The Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder just wrapped up an incredible seven-game series that saw the defending champions advance to their second straight NBA Finals after erasing a 3-1 series deficit in the Western Conference Finals.
The loss abruptly ended the season for the Thunder, after appearing to be on their way to an NBA Finals rematch with LeBron James, who got the best of them for his first championship with the Miami Heat back in 2012.
Up next for Oklahoma City is a monstrous offseason that revolves around Kevin Durant. The 27-year-old superstar will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and ESPN’s Marc Stein reports that a long list of teams, including the Lakers, will be trying to sign him this summer. Shocking, right?
Durant is far and away the top free agent on the market. After him, there’s a massive drop-off for the rest of the free agent pool, with Al Horford seemingly being the next best target for teams to pursue.
Stein also adds that there will probably be more suitors added to the mix by the time July 1 rolls around, seeing as the vast majority of teams will have money to spend because of the salary cap exploding to around $90 million this summer. If Durant elects to meet with each team interested in him one-by-one, he will be a busy man this summer, considering the entire league wants him.
Many people have speculated that Durant might sign a two-year max contract with a player option after the first season, a la James with the Cleveland Cavaliers. That appears to be the likeliest route, according to Stein.
This would allow him to hit the market next season with a projected salary cap of $110 million if the Thunder fall short once again. Doing so would mean that Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka would all be unrestricted free agents in the summer of 2017. Talk about a nightmare scenario for the Thunder front office.
As fun as it is to dream of Durant donning a purple and gold uniform next season, the odds are incredibly thin. He currently has a team loaded with talent that proved to be a title contender this year, and even if he were to leave, there are a number of teams that would give him a far better chance to win right away than he could with the rebuilding Lakers.
Never say never, I suppose. But the Lakers landing Durant would require some serious voodoo from Mitch Kupchak and the rest of the front office.