Kevin Durant is under contract for one more season with the Oklahoma City Thunder. But unless he signs an extension (which he has zero incentive to do), KD is going to be a free agent in 2016. It’s already been a hot topic for a year now, but after seeing how insane free agency was this summer, it’s safe to say that next year will be like nothing we’ve ever witnessed.
Why? Well, there are two reasons that point to all 30 teams (technically) having a chance at Durant.
1. The salary cap will rise to ~$90 million
After rising to $70 million for next season (a $7 million jump), the cap is rumored to leap another $20 million entering the 2016-17 campaign. With that kind of addition to the cap, every single team in the league will have the kind of money it takes to make Durant an offer (and if they don’t, it will be simple enough for them to clear room).
Imagine how frantic teams have been going after LeBron in his last two free agencies (not counting this summer). There have been four or five rumored teams involved each time. Of course, KD isn’t going to go and sign with the 76ers, but there should be at least 10 realistic options that can offer Durant a winning situation since everyone will have the flexibility to do so.
2. DeAndre Jordan
It might not be ethical, but everyone saw what just happened to the Mavericks. If a prize like Durant is on the line, and he’s reached an “agreement” with a team, but can’t sign for another four days, who’s to say other organizations won’t still be harassing him to change his mind? Honestly, after what we saw happen this summer, I can totally see it happening.
Picture it — “Kevin Durant agrees to 4-year max contract with hometown Wizards.” KD steps into the gym the next morning and all the lights go off. He wakes up handcuffed to the basket with Sam Presti, Russell Westbrook and the rest of the OKC pitch team there to change his mind. Maybe that’s a big extreme … but not by much.
On a serious note, if Durant really does decide to leave the Thunder, here are a few early candidates to pry him away.
The Obvious: Washington Wizards
We all know KD is from D.C. and would have no problem going back. With John Wall and Bradley Beal already in place, the basketball aspect certainly makes sense, so this wouldn’t be just selling out for his hometown. In the east, Durant would have a very realistic chance of winning a title every singe year. Imagine that first Cavs/Wiz Eastern Conference Finals? Now THAT would be fun.
The Desperate: Dallas Mavericks
This would be a whole lot more fun if Jordan was in Dallas, but after missing out on him in the fashion it did, Cuban is going to make the biggest pitch of his life to KD next summer. Remember, Durant did play a year at Texas, so this will have a “coming home” ring to it as well — even though it really isn’t at all (players love sales pitches these days, though). The bottom line is that the Mavericks are always very big players in free agency, and Cuban is the type of guy players love to play for. Can’t rule them out, they’re hungry.
The Powerhouse: Los Angeles Clippers
If we knew for sure that Durant wanted to go to L.A., then letting Jordan go to the Mavs would have been ideal. They could sign KD outright and build a Big Three with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Imagine that small-ball lineup with Durant and Griffin at the 4 and 5 with CP3 at the controls? LAC could try and add Durant to their core with Jordan if they cleared enough space, starting with J.J. Redick and Lance Stephenson. But more likely, if things continue to not workout with DeAndre, they find a trade partner or sign-and-trade to swap DJ and KD.
The Sleeper: Golden State Warriors
Why not? If they can make Durant fit with Steph Curry then go for it. And if they can do it while keeping Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, then by all means. Who needs a center if you can roll out that foursome and ball? Hell, you might not even need a bench. Harrison Barnes would leave as a free agent and then GSW would need to clear expiring contracts like Andre Iguadala and Andrew Bogut when the time rolls around. A small price to pay in the big picture.
The “We Think We Have a Chance but Definitely Don’t:” New York Knicks/Los Angeles Lakers
Had to throw this in just because.
By the time next summer arrives, half the league will feel they have a realistic chance of landing the big prize. And they’ll be willing to play hardball to do so. It’s going to be entertaining if anything.
Find me on Twitter @julianedlow