June 27, 2016, 8:16 am
It’s long been anticipated that Kevin Durant will remain in Oklahoma City. After pushing the Warriors to the brink, it’s unlikely that KD finds himself in a better basketball spot than alongside Russell Westbrook and the rest of the Thunder.
It appears as though his free agent suitors feel the same way, and see this summer’s meetings as groundwork in case he leaves after next season.
.@WojVerticalNBA says teams meeting with Kevin Durant feel they're laying groundwork for '17 FA since they all anticipate his return to OKC.
— Adam Kaufman (@AdamMKaufman) June 27, 2016
The probable outcome for Durant is re-upping with the Thunder on a max deal with opt-out clauses so he can maximize his earnings as the salary cap continues to rise.
In that sense, it’s smart for teams to take their meetings with Durant as an opportunity to plant the seeds for a possible departure later on. The most coveted man on the market might not go anywhere new right now, but he’ll almost assuredly be a free agent again in 2017. While Oklahoma City is about as appealing as a destination can be from a basketball perspective, one never knows what will happen over the course of a year. Maybe the Thunder can’t get over the hump and Durant feels like it’s time for a change. If there is some sort of falling out between Durant and his teammates or the organization, one of these first pitches could pay off handsomely.
Durant’s 2017 fate may also hinge on Russell Westbrook’s next move, as he’ll become a free agent after this upcoming year. If Westbrook leaves, Durant may look to join a new organization with a core that isn’t in flux. It seems silly to talk about Durant’s next free agency foray considering he’s still the big fish this year, but that’s just the way of the world with the ability to opt out becoming more and more common.
Ultimately Durant controls his own fate and has enough leverage as one of the game’s top players to negotiate just about any clause he wants. He’ll play it smart and keep his options open. While Thunder fans might view that play as Durant keeping one foot out the door, there have been no inklings that Durant isn’t fully committed to helping the Thunder win. It’s strictly a business decision, and it’s hard to blame KD from trying to cash in at each available opportunity.