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And so it begins. Kevin Durant is an unrestricted free agent. The two-time Finals MVP declined his $31.5 million player option with the Warriors, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports Duran
And so it begins. Kevin Durant is an unrestricted free agent.
The two-time Finals MVP declined his $31.5 million player option with the Warriors, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports Duran
NBA FREE AGENCY: Latest news, rumors on Kevin Durant
With Durant now on the market, the rumors regarding his next move will only intensify before free agency officially begins Sunday at 6 p.m. ET. The terrible Achilles injury he suffered in the NBA Finals hasn't reduced interest in him around the league. Durant will be expecting a full max contract from any general manager trying to sign him.
Based on all the reporting to this point, he has four primary suitors, though an outside team could always emerge. Let's start with the obvious.
Kevin Durant re-signs with the Warriors
If Durant values financial security above all else, his free agency won't last long.
The Warriors hold a clear advantage here with the ability to offer a supermax contract with an extra year and $57 million more than any outside team.
Kevin Durant max contractWarriorsNew teamTotal$221 million$164 millionYears54Average$44.2 million$41 million
However, it's not that simple. One league executive told Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher that Durant is "really pissed off" with the Warriors because of how they handled his injury and the role the team played in his decision to take the floor against the Raptors in the NBA Finals. If Durant can't trust Golden State's medical staff, how could he stay?
Another unconventional possibility: The Warriors agree to a sign-and-trade with Durant. ESPN's Brian Windhorst recently explained on "Get Up" why this could work for both sides.
"For the lack of a better term, it would be a delayed sign-and-trade, because this is the only way Durant can get five years and play elsewhere. And I'll just be honest with you, the Warriors going to this is a bit of a last-ditch effort to not lose Kevin Durant for nothing. And what he would get out of it would be an extra $57 million coming off of a devastating injury. He would be protected and get all of his money. Now, you have to trust the Warriors that they'd actually work with you in a trade, but it's something that's at least been discussed as an option."
Will this happen? Probably not. Being halfway in, halfway out creates problems. It would be best for Durant to either commit to the Warriors or start fresh.
Durant knows the Warriors. It's an elite organization with a great coach in Steve Kerr and All-Star players in Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson (assuming he re-signs this summer).
But even accounting for those factors, he could be leaning toward a switch to the Eastern Conference.
Kevin Durant signs with the Nets
Yes, the Warriors can offer Durant the biggest contract, but that doesn't necessarily mean they should be considered the favorites to sign him.
The Nets — formerly known as the, "Oh crap, we just sent away our entire future to Boston" Nets — hold the best odds to land Durant this offseason. Brooklyn is "gaining confidence" it can pull off a Durant-Kyrie Irving double play in free agency, per Windhorst.
The latest on Kevin Durant's free agency with @WindhorstESPN - oh, and @KendrickPerkins says don't count the Nets out. pic.twitter.com/Yo43heg6s9
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) June 24, 2019
Durant has reportedly already met with Irving multiple times to discuss playing together, and Irving is also trying to recruit DeAndre Jordan, one of Durant's close friends. The Nets possess the cap space and flexibility to put all of the pieces together.
It's difficult to know exactly what the Nets would look like following the potential signings of Durant and Irving, but the organization has done a terrific job building a strong culture. Brooklyn has developed guys like D'Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, Joe Harris and Jarrett Allen. General manager Sean Marks assembled a coaching staff and roster that made an unlikely playoff push in 2019. Imagine what could be accomplished with legitimate superstars.
Going through the rehabilitation process in that kind of positive environment could be appealing to Durant. Whenever he does return, the Nets might be a ready-made contender in the East.
Kevin Durant signs with the Knicks
Once considered a lock to add Durant, the Knicks now find themselves behind the Nets. Warriors forward Andre Iguodala went so far as to say no one is going to the Knicks.
It would be unwise to remove New York from the race, though.
The Knicks will meet with both Durant and Kawhi Leonard at the start of free agency before shifting toward secondary targets, according to The Athletic's Frank Isola. The Leonard meeting feels like a swing for the fences, but Durant is still very much in play because the Knicks can present an opportunity unlike any other.
If Durant brings the Knicks a championship, he will become a hero in New York and elevate his legacy. The fan base is so desperate that a trip to the Eastern Conference semifinals would be cause for celebration. There's nothing quite like finding success under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden (it doesn't hurt that he's also extremely close with Knicks assistant Royal Ivey; Durant is the godfather of Ivey's daughter).
And Durant wouldn't have to do it all on his own. With Durant out for the entire 2019-20 season, the Knicks could develop youngsters RJ Barrett, Dennis Smith Jr., Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson, select another top prospect in the 2020 NBA Draft and roll over their cap space if they don't like their options this summer.
The Knicks are willing to sign Durant with no other stars guaranteed, according to Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix. This could be his franchise, his chance to shut down any remaining critics who believe he just attached himself to an already up-and-running dynasty.
Kevin Durant signs with the Clippers
Los Angeles is locked in on Leonard, who will likely decide between the Clippers and Raptors in free agency. As The Athletic's Sam Amick said back in February, the Clippers' "grand plan" was forming a dynamic duo of Leonard and Durant.
If Leonard wants to stay in Toronto, could Durant alone become Plan B?
Much like the Nets, the Clippers have a strong foundation in place. General manager Michael Winger knows Durant from his days as assistant general manager with the Thunder. Team consultant Jerry West helped the Warriors bring Durant to the Bay Area. Head coach Doc Rivers just led a scrappy bunch to the playoffs and pushed Golden State to six games.
Unfortunately for the Clippers, they might always be the second squad in LA. Durant might not want to be overshadowed by LeBron James and Anthony Davis in his own city. This wouldn't be nearly as exciting as being a Knicks legend.
Still, the Clippers will be in consideration, per Wojnarowski. Don't be surprised if Durant at least meets with the front office when free agency kicks off.