In this year’s free agency, Kevin Durant was supposed to be the crown jewel. His talent is extraordinary enough to shift the balance of power of whichever conference he lands in. Monday night’s heartbreaking Achilles injury threw a wrench into everything we expected of Kevin Durant’s present and future. How will this affect his free agency?
Free Agency Mindset For Kevin Durant
The severity of an Achilles injury puts Kevin Durant’s free agency and career expectations at risk. The thought of the league losing the best version of one of the greatest to ever do it is a sad enough notion to bring down even the staunchest detractor.
All signs pointed to Kevin Durant leaving the Golden State Warriors to lead a team of his own to the championship. Teams like the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers, and Los Angeles Clippers may think twice about risking max money on a guy who is coming off an Achilles injury. What kind of situation could he land in now? Will this uncertainty make him more likely to stay with his original team?
Re-sign With The Golden State Warriors
Warriors President of Basketball Operations Bob Meyers approached Game fives’s postgame podium with tearful eyes and a shaky voice. He announced to a stunned room that Kevin Durant incurred an Achilles injury that night. Meyers then followed up saying he feels somewhat responsible because he was one of the voices who allowed Kevin Durant to play. He can’t truly take the sole blame for this, but as the leader of the organization, he felt that somebody had to offer themselves up to be a scapegoat.
Kevin Durant has a one-year player option worth $31.5 million. Opting into that and receiving max money while healing is the safest option on the board. If he declines his player option then he could go onto the market, where the Warriors could offer him the five-year supermax of $220 million. That’s assuming they think he’ll return to the top level player that he once was. Durant would be turning 36 by the time that deals ended.
Meyers and the Warriors were the ones who needed Kevin Durant to play. Durant had to ultimately sign off on it, but it resulted in him worsening his injury and jeopardizing his playing career. Frank Isola of the Athletic reported that the Warriors brass are willing to offer Durant a max deal with the “understanding that if he wanted to leave at any point during his contract, the team would grant that wish.”
From a business standpoint, they may be secretly hoping that Durant bolts or opts into his player option so that they can have cap flexibility if takes the year to heal. They may feel bad enough to offer him a five-year max if he ops out though, and it may be justified.
Other Free Agency Landing Spots For Kevin Durant
According to initial reports, there are still teams interested in signing Kevin Durant despite him suffering a career-threatening injury. David Aldridge then reported that both LA and New York teams may still be interested in courting Durant.
We don’t know which teams will actually make a push for him, but we will find out soon enough. If another team takes him on, they have to come in knowing that there’s a high chance he won’t play all of next year. He will also need the following year to get back into shape – assuming he doesn’t get hurt again.
Yes, the Warriors can offer Durant financial security thanks to his player option. The problem is, that’s only for one year. If the Warriors don’t feel comfortable offering him the five-year max and another team comes knocking with a promise of a contract for four years worth $160 million, will he choose longer-term security?
Kevin Durant is a hard guy to predict. It’s evident by him joining the Warriors in the first place. The Phoenix Suns have long been a team with cap space that’s interested in Durant. They’ve never been considered a serious contender because their core of Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, and Josh Jackson just isn’t developed. But what if they let Durant heal while the core takes another year or two to grow?
Let’s say Durant comes back at the end of the year or starts the following year. There probably still won’t be any great expectations thrust onto this raw group of Suns. Their development timeline is friendly to a recuperating Kevin Durant. Not to mention, they’re known for having one of the best medical staffs in the league headed by Aaron Nelson.
Phoenix has about $25 million in cap room right now, but there are moves they could make to reach around $30 million. There could still be a sour taste in his mouth after his public sparring with Draymond Green and the way this injury was handled. Phoenix could provide him with a new, low-pressure situation if Durant seeks a change of scenery. Besides, he has a ton of respect for coach Monty Williams and loves the city of Scottsdale. It’s a glaring risk for both parties, but with Durant, we should come to expect the unexpected.
New York Knicks
The New York Knicks are reeling at the uncertainty surrounding Kevin Durant. He was supposed to save their franchise from the twenty years of James Dolan-soaked ineptitude. Can he even be the same player he was before after this? Should they still consider him a free agent target?
The Knicks may just be crazy enough to roll the dice on Kevin Durant coming off an Achilles tear. If they land another star with their extra cap room, then the fanbase may be satisfied with a first-year playoff appearance. They’ll take solace in knowing Durant is waiting in the wings.
The margin of error will be slim when he returns. New Yorker’s impatience will make the recovery feel ten times longer than it is. The media will be ravenous when he doesn’t look the same at first. But if Durant is dead-set on being the Knick’s savior, then James Dolan will back up the Brinks truck.
It all depends on what Durant truly wants in this bizarre, pivotal moment of his career. Free agents keep their decisions so close to the vest until the very last second. Just think back to Durant’s initial signing with the Warriors. Look back at how many people were also shocked when LeBron James actually signed with the Los Angeles Lakers. The national media’s guesses on Durant and others are almost as good as the public’s – until the hours leading up to July first.
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