The biggest free agent of the 2016 summer will be Kevin Durant (although he’s not alone), and while staying with the Oklahoma City Thunder is the more lucrative option financially, playing for the Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers and Washington Wizards isn’t such a bad option for him.
It doesn’t seem like anyone’s considering that Durant’s injuries from last season are going to halt his rise. He played very well in the Team USA minicamp, some saying looking as unstoppable as ever, against elite competition. Durant played just 29 games in 2014-2015, hence the Thunder not making the playoffs, averaging 25.4 points per game. A healthy Durant should be once again the best offensive machine in the league, and maybe the favorite to win the MVP next to LeBron James.
The Thunder have been known to being cautious financially, but can they afford to low-ball Durant and see him walk away? Lowballing for the Thunder, being the team that retains him, can still be more than any other team will be able to offer him, but that would be considered disrespectful, and an act that might make him leave, feeling others want him more and are willing to do more to sign him.
The Wizards keep getting mentioned because of Durant growing up in the DC area. Playing next to John Wall and whoever else will be on the team at that point doesn’t sound that bad, but are the Wizards going to look like contenders; enough for Durant to want to play for them?
The Miami Heat need to prove this season, hopefully not losing too many players to injuries, that they’re good enough to go all the way in an Eastern conference that seems to be under the rule of the LeBron dictatorship. Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Goran Dragic aren’t bad players to partner up with. Having Hassan Whiteside at center seems like a nice bonus as well. But possibly playing for the Lakers and remaining in the West will be more enticing.
The Lakers always get mentioned in the big-name free agency debate although they seem to be on the losing end of it in recent years. The promise of young talent like D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle, while the departure of Kobe Bryant, could make signing with the Lakers, who’ll have plenty of cap space for more than just Durant, could be very attractive for the 2014 league MVP. However, the Lakers need to show this season they’re capable of moving up again, and being a platform for contending.
In 2015-2016, Kevin Durant will make $20.158 million, his final of his current contract, before becoming a free agent. His next deal? The Thunder might be able to offer him close to $200 million for five years, although no one knows what the numbers will be once the new TV money comes in. The league is trying to curb the salary cap raise, but the players, using the threat of another lockout, will try to push for all the money possible to them.
With around $40 million a year coming from his current team (and other teams possibly being able to offer him “just” $31 million a season over four years as a max contract), the Thunder’s offer might be too difficult to ignore. We’ve already seen players passing more money for a better shot at a title, and another disappointing season for the Thunder (anything less than making the NBA Finals by our guess) could be the one that pushes Kevin Durant into the arms of another team.