By: Grant Pomatto
With the NBA season just getting started and teams fighting for a position in the playoffs, it’s hard to think that we are already talking about the free agency talks for next summer. The biggest player on the block that every team wants has to be Kevin Durant from the Oklahoma City Thunder. With his 5 year $85 million contract coming to a close with the Thunder, people can’t help but think what it would be like for one of the top 5 players in the league on their team. On any team that is going to offer him a contract, they will have to clear a lot of space for them to give Durant a max contract. The cap for the Thunder would be $108 million for next free agency meaning he could stay one more year in the OKC so both he and Westbrook could go into free agency together and evaluate better where this Donovan era is going. With that being said, let’s take a look at the top contenders and a dark horse for Durant this summer if he decides to opt into free agency.
The Houston Rockets
Much like the other NBA teams, the Rockets want Durant. General Manager of the Rockets Daryl Morey is never one to shy away from superstar talent and will especially pursue Durant this next free agency. People like Dwight Howard and Ty Lawson could opt out of their contract and enter free agency leaving max space for Durant. The pros for Durant would be that he would be able to be next to his old buddy James Harden. Durant’s former teammate has the vision of a point guard, the skills of a superstar and let’s not forget about his beard of a lumberjack living in isolation. Along with Harden, as a team that relies heavily on the three-point shot, the Rockets will undoubtedly go after Durant as a power forward which would make him more deadly and more of a matchup nightmare. A few cons would be if Harden would stay the main man or would he take a backseat if Durant decided to be a Rocket next year. Also their frontcourt doesn’t have the cleanest bill of health and Howard is starting to become fragile as he approaches his 30s. I would say that the Houston Rockets are one of the ball clubs you could see Kevin Durant going to.
The Oklahoma City Thunder
Oklahoma City might as well be home for Durant. Durant has spent 9 years representing the organization that drafted him. Regardless how many teams come calling this summer, the Thunder are familiar, and bound to be at the top of Durant’s list. Durant, Ibaka and Westbrook are, when healthy, one of the most terrifying big threes. Very few teams will offer to play against two supreme ball players that are not even near the peak of their prime. These three are just getting started with each other. The Thunder, after years of avoiding the luxury tax, are giving out $97 million in base salaries. The luxury tax is no longer foreign to them, meaning they are ready to spend on their superstar. There are tricky times ahead however. If the Thunder were to change in the next few years, it would be because either Ibaka or Westbrook, or both left. They both are free agents in 2017 and if both decide to go, what’s in store for Durant’s and the Thunder’s future? But, more than anything, the Thunder have Durant’s loyalty and his desire to stay put. I see the Thunder as the number 1 favorite for Durant and Oklahoma City should not worry about him leaving.
The Washington Wizards
Durant was born in Washington and attended high school in Maryland. For someone who is proud of where is from, he wouldn’t mind trying to bring his hometown franchise only its second championship, and obviously hopefully many more. With John Wall, an inverse of Westbrook who passes first but still shoot the lights out of the ball, with Bradley Beal who would be able to take some pressure off of Durant with the fact that he hit close to 50 percent of his wide open threes last year. And the man in the middle Marcin Gortat, a pick-and-roll master who can spread the floor with his shooting ability as a big man, would help Durant in his game of attacking the basket eventually leading to defenders playing him to attack but instead has a enough room to pull up for a wide open J. There’s clearly a lot of talent on the Wizards however, Wall is the only said superstar on the team which might not look very appealing to a guy that just wants to win ball games and not about stats. I would take the Wizards very seriously in the contention of getting Kevin Durant because of the coming home argument that holds weight for the Wizards and the fact that that they’re good enough for Durant to think that he could possibly play with them.
The Golden State Warriors
Sign and trades aren’t as common as they used to be, but Golden State does have a number of options to offer if Durant becomes interested in the Warriors, but breaking up a team that is ready for a dynasty run. If the Warriors become interested, it is because they finally came to their senses and dropped Shaun Livingston and Jason Thompson with also parting ways with either Barnes or Bogut. With that being said, Golden State is one of the few teams that plays team basketball on offense. They pass the ball unlike any of Durant’s teammates right now. They would become even more explosive and would also be real talk around the organization about labeling them a dynasty. To get Durant, the Warriors would have to give up a lot in order to pay him the right amount. If the Warriors come calling with the right cap space and a foundation similar to what they have now, Durant would be wise to listen which is why the Warriors are my dark horse team that would land number 35. Warriors!!! Come out and play!!!
Though free agency is a long ways away I feel that Durant will stay in OKC at least for another year and then maybe enter free agency with Westbrook. So for now, Oklahoma City doesn’t have to worry about anything. As long as they keep winning and are contenders for the title every year, Durant will stay in his second home. I look to see a big contract in Durant’s future (probably close or over $200 million/10 years). But who knows. The only thing we can do is speculate where he will go next year. The only person that knows what he’s doing right now is number 35, Kevin Durant himself, and he isn’t even sure. We’ll just see how the year plays out. So sit back relax and watch the greatness that is Kevin Durant.