You may have heard by now. Kevin Durant, a perennial All-Star and former NBA MVP, is going to be a free agent come July 1. This is a big deal, because teams generally want perennial All-Stars and MVP-caliber players on their teams. So there’s going to be some competition to get him to sign a piece of paper that solidifies where he’ll play the next 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 years. Heck, that place could even be the city of your team, right?
Well yes, technically it could be. But it won’t.
Durant is meeting with six teams this weekend: the Thunder, Warriors, Spurs, Celtics, Heat, and Clippers, with the Knicks possibly in the (theoretical) mix as well. Six of these teams are going to be sad, one team is already completely depressed, and the other 22 have either given up or are carrying on knowing that they should. There are several reasons.
Maybe you’re the Hawks, Magic, Grizzlies or Sixers, and have a bunch of cap space. Maybe you have the bargaining chip of “no income tax” like the Rockets or Mavericks. Perhaps you’re a pretty solid team like the Hornets, Jazz, Pistons, or Blazers who could take a step forward the length of Durant’s arms if they were to add those arms and the rest of KD to their roster. Or you could be a team from a large market like the Nets, Bulls, or Lakers that can offer more exposure and easier access to attractive celebrities to date.
I’m sorry. Even if you fit into multiple categories on that list, it’s not going to be enough. Kevin Durant is at the Leonardo DiCaprio level of basketball right now. He’s not just going to choose a role on the mere possibility it could work out well or just to get a quick buck. He already has money and success; he just wants to take it a step further. It’s got to be a sure shot, an opportunity that’s clearly the best there is for his career. (And it can’t jeopardize his ability to date attractive celebrities.)
The pretenders know who they are. Step aside, please. You’re still more than welcome to overpay Harrison Barnes or Nic Batum.
The Washington Wizards
The nation’s capital! The Chocolate City! The hometown of Kevin Durant! The most spectacular failure to lure Kevin Durant of 2016!
But it’s not just 2016. It’s everything since Gilbert Arenas. It’s lucking into John Wall, and getting nobody else to play with him. It’s discovering Bradley Beal is made of tin foil construction paper. It’s trading away first round picks for Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris. It’s paying for Emeka Okafor and Kris Humphries and Martell Webster. It’s drafting JaVale McGee and Jan Freaking Vesely. It’s keeping Randy Wittman on the bench too long and paying Scott Brooks too much to replace him.
Basically, it’s doing 92% of the things wrong and getting unlucky with the other 8%. The Wizards failed again and again to build a franchise capable of supporting Kevin Durant and his goal of an NBA championship. They did this to themselves. I would say I’m sorry here too, but I’m all out of sympathy.
Washington had from 2011 to now to get it together. That’s from when I turned 18 to when I turned 23. In that time I stumbled around making poor decisions and failing to build for my future in any responsible way. Incredibly, the Wizards did that, too. That’s somewhat acceptable for a teenager-turning-college student, but absolutely not for an NBA franchise. That’s why Kevin Durant is pretending Washington, D.C. doesn’t exist.
Everyone Else on the Short List
It comes down to simplicity. Durant seems to love to keep things simple, from quietly signing his first contract extension with Oklahoma City to bristling at reporters or talking heads trying to make something out of nothing. He doesn’t seem to like the media a whole lot or care about sponsorships or personal branding. He wants to go about his business and win a title along the way. His best shot at that comes from only one place.
San Antonio? Too LeBron-y. Also old and in the West. Golden State? Even more LeBron-y. Plus already filled with stars and in the West, too. New York? LOL. Boston? “I’ll be playing with Isaiah Thomas and…who?” Los Angeles? The team with rumors no one gets along and where the star punched a trainer? Not very simple. Miami? Okay, now you’re stepping directly along LeBron’s Nike footprints.
All of these opportunities either won’t get him where he wants to go or they’ll come with the baggage he desperately wants to avoid. Kevin Durant likes to play basketball. That’s simple. You know what else is simple? Cash money.
Not only is this his adult home, where he can ball with his brother Russell Westbrook, on a team that was just one win away from the Finals, it’s also the team that can pay him an obscene amount of money. He can make around $27 million next year and north of $35 million the next year if he signs a popular “opt out after one season” contract.
Or, if he’d like to keep things even more simple, he can take the five-year offer only the Thunder can give him (more security with a foot that’s had three surgeries) that would pay him only around $30 million per year.
For whatever reason you choose, Oklahoma City is the simplest, smartest place for Kevin Durant to be. But if you’d like to imagine your team can persuade him to make a complicated, stupid decision, I can’t stop your delusions.