The theory among the teams eager to pursue Kevin Durant this summer is that the Thunder’s second-round series against the Spurs will decide whether he leaves Oklahoma City, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Durant would stay if the Thunder win and leave if they lose, Stein relays, stressing that it’s merely an assumption among the front offices. The Spurs, with the series tied 1-1, indeed have designs on luring Durant to San Antonio, Stein hears, echoing what several rival executives suggested to Chris Mannix of The Vertical in March.
Zach Lowe of ESPN.com recently compared the talk about Durant joining the Spurs as “eerily similar” to the early rumblings that connected LaMarcus Aldridge to San Antonio last year. Still, the Warriors loom as another powerful suitor, and The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported in February at that they would be significant front-runners for Durant if he were to leave the Thunder. Golden State is optimistic about its chances, and chatter has gone on since the Warriors’ record 24-0 start about the kinship Durant formed on Team USA with Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala, Stein writes. The Wizards, Heat, Celtics, Rockets, Lakers and Clippers are planning hard pushes for Durant, too, according to Stein, who cautions that it’s premature to peg any team aside from the Thunder as the favorite to land him.
Neither the Warriors nor the Spurs have the cap flexibility to sign Durant for his max of an estimated $26MM for next season without making trades, waiving players via the stretch provision, or both. The Vertical’s Bobby Marks illustrated a scenario involving maneuvers that would give the Warriors enough room to sign Durant, and Danny Leroux of The Sporting News laid out San Antonio’s path. The Clippers would have to offload either Chris Paul, Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan, as I noted in our offseason outlook for the team earlier today.
The teams who assume Durant will stay with the Thunder if Oklahoma City advances to the next round of the playoffs suggest he’d go for a two-year contract with a player option on year two, the same sort of contract LeBron James favors, according to Stein. That would allow Durant the flexibility for him to hit free agency again next summer, when Russell Westbrook‘s contract expires, and it would represent the most lucrative path for the former MVP, as I examined. Still, Durant told Stein at the All-Star break that he hadn’t considered such a contract structure.