The Battle for Durant Begins

July 1st is the beginning of the pursuit. We all knew it was coming. Kevin Durant begins his selection process. With the massive TV deal leading to the rising cap, Durant will have many options. He has narrowed it down to six teams; the Thunder, Warriors, Spurs, Celtics, Heat, and Clippers. I have dissected the candidates.

Thunder- No brainer. Durant was drafted by the Thunder (Supersonics) number 2 overall in the 2007 NBA draft. Durant has blossomed into a superstar with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The 7X All-Star described as the “scoring prodigy” has won the scoring title four times. The humble face of the franchise, Durant is the leader and identity of the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder had already begun to make moves, trading Serge Ibaka for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and the rights to Damontis Sabonis (11th pick in the draft.) Before Durant makes any decision (no TV special needed), the Thunder will take priority, his loyalty lying with the team that became his home, a city that he has yet to bring a championship too. Falling just short of taking his team to the finals, Durant will surely be conversing with superstar teammate Russell Westbrook on his future plans before making a decision. With all of the new additions, if there was any year to stay, this would be it.

Warriors Durant wants to win a title. Every player wants to win, however, a player of Durant’s caliber needs to win. In order to be considered one of the greats Durant needs a championship under his belt, if not multiple. Signing with the Warriors may all but guarantee a ring for Durant. The Warriors are stacked. Yes, they may have choked this time around in the finals, but there is no disputing the level of talent they have on their team. You don’t win 73 games in a season without that talent. Add Durant and the level of talent rises to epic proportions. Now, chemistry also has to be taken into consideration. Does Durant fit in with the Warriors? The Warriors will always be Steph’s team. Can Durant handle being second fiddle? What about Thompson?  Durant has something to prove, I don’t see him accomplishing that with the Warriors. In a perfect world, Steph and Durant would just put up a clinic for all to see. The idea is just not realistic, human element comes into effect, egos come into effect.

Spurs- On paper, this is a match made in heaven. Durant fits seamlessly into the Spurs rotation.  With Duncan likely retiring, the Spurs will be looking to bring in fresh, young talent. Last year’s addition of Lamarcus Aldridge playing alongside defensive player of the year Kawhi Leonard leading the helm, provides an enticing landscape for Durant to sink his heels. Durant surely fits in with the culture. His calm demeanor laid back style is something that Popovich and the Spurs are used to. The current formula has been successful. Five championships since 99, the Spurs built a dynasty led by work horse veteran Tim Duncan and PG Tony Parker. It would make sense that Durant would want to go to a team led by one of the best coaches in the game, in a state with no state tax, and with an opportunity to lead the team back to glory. This situation can go either way.

Celtics- Just picture it. KD in Green, charging out of the tunnel at the TD Bank North Garden to his first NBA title, 18th franchise title, permanently stamping his title as one of the greatest of all time. This is the scrawny kid that was chosen second to Greg Oden (gotta love the NBA draft) in 2007. Durant is not about wasting anyone’s time. JHe wants to go where he can lead his team and win a title. A place he can call home, cement his legacy. No better place than the Celtics. The Celtics are an organization rich with tradition, from Larry Bird to Bill Russell, no one can argue the deep history seeping through Legends Way around the Garden. Currently, they have a solid young defensive team and the money to spend to acquire one or two missing pieces.  Durant has raved about the Celtics organization before. They are definitely the dark horse in this game.

Heat- All honesty, outside of the weather and no state tax I have no idea why he would choose to go to the Heat. Whiteside is a free agent and will most likely sign elsewhere, Wade will likely be resigned, but is on the downside of his career, and no Bosh. The Heat are expected to enter free agency with about $42 million in cap space, there would have to be some maneuvering on the part of the Heat to sign Durant and still have a team around him that can compete for the title. No thanks.

Clippers- Laker haters everywhere are rejoicing at the thought that Durant would consider the Clippers over the Lakers. Up until the last couple of years, the Clippers were a lowly franchise, never really in the conversation. Well, things have changed, they are now. However, one thing is certain, someone will need to go, that someone most likely Blake Griffin. The Clippers have had plenty of talent; superstars, a solid bench, yet, there was something missing. The Clippers could never get pull it together, even with Doc Rivers at the helm. Yet, after what was an eventful offseason with the Deandre Jordan fiasco last summer, one would believe that incident had set the precedent for the rest of the year. Injuries, fights, and purely lacking fundamentals led to the demise of the 2015-16 Clippers. Would Durant be the answer? I don’t see Durant excelling in the Hollywood limelight. The pretentious fodder and lack of substance is enough to make anyone nauseous. But, in Durant’s case, he doesn’t need all of the hoopla. He just needs to play the game he loves and win a championship doing it.

Final Thoughts: Durant will maintain his loyalty and stay with the Thunder for one more year with the option for a second. After the Thunder come up short once again, he will consider his options (at a much higher contract offering) and again entertain offers before he makes his decision. First choice: Celtics, they make the most sense while allowing him the opportunity to play his game. Second choice: Spurs.

Durant ultimately wants to go to a franchise that will:

  • Build around him- bring in players that will complement his style of play. Bring him tools that will help him win.
  • Provide him with the key to the city- Durant wants to be the franchise, more than anything he wants to win.  The team that signs him needs to give him free range and trust him to lead.
  • Pay him what he deserves- At the current market with the new salary cap, that will be plenty.
  • Show him why he wants to play for you and no one else (tradition, pedigree, coaching, reputation, etc.)