The NBA is going through an earthquake, as Kevin Durant leaves the Oklahoma City Thunder for the warm embrace of the Golden State Warriors. The league is changing as we speak, with the Dallas Mavericks leaping on leavings like Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan probably retiring and the San Antonio Spurs replacing him with Pau Gasol, and the Oklahoma City Thunder now facing a huge Russell Westbrook problem.
The Warriors themselves are doing some re-shuffling to accommodate Durant, signing a two-year, $54.3 million deal, with a player option on the second season. Just like everyone expected, only most people, before the series of meeting began, were confident he’d stay in Oklahoma City. Why not? A title contender, with a superstar and friend to play next to him in Westbrook. Durant has been critical once or twice before, without mentioning LeBron James in name, of a star leaving a team like this. But I guess losing to the Warriors in the playoffs, along with Nike possibly pushing him in that direction, and others influencing him along with the Warriors impressive pitch, paved the way for what might lead to the Thunder going into complete rebuild mode.
It’s now all about Westbrook, who is one more year left on his deal. Forget about the amount of money he’s going to make. He’ll be entering free agency as the cap possibly jumps to around $110 million. He, along with a few others, will have a chance to sign bigger deals than the ones we’re seeing this season, including the one Mike Conley got. But the question is whether or not he’ll go in the Damian Lillard direction, or lead the Thunder towards wiping out everything and starting from scratch.
The Thunder will offer him an extension. If he doesn’t sign, they’ll start thinking about trading him. At $17.7 million for a season, even if he’s just a one-year rental, for a lot of teams he’s worth, because of how much he’ll bring to them. The problem is finding a team to make that trade work in terms of giving the Thunder the pieces they’d like. Not a lot of borderline contenders have that to give, so moving Westbrook will be done, only it won’t be that simple. But maybe the allure of doing like Damian Lillard in Portland after LaMarcus Aldridge left is big for Westbrook. He’s always loved being THE man, and now he has the chance to do it, while putting up the insane stat lines we saw from him while Durant was missing most of the 2014-2015 season. An MVP type season.
In order to fit the Durant contract, the Warriors are making a number of moves: Trading Bogut to the Mavericks, rescinding their tender to Barnes, making him an unrestricted free agent, which means he’ll join the Mavericks too, with whom he haves a verbal agreement, and not keeping Festus Ezeli, while not being on the lookout for minimum salary players. Rumor has it a number of veterans are looking to cash in on possibly the most frontloaded NBA team in history.
Once the Durant news came out, it was obvious Bogut or Iguodala were going to be traded. It was always going to be Bogut, but some general managers sms journalists about not willing to take the Bogut trade just to make the Warriors pay for “ruining the competitiveness in the league” as some referred to it, although if you wanna blame someone, blame Durant. Why should the Warriors say no when this good of a player wants to join? The Mavericks didn’t wait long, although the final details haven’t been hashed out. He’ll most likely be joining Barnes in Dallas. The Warriors wanted to send Bogut to a team he likes, and he’s also good friends with Barnes.
Last but not least, the Spurs. The biggest contenders to the Warriors didn’t play them in the conference finals, and were waiting on Tim Duncan to announce his retirement. He still hasn’t announced it yet, but it seems like it’s over for the big man after 19 seasons, five NBA championships, three Finals MVPs and two-time regular season MVP. Maybe he was going to do it anyway, maybe he saw what he’s up against and decided that at 40, it’s a bit too much for him.
The Spurs will sign Pau Gasol on a two-year, $30 million deal, bringing in a big man who might not be as good as Duncan defensively, but can do a lot more damage on offense, not to mention younger (if you can call Gasol young). However, in order to sign Gasol, the Spurs are now looking to move Boris Diaw, which means one of their biggest tiebreakers leaving the bench. Important moves to stay afloat, but maybe it all doesn’t matter with the monster the Warriors have created.