It isn’t quite The Decision, but it’s close.
Roughly six years after LeBron James took his talents to South Beach, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant has the chance to alter the NBA landscape when he enters unrestricted free agency July 1.
As expected, there are suitors aplenty for the 27-year-old superstar. But some have a better shot at landing KD than others, and at the top of that list are the six teams reportedly expected to conduct meetings with Durant when free agency begins: the Thunder, Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat and Boston Celtics.
Of course, Durant could surprise everyone and sign with another team not on that list. For the sake of our sanity, though, we’ll stick to this sextet and rank them from least likely to most likely to win the Durant sweepstakes.
6. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers benefit from a strong market, a talented roster and a solid front office led by head coach/president of basketball operations Doc Rivers. That said, they’d likely have to move forward Blake Griffin in a sign-and-trade to make room for Durant’s maximum contract, and while the Clippers would be serious title contenders with the seven-time All-Star, they’d still have to get past the Warriors and the Spurs in a loaded Western Conference.
5. Boston Celtics
Yes, Brad Stevens is an excellent coach. Yes, the Celtics have a talented young roster and are loaded with assets. But they’re not quite at “title contender” level yet. Boston’s failure to add an established veteran in a draft-night trade means the Celtics will have to lure at least one other big-name free agent outside Durant. The Hub never has been a premier free agent destination, so that task will be easier said than done.
4. Miami Heat
If Durant decides to jump ship to the less competitive Eastern Conference, Miami is his most likely landing spot. The Heat boast a promising young core, Dwyane Wade should have a few good seasons left in him and Miami is a star-friendly market. The Heat also have Pat Riley, the headstrong team president who was able to bring James to Miami in 2010, on their side.
3. San Antonio Spurs
We shudder to think what head coach Gregg Popovich could do with Durant added to his already well-balanced squad. The market isn’t ideal and San Antonio’s Big Three is in its twilight stages, but a trio of Durant, Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge would be more than enough to give KD a very, very strong shot at his first ring.
2. Golden State Warriors
From a pure basketball perspective, the Warriors have the strongest pitch on this list: They won an NBA-record 73 games last season and came back from a 3-1 series deficit to knock off Durant’s Thunder in the Western Conference finals. Durant might have to share a bit with the likes of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, but Golden State’s high-octane, free-flowing offense would be a perfect fit for the versatile sharpshooter.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder
With all due respect to the league’s other 29 teams, Durant is the Thunder’s star to lose. General manager Sam Presti made a shrewd move on draft night by dealing the declining Serge Ibaka for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and No. 11 pick Domantas Sabonis, improving a squad that came within one game of this year’s NBA Finals.
What makes the most sense for Durant is signing a two-year maximum contract with OKC, with a player option for Year 2. That would allow him to make one more run at a title with the franchise he began his career with, then seek a more lucrative contract when the NBA’s new TV deal raises the salary cap ahead of the 2017-18 season.
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