The Warriors would be “significant” front-runners for Kevin Durant should he leave the Thunder this summer, league sources told Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports, who places emphasis on the word “significant.” Still, the former MVP isn’t leaning one way or another toward staying or leaving Oklahoma City, Wojnarowski adds. The Wizards, Rockets and Heat still loom as likely suitors, but the Clippers are determined to make a push for him and wouldn’t hesitate to trade Blake Griffin to facilitate the acquisition of Durant, as Wojnarowski details.
Durant wants to win titles and create a legacy, Wojnarowski writes, and the Warriors, the defending champions who sit at 44-4 this season, would give him a strong chance to do so. Draymond Green is on board with the move and is expected to recruit Durant this summer, though Stephen Curry, given his talent and personality, would be the most persuasive voice, Wojnarowski adds, nonetheless leaving it unclear whether Curry is expected to go as hard after Durant as Green is.
Golden State has long eyed Durant’s upcoming free agency, Wojnarowski notes, and so has much of the rest of the NBA, of course. The Warriors nonetheless have a reputation for aiming high, and Harrison Barnes, set for restricted free agency at season’s end, looms as a sign-and-trade chip, as Tim Kawakami of the Bay Area News Group has pointed out.
The Warriors have close to $75MM committed for next season against a salary cap that’s projected to come in at $89MM, and with Durant’s maximum salary projected at $24.9MM, that creates a financial road block. However, Wojnarowski’s Vertical colleague Bobby Marks lays out a hypothetical scenario in which the Warriors trade Andre Iguodala, waive and stretch Andrew Bogut, waive and stretch Jason Thompson, renounce their rights to and elect against a qualifying offer for Barnes and renounce other cap holds to create enough cap room to sign Durant outright.
The Clippers, with close to $78MM in guaranteed salary for next season, would need to perform similar cap gymnastics to open the space necessary to sign Durant, making the sign-and-trade a more viable option. The Thunder wouldn’t go for a sign-and-trade unless they knew Durant was leaving, according to Wojnarowski, who nonetheless points out that Griffin, who starred for the University of Oklahoma, is an Oklahoma native. Teams are already calling the Clippers to inquire about trading for the injured Griffin, but coach/executive Doc Rivers appears set on keeping him and seeing how the team performs in the postseason, Wojnarowski writes.