League insiders believe the second-round win over the Spurs was enough to keep Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City, according to Bobby Marks of The Vertical. In a video, Marks says the most likely scenario is for Durant to sign a one-year deal with the Thunder worth about $25.9MM that includes a player option for 2017/18.
Next summer, Durant will have 10 years of NBA experience and will become a Tier Three Max player, which means Oklahoma City could offer him more than $200MM over five seasons. If Durant opts for a long-term deal this offseason, OKC can offer five years at about $145MM. Risks involved in choosing a single-season deal are Durant’s injury history and the possibility of a new collective bargaining agreement next year that would shake up the league’s salary structure. Marks lists the Spurs, Heat, Celtics and Warriors as teams expected to make a run at Durant, while ESPN’s Marc Stein (via Twitter) adds the Rockets, Knicks, Lakers, and Wizards to that list.
Durant told Sam Amick of USA Today that he was able to push the free agency issue aside and concentrate fully on every playoff game. “If this would have happened four years ago, I would have been everywhere – my mind would have been everywhere,” he said. “So I’m happy that I was able to focus and lock in and give my all to my team every single night.” Whether it’s a clue to his decision or not, Durant later added, “I see bright things for this team. And it’s great to be a part of it.”
San Antonio, Miami and Golden State are the top contenders if Durant decides to go elsewhere, writes Frank Isola of the New York Daily News. Isola contends the Knicks could be helped if Durant opts for a one-year contract because it gives them another season to improve, along with another year of growth for rookie Kristaps Porzingis.
The Knicks hurt their case when they fired coach Derek Fisher, Durant’s former teammate, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Two advantages they have are that Carmelo Anthony, who has a good relationship with Durant, wants to be part of the recruitment process, and that Durant’s father is a longtime fan of the Knicks. However, New York assistant Brian Keefe, who was Durant’s workout partner in Oklahoma City, reportedly won’t be part of Jeff Hornacek’s new staff.
The odds against Durant signing with the Heat are even greater than they were against LeBron James coming to Miami in 2010, argues Ethan Skolnick of The Miami Herald. Skolnick writes that team president Pat Riley’s best chance is to sell Durant on the possibility of winning a championship with the Heat. However, the 55-win Thunder are also serious title contenders, Durant doesn’t have a close relationship with any of the Miami players like James did with Dwyane Wade and the new restrictions on sign-and-trade deals make it more difficult for players to recoup whatever money they give up to sign with another team.
Durant and the Clippers could both change their postseason fortunes if they unite, writes Dan Woike of The Orange County Register. Woike notes that L.A. won’t have the money to pursue the OKC star because two thirds of its cap room is tied up in Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, but he argues that it might be worth trading one of those three to create the room to sign Durant.
Durant’s friendship with James Harden and the addition of an offensive-minded coach in Mike D’Antoni give the Rockets a least a fighting chance of landing Durant, according to Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com. In addition, Rex Kalamian, who may join D’Antoni’s staff, coached both Harden and Durant when he was an assistant with the Thunder.