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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Kevin Durant Sweepstakes

He came in a distant fifth in the MVP standings, is one of the best players "never to win a title," joining the likes of Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and John Stockton, played an awesome game the other night to help the Thunder defeat San Antonio and even that series at two games apiece.  He's from DC, went to college for a year at Texas, and has spent his career with the same franchise.  It seems that if he were to stay, and Russell Westbrook along with them, that together they could be destined to be like Karl Malone and John Stockton, in the sense that they could play for a long time together, win a lot of games but not win a championship.  Now, they are distinctly different players from the all-time pick-and-roll combination, but their fates could be similar.

It would seem to be a reach for Durant to stay in OKC.  OKC, while a nice place, isn't a hotbed for nightlife or culture.  That said, it depends what Durant wants to do.  Does he want to stay in OKC and get a max deal, thereby lessening the likelihood that OKC could attract another piece to help them get past Golden State and the Spurs in the West?  Would he opt for a sign-and-trade deal, so that he can get a max deal and then get traded to a team of his choice, although that team presumably could be prevented from signing needed pieces because of cap space?  (That said, the cap is expected to go up a lot in the next couple of years).  Or, and this is the big "if", would he be willing to take less the way Tim Duncan has with San Antonio (or "had" in the sense that he is a role player now and not the all-timer he once was) and go to a team with other pieces and make them simply awesome -- such as the Warriors or Spurs.  Finally, to me there are two other looming options out there.  The first are the Wizards, who are in Durant's hometown, hired his former coach (Scott Brooks) and have a great backcourt with John Wall and Bradley Beal.  The second are the Celtics, which have a knack for getting great players, have a great young coach and a good nucleus.  If either of those teams were to land Durant, they would be among the top three in the East.  If the Warriors or Spurs were to land him, they'd be next year's favorite to win the NBA title.

Needless to say, the Wizards will make a big push and the Celtics should.  The Warriors and Spurs could get into a battle for him, too, with the stakes being huge because the team that does not get him will be behind the one that does, that is, if either were to get him.  The question for Durant is that if he were to stay in OKC, he would be one of two superstars on the roster.  If he were to go to the Wizards he'd be one of two also (but with a purer point guard in Wall), and if he were to go to Boston he would be the main guy.  If he were to go to the Warriors he would be the number two guy behind the two-time reigning MVP, Steph Curry, and if he were to go to the Spurs he probably would be on equal footing with Kawhi Leonard if only because Leonard is one of the rare superstars who doesn't seem to care who gets the credit so long as there is plenty of credit to go around.  Would any of that matter to Durant?

If the status on the team and money matter, then Golden State might be out.  On that basis, Boston would seem to be the best fit.  If the money only matters, then OKC probably can offer him the best deal.  If the money doesn't matter as much and the status does, then the Spurs might be a better fit.  And then, when you layer in the chance to win a title, the leading teams out West should be able to offer him the best chance at winning a title.

Got all that?  Durant is the big catch in this year's free-agent sweepstakes, a great player and rare talent who can do a lot of things well.  So many choices seem so compelling, though, that it is hard to speculate where he will land for next season. 


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