Free Agent Profile #1: Kevin Durant

“Basketball is just a platform, in order for me to inspire people.”

Kevin Durant in his MVP Speech

Divider

INT. OFFICE OF RICH KLEINMAN

(The phone on the desk rings)

Kleiman

“Hello?”

(Pause)

“No, Kevin is not interested in signing with your franchise. Thank you, goodbye.”

End Scene.

This will play itself out more than a few times this summer, as well it should: every team needs to at least inquire about Durant. The four-time scoring champ has returned from the foot injuries that ended his 2014-2015 campaign, but his absence, coupled with the ascension of Steph Curry, has pushed Durant from the forefronts of the minds of many NBA fans (the way he makes 28 points per game look effortless may actually be hurting him). Durant plays alongside Russell Westbrook, who is half Goku, half nuclear bomb, who plays with a destructive energy on the court that makes his game look all the more explosive.

It’s easy to get distracted by a point guard who plays like he’s moments away from spontaneous combustion.  Durant moves with such ease and grace that we’ve started to take him for granted.  Durant and Westbrook serve as the offensive yin and yang, and the pure talent shared between makes their team a threat to win no matter who opposes them.

Do you think your favorite team can offer Durant something better than Russell Westbrook?

Unless your team has Steph Curry, Gregg Popovich, or Lebron James, you shouldn’t.

Russell is under contract for the 2016-2017 season, but after that, he’ll join a potential point guard class that includes Steph Curry, Chris Paul, and Kyle Lowry.  Why wouldn’t Durant decide to give it one more shot at a ring in OKC?  If he sticks around for one more season, the duo can decide whether to leave or to stay – together.  

brother

Do you really want to break that up?

Still not convinced? There are three tiers of max contracts in the NBA. A max deal for a player with six or fewer years in the league would take up about 25 percent of the cap, a player in their seventh, eighth, or ninth year can make 30 percent, and a max deal for a player with ten more of NBA experience is 35 percent of the cap. The 2016-2017 season will be Durant’s tenth. Unless Durant desperately wants out of Oklahoma City, the sensible decision is to sign for two years with a player option, just like the deal that LeBron signed in Cleveland.

Based on cap projections 5 years with Thunder* 4 Years Elsewhere 1 Year, exercises option, 5 years with Thunder* 1 Year, exercises option, 4 years elsewhere
2016/2017 $24,900,000 $24,900,000 $24,900,000 $24,900,000
2017/2018 $26,767,500 $26,020,500 $35,603,000 $35,603,000
2018/2019 $28,635,000 $27,141,000 $38,273,225 $37,205,135
2019/2020 $30,502,500 $28,261,500 $40,943,450 $38,807,270
2020/2021 $32,370,000 XXXXXXXXXXX $43,613,675 $40,409,405
2021/2022 XXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXX $46,283,900 XXXXXXXXXX
Total $143,175,000 $106,323,000 $229,617,250 $176,924,810

 

*The Larry Bird Rule

With the predicted rise in the salary cap, Durant will make millions more by simply biding his time for one more year.

“But KD cares about more than money.”  

“LeBron, Wade, and Bosh all took pay cuts to win.”

“He wants to come home to D.C.”

Q61QGIGMLtuMtGJ4SNeAj1p4UsUmOjMHRUyr9xSz9xBAsjXv1H9p965GSX09JYElyOb18MMDwpSMnHbUad0SKg36ZZYSwBGpcuoVr1MBZ4UkvoYd74vhAODXUY6QO3H8ppimK9UYou’ll hear all manner of excuses from fans deluding themselves into thinking they have a chance to sign Durant; in fact, Bill Simmons is furiously running a red string across bulletin boards as we speak, trying to figure out a way to get Durant to Boston.

Next offseason could tell a different story.  A lot could happen in a year – hell, a lot could happen between now and July.  Yet, it’s nearly impossible for me to picture Kevin anywhere but OKC next season.

A two year max contract with a player option.

He can exercise the option after next year, and we’ll learn whether he intends to stay or to go. If he stays, the Thunder have full Bird rights and could possible offer KD a five year deal for upwards of $200 million. I think that’s a pretty good reason to not jump ship this summer.

By Tyler Marko