The biggest prize of this free agency, Kevin Durant, has his six meetings set up. Everyone wants to have a shot at signing him, but only the Oklahoma City Thunder, Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Clippers have a shot at signing him.
Durant initially put the Thunder, his current team, Warriors and Spurs as the first team on his meeting schedule, but has now added the Celtics, Heat and Clippers, who seem like a surprising addition, never being mentioned during the season as one of the contenders to sign him. Both the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers would have loved to have a shot at signing Durant, but it doesn’t seem he has any interest in growing with a team in disarray. The Washington Wizards, his hometown team, missing the playoffs in 2016, are also out of the picture.
Durant, like most free agents, says it’s not about the money, but a whole array of factors. But if money plays a part, obviously staying in Oklahoma City is better. He can sign for $163.8 million over five years with the Thunder compared to $120.6 million over four years with everyone else, but that’s if he takes the 2016 five-year deal. Durant can sign a one year deal worth $28.2 million and sign a five or four year deal in 2017. The salary cap jumps from $94 million to $110 million, and he becomes a 10-year veteran, which means he can get 35% of the cap and not “just” 30%, raising his earning capabilities to $251.7 million over five years in Oklahoma City, or $192.9 million on other teams.
So what’s the scoop on each team?
- The Boston Celtics have $42 million in cap space, more than enough for Durant. They didn’t have the best of drafts, as it seems they’re not quite sure what to do with all their assets. But joining the Celtics puts Durant on a team that’s young, has made the playoffs twice in two years, with a head coach a lot of players want to play for. The Celtics have Tyler Zeller, Jared Sullinger and Evan Turner to re-sign, but that will only happen after Durant makes his decision
- The Thunder are where Durant has played since day 1. He’s made the NBA Finals with them in 2012, won the MVP in 2014 and has lost in three different conference finals. He’ll make more money there, he’s got Russell Westbrook next to him, and a team committed to trying and make things better. They might not always make the right choices, but the Thunder keep shuffling pieces around, like trading Serge Ibaka for Victor Oladipo
- The Warriors are coming off a record breaking regular season (73-9) and a game 7 finals loss. They’re the 2015 champions. They have the most talented team in the league. They have owners willing to spend. It gives Durant the chance to play with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. The Warriors have $14 million in cap space and they have to think about re-signing Harrison Barnes among other minor players. They’ll need to move someone (Andrew Bogut? Andrew Iguodala) to clear space for Durant
- The Spurs, if Tim Duncan opts out of his deal too (probably will, as he’s part of the recruiting team for Durant), will have $20 million in cap space to try and sign Durant. The Spurs have been something of a big rival for Durant over the years, with three playoff series, including one last season. Kawhi Leonard is the small forward on this team but the Spurs can get creative, like playing LaMarcus Aldridge at ‘5’, Durant at ‘4’ and Leonard at the ‘3’. The Spurs won the prize last season with Aldridge, and are a team that’s hard saying no to
- The Heat have always been in the picture, and all their moves since LeBron James left were angled towards this moment. Right now they have $45 million in cap space, but there’s Dwyane Wade to re-sign and also Hassan Whiteside. The Heat are always a easy sell considering the city attracts everyone. Pat Riley is another great persona to play under, and Erik Spoelstra has long ago established himself as a very good head coach. Durant might be wary of the team’s health situation, possibly ending up without the kind of depth and talent he expected to get once signing with them
- The Clippers are the long shots here, like the Celtics. They don’t have the cap space right now, and although playing next to Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan isn’t such a bad idea, their bench has always been an issue, and adding Durant to the mix creates a team with an awful bench, considering the trades necessary to make it work. However, we’ve been hearing about Griffin being traded for a while now. Maybe that’s the case here. Paul Pierce could be retiring too, something he’ll decide on in the next few weeks