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Wizards Top Thunder Alternative For Durant?

If Kevin Durant leaves the Thunder when he hits free agency next summer, it would be to go to his native Washington, D.C. to play for the Wizards, as a South Florida associate of Durant has repeatedly said to Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel for months. That said, the former MVP has distanced himself from South Florida of late, having recently sold a condo he had in Miami, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald notes amid a column that looks at the Heat’s chances of landing Durant. The Wizards, given Durant’s childhood ties to Washington, have long figured to be a prominent suitor, though league insiders who spoke to Grantland’s Zach Lowe were split regarding Washington’s chances, as Lowe wrote last month.

TNT’s David Aldridge in January called Washington’s bid for Durant a long shot but no longer a pipe dream as the Wizards were in the midst of a second straight season in which they’d advance to the second round of the playoffs. That’s more than the Thunder can say about their last two years, coming off this year’s failure to make the postseason. Of course, this season’s shortcomings in Oklahoma City had much to do with Durant’s broken foot, which ended his season prematurely after he appeared in only 27 games. Conference imbalance came into play, too, as Washington, the East’s fifth seed, was only one game better than the Thunder.

Thunder GM Sam Presti reportedly didn’t directly involve Durant in the decision-making as he hired new coach Billy Donovan, although a longstanding dialogue between Presti and Durant established a trust, as Durant made clear. In March, Durant once more spoke of his affection for Oklahoma City and said he would love to play for one team his entire career, while also cautioning that the future is unpredictable.

A person close to Durant told Frank Isola of the New York Daily News that Durant can envision playing with the Knicks, as Isola wrote in January, though an NBA GM told Adam Zagoria of around the same time that the Knicks have the same chance as several other contenders. That GM cited the Wizards, Lakers, Clippers and Nets among the non-Thunder teams in the running, but surely other teams will make more than passive runs at Durant next summer. They’ll be aided by the surging salary cap that would allow all but a few teams the chance to clear maximum-level cap room to make an offer to Durant.

The Wizards have only two players under guaranteed contracts, worth a combined total of about $29MM, for 2016/17, but they’re apparently poised to give Bradley Beal a maximum-salary deal, and the team has an option on Otto Porter for that season that the Wizards seem likely to pick up. Holding off on a max extension for Beal and instead giving him a new contract for the max next summer would allow the Wizards to keep the shooting guard’s cap hold relatively low and help facilitate a pursuit of Durant.

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