his teammates. He said he sees bright things ahead for the team and is excited to be apart of them. Although he has the option to leave this summer, it wouldn’t be entirely surprising to see him stay in Oklahoma City for the foreseeable future.
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