Kevin Durant, possibly the third or fourth best player in the NBA, is about a month away from becoming a free agent. He is undoubtedly the biggest free agent available barring any surprises from LeBron James. Put KD on the right team and they can match what Golden State did this year, but if he goes to the wrong team he could become the next Dwight Howard or Carmelo Anthony. But which organizations are the best possible landing spots?
The first question is something only Durant himself can answer. What does he want more: money or an NBA championship? He very well could end up with both of course, but in the short term, that’s going to be the biggest question. Money will also become a concern for other teams in the form of the salary cap. Some teams like the Clippers and Pelicans simply can’t afford the small forward without a major renovation of their roster.
Other teams just aren’t good enough. Unless Durant has grand illusions of turning the Kings or 76ers into a championship contender on his own, a move like that is never going to happen.
In truth, Durant’s most likely destination is right where he’s at. The Thunder are on the verge of reaching the finals for the second time and they just destroyed the Warriors in Game 3, not to mention they can pay him more than any other team.
All that being said, if he’s angry at the front office for getting rid of Scott Brooks or if he’s tired of sharing the spotlight with Westbrook, he might decide to leave. If he does, there are more than a few teams he could be a good fit for. Some of them are long shots, but you never know the ways of the human heart. Or their wallets.
8. Portland Trail Blazers
Speaking of long shots, the Portland Trail Blazers just sneak onto the list. They weren’t written off as a potential landing spot so much as they were never even considered, by the media anyway.
Damian Lillard is already a great player and the addition of Durant will free him up on offense. With Durant, he can be poised to become a true super star. Coach Terry Stotts has turned his coaching career around and has become a solid asset to the team.
The team can easily afford Durant. Last offseason, the Blazers lost four of five starters and had to replace them all. As much as a blow as it could have been, the Blazers still made the playoffs. But best of all, it freed up a lot of cap space to bring in Durant without having to rearrange too many pieces.
8. Benefits of Playing in Portland
Remember how the Blazers had to replace all those players? Well, they did it mostly through the draft and with young players. Shooting Guard C.J. McCollum has bloomed into very good player, breaking out this season with 20.8 PPG and 4.3 APG. No doubt with another year under his belt under a more stable organization, he’ll improve even more.
But he’s not all. The Blazers are loaded with a ton of depth and don’t underestimate how good they are. They got to the Conference Semifinals in the west and lost to one of the greatest teams of all time.
If Durant wants to guide a young team to a championship, then this could be the one. Besides Lillard and McCollum, they’ve got Ed Davis, Mason Plumlee, and don’t forget the wild card Cliff Alexander. They wouldn’t be an instant title contender, especially in the west, but it wouldn’t take long for KD to get them on the same level as the Thunder are on now.
7. Houston Rockets
It’s pretty unlikely that Durant will want to play for such a dysfunctional team. The Rockets fired coach Kevin McHale early this season despite taking them to the Conference Finals the previous year and then there’s the Dwight Howard’s situation. Luckily for him though, Dwight Howard will likely be gone one way or the other by the time he comes to town.
Better yet for Durant , rumors suggest the Rockets might hire Mike D’Antoni. Durant would absolutely thrive big time in that offense, especially with Harden next to him. Hell, it doesn’t matter who coaches the Rockets, whoever gets the job will likely be offensive minded given Harden’s inability or unwillingness to play defense.
7. Benefits of Playing in Houston
They might not have as much potential as Portland, but they’re better right now. No doubt some of that depth will have to be sacrificed, but even losing two or three players off the bench won’t hurt much.
The Rockets desperately want to contend for a championship, going hard after big name players the last few years. There’s a chance that even if they do grab Durant, they might want another big piece to go with him. Once of those big pieces was James Harden.
Save for this year, it looked like Durant and the Thunder’s best chance of winning a title was when James Harden was coming off the bench. He’s been outstanding on offense in Houston, but he’s always had to do it alone. If Durant came to town, the two would make one of the best two man teams in the NBA on offense.
6. New York Knicks
Kristaps Porzingis might be the one who finally turns Carmelo Anthony into a complete, well-rounded player. Putting on one of the best rookie seasons in years, Porzingis not only became a monster at power forward, but his defensive prowess rubbed off on Anthony somewhat. He’s still not great obviously, but even that subtle upgrade on his part made the Knicks a much better team.
The big problem with the Knicks though is stability. Phil Jackson still hasn’t proven himself capable in the front offense and if he forces new coach Jeff Hornacek to run the triangle like previous coaches, things aren’t going to get any better. Speaking of recent coaches, Hornacek is the third head coach for the Knicks in as many years and the team has struggled to find an identity for years.
Still, if the Knicks have anything at all going for them, it’s the Big Apple.
6. Benefits of Playing in New York
This goes back to what exactly Durant wants to do. If he wants to win a title, he probably won’t even consider the Knicks. If he wants to become an international super star, bigger than what he already is, New York might be on top of his list. It’s the biggest market in the country, with only LA coming close. Unlike LA however, New York has a far greater global appeal.
The Knicks themselves haven’t been on top of the market for a while and now that the Nets are in town, they have some competition. But that’s because the Knicks have been so bad for so long. Add a player on Durant’s level – especially since he’s been opening up to the media lately – and all eyes will be on the Knickerbockers once more.
Not only does New York have the market, but they have history on their side. They’re part of only a handful of teams that have had great success in the NBA, right up there with the Lakers and Celtics. Who’s to say Durant doesn’t want to add his name to the long list of great’s that have played for such a team?
5. Minnesota Timberwolves
Why on earth would Durant want to play in Minnesota? It’s a small market, it’s a historically mediocre franchise, it’s cold, there aren’t many good players on the roster, and it’s cold. Did I mention it’s cold up there? Not so fast everyone. They play in an arena, not an open top football field, so it’s the perfect place for Durant!
Okay seriously, the Wolves might – emphasis on might – not be so terrible in the years to come, and actually have some advantages over the Thunder and other teams on this list.
For one, they’ve got the a unanimous Rookie of the Year in Karl-Anthony Towns and he is by far better than any young player on the Thunder, anyone the Thunder can hope to draft for years to come. Just like the Blazers, the Timberwolves’s strength lies in their youth.
5. Benefits of Playing in Minnesota
Don’t underestimate how good the Wolves could potentially be. They don’t have Kevin Love anymore, but they’ve replaced him with Kevin Garnett. “That washed up old guy,” you ask, “what’s so great about him?” He’s a champion for one, so he knows what it takes to win. More importantly, Durant idolized him growing up. Maybe getting this once in a lifetime chance to play with his idol in what will probably be his final season will provide the tipping point.
And why not? The Wolves are absolutely loaded right now. Aside from Towns, they’ve got Zach LaVine and the much improved Andrew Wiggins. Durant could turn Ricky Rubio into the fast ball hawk everyone originally thought he could be and with Shabazz Muhammad coming into his own, this could be a terrifying lineup.
4. Boston Celtics
Just like the Knicks, the Celtics have a ton of history behind them and don’t underestimate the size of the Boston market. Not the chicken place (bad joke, I know).
The Celtics are currently sitting on eight draft picks, including #3 overall, and three in the first round. Just imagine the potential for trades, like maybe a sign and trade for Durant? I could rattle off names like with the other teams, but they’ve already got so much depth we’d be here all day. All they’re missing is a super star, someone on Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett’s level in their prime years wearing the green and white.
The only problem, obviously, is cap space, especially with all those picks. GM Danny Ainge will have to put on quite a juggling act if he’s going to keep the core of this team together, but it’s more than worth it for someone like KD.
4. Benefits of Playing in Boston
The Celtics are in the same spot as the T-Wolves and Blazers with a lot of depth, but with one notable advantage: they have one of the hottest coaches in the league. Brad Stevens might not have proven himself in the playoffs yet like Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau, but he’s already seen as one of the best in the league for making a terrible looking team on paper a playoff contender. Don’t forget this is the guy who almost won back to back college national titles with Butler.
And don’t forget the Celtics play in the weak east. Stevens’s biggest opponents are going to be Frank Vogel and maybe Scott Brooks depending on how he does without Durant himself. Stevens did a great job at showing the world that coaching still matters in the NBA after all, and if anyone can make Durant even better, its Stevens.
3. Golden State Warriors
How unfair would this be? The Warriors just won a record number of games this year and they’re going up against the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals as I type. It probably wouldn’t happen, but just think how great this team could be with the small forward.
Conversely, think how badly it could blow up in their faces. Think about it. The Warriors will have to cut a lot of players to afford Durant and replace them with cheaper guys, meaning players who aren’t as good. It would also mean having to give up Harrison Barnes, who isn’t as good as KD obviously, but is still a good player in his own right. Less depth is never good for any team, no matter how good your starting rotation is.
Still, I don’t think there’s much question as to whether or not Durant’s style can gen with Curry, Thompson, and Green. If he did go to Golden State, the NBA might as well hand Steve Kerr the Larry O’Brien Trophy then and there.
3. Benefits of Playing in Golden State
Why wouldn’t anyone want to play for the Warriors, let alone one of the best players in the country? Well, besides the fact he’d be second fiddle to Curry, possibly even third behind Klay Thompson. Is Durant willing to become the number two or three guy if it pretty much guarantees a championship?
He’d likely have to take less money as well. When LeBron and Bosh took less to join Wade in Miami, it looked like that was going to set a trend. That didn’t really happen though as guys have remained more interested in money than rings if you want to be cynical about it. Durant will make way more money just about anywhere else.
But it’s Golden State. They’ve dominated the league this year, and no matter how impossible it may be, they’d look to top their own record with the addition of Durant. Even the Spurs would have severe trouble containing this team. This very well could be another “Stern Blocks Chris Paul to Lakers Trade” type situation the prospect is so scary.
2. Washington Wizards
Suddenly the Wizards don’t look as promising as they did a year or two ago. Bradley Beal is developing the reputation for being injury prone, John Wall still hasn’t taken that next step to super stardom, and their last few drafts have been questionable.
This season they went 41-41, missing the playoffs and firing head coach Randy Wittman. It seemed like all the buzz surrounding Durant going to this nation’s capital all but evaporated, especially with his current team on the verge of beating the Warriors on the way to the Finals.
Reports indicate that indeed Durant isn’t interested in signing with the Wizards, either after their poor season or because he was never interested anyway. But with the firing of Wittman came one big bonus in the Wizards’ favor on top of the one thing they have no other team does.
2. Benefits of Playing in Washington
27 years ago, Kevin Durant was born in a little place called Washington D.C., also known as the place the Wizards call home. Not many athletes in any sport get to play in their hometown, not that many want to, and Kevin Durant has that option. He can play close to home, close to his family, and he can take pride in making his hometown team a champion if that ever happens.
Not only that, but KD will have a chance to play for his old coach from Oklahoma City, Scott Brooks, who the Wizards hired as their new head man. Durant was vocal (yet silent in the media) last year about wanting Brooks to stay on the team, but the Thunder management fired him anyway. Many believe this has put a thorn in Durant’s side and the fan of Brooks would love to go play for his new team.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
This one’s so obvious it’s not even funny. Okay, so they aren’t contenders with their current roster and the departure of Kobe Bryant leaves a massive hole in the team and the city. But that’s where Durant comes in.
The Lakers, right now, have everything that all these other teams can offer, and yes, that includes a legitimate chance at a title. That might take a year or two of course, but that’s not long to wait when you might end up with the greatest team in the NBA this side of San Francisco, however short the distance that is.
LA is the second biggest media market in the country and without Kobe around anymore, he’d have no trouble becoming the biggest athlete in the city.
1. Benefits of Playing in Los Angeles
I know if I keep talking about “young talent” I’m likely to be hauled off by the police, but look at the Laker’s current roster. They’ve got three… inexperienced in life players in D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and Jordan Clarkson who all look to be great players not too far in the future. Heck, they could have been great this year if former coach Byron Scott wasn’t intentionally sabotaging them.
If new coach Luke Walton can get Roy Hibbert to be half as good as he was in Indiana and with the #2 overall pick this year, that could push this team over the top.
Better than that, Durant could fill the hole in the roster left by Bryant not only on the court, but in the ledger. The Lakers can easily show under-performing and aged players like Nick Young, Metta World Peace, and Brandon Bass the door and sign Durant to a lifetime contract if they wanted to.
When you look at it that way, it’d be shocking if Durant didn’t sign with the gold and purple.
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