The 2015-16 NBA season ended with a bang, but there is no time to reminisce. While we have to wait until October for basketball we have the summer to focus on the other things. One of those other things is what Kevin Durant plans to do this summer. He is set to be the best player to hit the open market since LeBron James in 2010 and like James has no shortage of options.
He can stay in a good situation in Oklahoma City or skip town and put the league’s landscape on its ear. Durant is sure to hear everyone’s two cents in the coming weeks on what he should or should not do. The BMF’s Oliver Maroney and Mike Cortez give their two cents on what KD should do on July 1.
Oliver Maroney: My argument is simple. Kevin Durant should stay in Oklahoma City to keep his legacy. We talk about athletes not staying with one team, moving around and joining forces, KD wouldn’t become that. He has an opportunity to be on a young, athletic, and versatile team with a coach that’s in his first year in the NBA. You saw the Western Conference finals and we all witnessed how close they were to overcoming one of the greatest teams in NBA history, so there is no need to switch teams or move.
He’ll be able to go down as a loyal player who stayed with the same team. We’ve seen LeBron and what’s happened with his legacy because of his move away from Cleveland. I think it would be worse for KD because he’s already on a championship contending team.
Mike Cortez: My reason for him leaving is more business than anything. Yes they were a game away from the Finals, but every year the west is a hornets nest. If he wants to capture a ring the best way to do so is reach the Finals as much as possible. Moving to the east only LeBron will be a true hurdle, whereas the west he has to go through the Warriors, Spurs (mainly Kawhi Leonard), Clippers, and young teams like the Trail Blazers and Timberwolves.
OM: Sure, moving to the East where he has less competition makes sense, but it damages his reputation as a player and takes him out of that “couldn’t win by himself” bracket. I think it suits Durant’s personality to stay in Oklahoma City. KD has always struck me as an old fashioned, competitive, hard-working, and hard-nosed player, unlike others in the sport today. I think he is very well received in the basketball community because of those intangibles, it would just shock me if he left. You know he makes more money staying in Oklahoma City, right?
MC: Yeah he can make upwards of $30 million more for staying, but I think he can make any money left on the table back in endorsements. Durant is definitely old fashioned, but I think he should use his two Olympic buddies, LeBron and Carmelo Anthony, as examples. LeBron left Cleveland and while at first he caught heat (no pun intended) for the move ultimately the fans forgave because he came back. Melo stayed for the money and the rest is irrelevant history. If I’m Durant why not leave for three or four years make a Finals run easier on yourself and see what happens. He can always come back, but he can never re-enter free agency in his prime. That’s a lot to pass up on, no?
OM: He can also just sign a one-and-one (one year with another year as a player option) without having to go elsewhere and still be in his prime to assess the market again. Let’s also not forget his ties to the community in OKC. Durant has been there since the beginning and has really fostered a relationship with that city and town.
Those fans are some of the best in the NBA, selling out and really stabilizing that franchise. With Billy Donovan, Russell Westbrook, Durant and those fans, they’ve got a ton to sell to free agents. I think he will look at his options and realize what he has, knowing the right choice has been in his lap the entire time.
Everyone loves to be loved, so I don’t blame him for going through the recruiting and “courting” process! But just because he’ll speak to teams doesn’t mean he’ll go there. Deep down, Durant knows where he’ll end up, it’s in Oklahoma City. Who else has a top-five NBA player on their team without having to leave or tarnish his legacy to play with him?
MC: That one year deal would scare me given his foot problems a year ago. Whatever he decides this summer has to be long term. OKC brings the comfort and familiarity, but I believe Oklahoma City would respect him as long as he does everything the right way (i.e. do not join Golden State or announce the decision on live television). If he truly believes he can win with Westbrook he can go to a team where Westbrook can join the year after (a talking point teams like the Knicks, Heat, and Celtics should be pushing during their sit down) which is becoming more realistic with the league’s ever growing salary cap.
Sure Steven Adams was great, but when it came down to it the Thunder were just Westbrook and Durant. Wouldn’t you want to see what Westbrook and Durant can do with Kristaps Porzingis as a stretch five?
OM: The Knicks?! You’re crazy…the New York team with a delusional fan base? That team will not be getting Durant or Westbrook! The closest thing they’ll get is Derrick Rose. As far as the other teams, I still think it’s a stretch given what he’s put into this team. If there is any team that has a case, I’d think the Boston Celtics or Miami Heat make the most sense because their both “one piece away”. But even then, I just have an inkling Durant will be in Oklahoma City at least for the next year.
MC: Hey we’re delusional but we’ll we show up for games! I should have mentioned I was a delusional Knicks fan before we got started, that’s my bad. On a serious note, Durant can go to Boston who would also have space to bring on Russ with an amazing supporting cast and Pat Riley has his Masters in finessing. Why not roll the dice?
OM: Roll the dice to end up in a similar spot? I just don’t think it’s worth moving. He’s got a willing coach, a top-five player next to him, and a very frugal but very smart front office. I think if he’s going to roll the dice, it’d be next year when him and Russ are both out of contract, contingent on him signing that one year deal that I’d previously talked about.
MC: I am if my alternative is facing Kawhi and the Warriors for up to 20 games a season. LeBron has been unreal these past six years, but I think Durant can take him especially with the necessary pieces. I’m still not sold on Billy Donovan, I think the Thunder happened to peak at right time. I am however confident in Brad Stevens and even Erik Spoelstra.
That one year deal does make sense, but the risk of injury plus anticipation for his impending free agency will just be a distraction. I think at this point the Thunder are what they are and the chance of all them being healthy again is far from a given.
OM: Very true. Erik Spoelstra and Brad Stevens are both great coaching alternatives, if those were the other options.
If Durant signs for one year, then re-signs with the Oklahoma City Thunder, he’ll make almost $50 million more. I’d reckon that’s the best financial and business option for him based on that alone. The Spurs will have to rebuild their roster with Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan, and others still around. The Warriors have shown they have flaws.
So while both are extremely good this past season and still have a good case for Finals runs year-in and year-out, I don’t think it would be as big of a hurdle as many think. We’ve seen Oklahoma City move past the Spurs and take Golden State to the end. Given what they have and what they could do, I still feel their right up there with the best teams in the NBA and could still be five years from now. Stability, reliability, the lessened pressure of winning a title, and the money, are all secondary reasons but worth noting in this.
MC: He can sign that one year deal, but his foot can also start acting up or Russ can go down wasting another year of his prime. They can definitely get past all the teams in the west, but at the very same time they can get clipped by a Blazers team I think is on a similar rise that the Warriors are now on or the Wolves who look a lot like the Thunder did in 2008 and could have Jimmy Butler next season. That’s not happening in the east.
He is better than Carmelo Anthony and Paul George. He can beat LeBron with or without Russ. Lower seeds like the Hornets, Hawks, or Pistons are not upending Durant in the first round. We know what Durant can do with a great teammate, I want to see what happens when KD is the only guy. There can be a caged beast waiting to be sent on the league.
OM: I’d be interested to see what he’s like as the only guy, but I also think he enjoys Westbrook. They’ve seemed to grow closer as seasons progressed, I think he likes helping him. He’s almost like a big brother to Westbrook, that will be a big reason for why he stays.
MC: Great point. I think last season was their best together. With that being said, I still think at least a year on his own can answer the question how much do they need each other. I thought Durant had same relationship with James Harden, but that was not the case as Durant has already said he has no plans of entertaining Houston as a destination.
OM: I don’t think he needs to answer that question now. If they don’t win a title next year, maybe so. Durant and Westbrook aren’t exactly the perfect pair, but they seem to be learning from each other in a good way. I’m not opposed to the idea of Durant going out and seeing what he can find elsewhere. I just think he’ll realize Oklahoma City is best for his brand and reputation. If he leaves, it’s for a championship. If he stays, it’s for his brand, reputation, and the hope of getting a championship.
MC: I think he is better off answering that question now. Time is of the essence in the NBA especially right now where the talent pool is as big as it’s ever been. Leaving OKC will be tough on both the city and on him, but you can’t make business decisions with just your heart. He has to approach this with a business mindset. He’s only going to be in his prime once so he better make the best of it.
His loyalty to OKC has been strong, but ultimately he has to be loyal to himself. If there is even the tiniest of doubts about winning a title in the next four years he should tell Sam Presti he’ll be back one day just not for the next couple of years.