The NBA got sent emotional shockwaves with Kevin Durant going down with an apparent Achilles injury. Frustrating moments were on national display by the franchise who fear the worst for their superstar. His sidelining not only affects the remaining games in the NBA Finals, but his possible free agency will also be felt by the Los Angeles Lakers and other teams linked to Durant. While not a front-runner for Durant’s services, they remain a distant possibility to pair with LeBron James.
There’s not been an official report of Durant’s injury, but it seems like he is facing an uphill battle that might cost him a year of basketball if it’s diagnosed as a full tear. The struggles of Kobe Bryant and DeMarcus Cousins post-Achilles are cautious tales to the expectation of recovery. A chance exists that we may not see the same Durant that dominated the 2019 NBA playoffs to the tune of 32.3 points per game on 51.4 percent shooting. Despite the possibility, interest still remains on the Lakers part, as covered by David Aldridge with The Athletic.
League sources Tuesday made it plain: Durant’s injury, whether short-term or longer, has done little to cool the ardor of his most dogged free agent pursuers. The likelihood remains that all of the New York/L.A. teams will stay in the hunt for Durant beginning on the afternoon of June 30.
If the Lakers can emerge from the mix with Anthony Davis on their roster entering free agency, they become a bit more attractive with James there as well. Salary would have to be properly tweaked, but if Durant declines his $31.5M player option, possibilities exist of bringing him on as a third max player. The Lakers would undoubtedly become the favorite to contend for the title over the new three seasons.
As mentioned, Durant has been linked to the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets as an addition alongside Kyrie Irving. The injury could change these plans. The Warriors themselves had several options in place, one in particular that could interest the Lakers if the Anthony Davis trade doesn’t materialize. The Athletics Frank Isola detailed their off-season plans.
According to a source, the Warriors were going to pitch Durant on signing long term, with the understanding that if he wanted to leave at any point during his contract the team would grant him that wish. That could still be in the works even with Durant likely to sit out most if not all of next season.
If Durant left as an option and the Lakers still kept their young assets, they would be an attractive partner to pair their young core with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. Despite his devastating injury, Durant and James would be an intriguing combo to face a league that has been its most wide open in years. While both aging and recovering from the worse injuries of their careers, any franchise would take the proposition of the two best players of the current generation pairing their talent together. Time will tell, but for now, June 30th awaits with plenty of mystery to come.