There are free agents, superstar free agents, then there are seismic forces which alter the very landscape of the league with their movements. Kevin Durant is the kind of free agent who comes along once in a decade. You can be sure that prospective teams will spare no effort or expense in trying to lure him.
Kevin Durant is heading the 2016 NBA Free Agency extravaganza, and his activities thus far have not been disappointing. There is a chance that he will choose to sign an exorbitant two-year deal with the second year being a player option. He’s expected to make his decision within the next two days.
Here's a look at the potential landing spots for one of the top 5 players in the NBA:
#1 Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder are the patient wife who waits at home while the husband roams, confident in the fact that he can’t get any better elsewhere. Only in this case the Thunder are sweating bullets and praying that the power of a 'hero who stays with one team' narrative trumps the attraction of getting to play with a number of all-stars or perhaps playing in the relatively tamer Eastern Conference.
The Thunder can offer Durant more money. They can offer two familiar talents in Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams. There is also the morbid question of loyalty, in a sport where that word means very little. Durant does seem to be leaning towards re-signing with the Thunder.
Now that the Thunder pillaged the Magic by netting Victor Oladipo, their chances seem even better. “His decision is 90 percent made. It would take an amazing sales pitch to change it,” said one of Durant’s old friends.
#2 Golden State Warriors
The Warriors winning the title seemed like a foregone conclusion until LeBron James had his say. The Warriors seem to be as complete a team as one can ask for. There is no question that the addition of Durant will turn this offensive juggernaut into a supernova, but the fact remains that there is only one basketball to be shared.
As the old adage goes, 'Defense wins championships.' The deciding moment of Game 7 of the NBA Finals was LeBron James' block on Andre Iguodala. He blocked Curry numerous times as well. The final score of Game 7 was 93-87. The Warriors may have lost more than the championship, they may have lost a chance at landing Durant as well.
Going to the Warriors will also detract from his legacy in the immediate future. A couple of decades down the line, nobody will care that he jumped ship for the best team in the Western Conference.
And now, for the obligatory not-sure-it-means-anything free agency tidbit: I'm told Kevin Durant's meeting with Golden State went very well.— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) July 1, 2016
#3 Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers have two of the league's best playmakers at their position. Chris Paul is as perfect at manning the point as anyone, and Blake Griffin is the best playmaker among big men in the league. The Clippers also have a jumping jack in DeAndre Jordan who cleans up the glass with gusto and anchors a energetic defense.
Casting a glance at the Shooting Guard spot, JJ Redick is among the top three shooters in the league. Durant will effectively be joining a team which has Top 5 talent at every position except SF. His fit will be absolutely seamless. The Clippers' bench has also regained some of its old bite of the Eric Bledsoe days.
The Clippers are the only team to defeat the two of the last three champions in a playoff series recently. They've bested the Warriors in 2014, and the Spurs in 2015.
Playing for an energetic, extravagant and enthusiastic owner like Steve Ballmer holds strong appeal as well. That being said, if there is any team which may have a run of bad luck in such a scenario, it is the Clippers.
They've just re-signed Austin Rivers to a 3 year, $35 million contract reducing their cap space.
#4 San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs bucked their own trend of ignoring big names in the free agency by signing LaMarcus Aldridge last year. In addition to Kawahi Leonard and Greg Popovich, the Spurs still have a strong core which will make them contenders till 2020 at the very least.
It is a near unanimous fact that the Spurs are the best organization in the NBA. That fact holds tremendous appeal for any potential free agent. Their aging core might just be in their last season, though.
The other contenders for Kevin Durant all feature younger players than the Spurs, who will also feel the lack of a playmaker maestro once Tony Parker moves on. But if there is any organization you can trust to hold the ship steady, it is the San Antonio Spurs.
#5 Boston Celtics
Playing for one of the most storied franchises in the NBA can do wonders for one's legacy. The Boston Celtics are one of the grittiest defensive teams in the league, and in Isaiah Thomas they have one all-star already.
The Celtics have added Al Horford in the free agency, bolstering an already stellar lineup. If Durant wants to head a team where the burden of winning falls squarely on his shoulders, the Celtics are the place to go.
Boston also holds the advantage of being in the relatively tamer Eastern Conference. After going through years of bloodbath in the West, and watching LeBron James waltzing to the Eastern Conference Finals, it has got to wear on Durant a bit.
Going to Boston is the best choice for Durant if he wants to decorate his legacy. But the pieces they possess might not be sufficient for a guaranteed powerhouse. There are no shortage of recruiters though, with Tom Brady himself flying with Durant.
Yo @KDTrey5 sorry I couldn't make the meeting today but Brady will tell u they don't call Boston the City of Champions for nothing ??????— David Ortiz (@davidortiz) July 2, 2016
#6 Miami Heat
The Heat aren’t the most likely candidate to sign Durant based solely on basketball reasons. Dwyane Wade is aging and they aren’t even a lock to make it to the playoffs. Wade is even fielding offers to go elsewhere himself.
The strongest ace in Miami’s suit to sign Durant is Pat Riley himself. He pulled a rabbit out of his hat when he got LeBron James and Chris Bosh to sign with the Heat, but the fact that James left and Riley has a reputation for being a hard-nosed boss, don’t bode well.
If Durant does sign with Miami, it will be because of some magical pitch made by Pat Riley. But don’t count on it.
#7 The also-rans
Here are the other teams who were supposed to be in the running for the superstar, but have now dropped out of contention. They've dropped so far that Durant isn't even scheduled to meet them. They barely deserve mention, but even downfall ought to be recognized somewhere.
The Wizards lead this ignominious list. Throughout the regular season, the Wizards seemed poised as one of the more likely landing spots for Kevin Durant on strength of being his hometown. Now the KD2DC tag just seems fanciful.
There was a time when the Lakers made some noise about the allure of tinsel town, now it's just white noise. The Knicks may have improved their position by trading for Derrick Rose, but they aren’t even meeting with Durant. The Nets don’t even need to be mentioned anymore.