Every website and sports blog seemingly is searching for reasons as to why Kevin Durant will leave the Thunder and join their squad. The speculation is rampant, from the hometown Wizards, to the Spurs, to the Warriors, and even the Celtics. Basically every team in the NBA will have the ability this off-season to add Durant to their team, but Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder makes zero sense.
Sam Presti referred to Durant as highly intelligent and rational in his post season interview. I agree with Presti on this one, Durant is simply too smart to seriously consider any other team. If winning an NBA title is the end goal then he has no better place to remain. Here’s why:
Russell Westbrook is a spectacular basketball player and when he is locked in, he can easily be one of the best 3-4 players in the entire association. He tied one Magic Johnson for the most triple doubles in one season at 17. He is the most explosive player in the NBA, capable of one man fast breaks and dunks that nearly rip off the rim. Westbrook is in his prime and finding another player of his capabilities in Free Agency is highly unlikely
The Rosters of the Other Teams Pursuing Him
In order for the Warriors to sign Durant, they would be unable to keep the following players Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli and one of Andrew Bogut or Andre Iguodala. That doesn’t even take into consideration Marreese Speights or Leandro Barbosa. Teams that do not own the Bird Rights of a player cannot exceed the salary cap to sign free agents. They have to have the necessary cap space. The Warriors have nearly 75 million in salary already committed for next season. That means they have assuming they don’t bring back Barnes and Ezeli 17.1 million dollars in cap space. Durant’s first year contract will pay him 27.6 million, so that puts the Warriors just over 10 million short. So the team would have to figure out a way to shed either Bogut or Iguodala in order to make the salaries work. This would decimate the Warriors depth. It just doesn’t make sense
The San Antonio Spurs are in worse shape than the Warriors. They have just over 86 million in salary committed for next season. So that leaves just under 6 million left to sign Durant. Boris Diaw’s contract is partially guaranteed but that is only gives the Spurs an extra 3.5 million. They could move Danny Green and his 10 million per year deal, but that leaves them about 7 million short. If Tim Duncan, David West, and Manu Ginobili pick up their player options, the Spurs would then be forced to move Patty Mills. This whole scenario assumes from the outset that Boban Marjanovic would be gone. Again the Spurs would have no depth.
The Internal Development Left On the Thunder Roster
The Thunder’s roster has a pretty significant amount of internal development left.
Roberson has seen his 3 point percentage increase from 15 to 31 % in his 3 years in the NBA. While I don’t ever expect Roberson to become a guy who can knock down 40% of his threes, I do believe there is room for growth with his shot. Considering he is only 24, it would not be out of the realm of possibility to see him add 3-4 (if not a few more) percentage points. Roberson at a plus 35% three point shot would be an incredible weapon for the Thunder, and teams would have to guard him on the perimeter.
Kanter was said to be unplayable in the playoffs because of his terrible defense. While we will never see Kanter win defense player of the year awards, his defense (especially in the post has improved night and day). Further his game is expanding to the point where he can be a valuable 3 point shooter. But his best asset is his ability to get what I would call garbage points. You don’t have to run offense for Kanter for him to be effective. He is an offensive rebounding machine and drives other big men crazy with his hustle in the paint. Oh, and he is 24
Dion’s reputation was that of a selfish, shoot first, combo guard who cared more about getting buckets, drawing “And 1” fouls combined with step back jumpers. That narrative however is being blown up as Waiters was nearly a 36% three point shooter who was more than capable of holding his own defensively. Basically even though it’s crazy, Waiters is slowly becoming a “3 and D” role player in the NBA. Oh, and he is 24 as well.
Are we getting close to be able to say that the Houston Rockets lost out on the Steven Adams trade? Adams improvement has been nothing short of miraculous. I don’t believe it’s crazy to see Adams begin to add post moves, increase his free throw percentage to 70% and begin to development a jump shot from inside 10 feet. He is only 22.
All of the above players have in no way reached their primes. Further this doesn’t even take into consideration what the Thunder can get from Cameron Payne as he further develops.
While other NBA teams can discuss what “could” surround Durant, only the Thunder have tangible, physical examples of a supporting cast that is not only really stinking good, but has a ton of room for further growth. The only other team that can potentially pitch something like this to Durant would be Boston, but it’s through hypothetical trades and draft picks. Trades have a way of not happening (remember the Tyson Chandler trade) and draft picks have a tendency to not always hit (Greg Oden, Anthony Bennett).
All of this doesn’t even take into consideration the fact that I believe Durant legitimately enjoys playing basketball in Oklahoma City. He loves the people, loves his teammates and coaches, and loves the Thunder fans.
All of this adds up to Durant staying in OKC for the long haul.