The Oklahoma City Thunder have advanced to the Western Conference finals, upsetting the San Antonio Spurs to earn a chance to knock off the defending-champion Golden State Warriors. Kevin Durant still doesn’t have anything to say about his upcoming free agency, but that won’t stop speculation over what this means for his future. After beating the Spurs, could Durant even consider leaving Oklahoma City?
In the above CBS Sports video, Ethan Skolnick suggests that the most sensible financial move for Durant remains the safe bet: a one-plus-one deal that will keep him with the Thunder at least until the end of next season.
“I think the most likely scenario, and talking to people around the league, they still believe this,” Skolnick said, “is that Kevin Durant will sign a one-year deal plus a one-year option to remain with Oklahoma City, align his contract with Russell Westbrook’s, with Westbrook up in 2017, and then decide where he’s going to go for what would be a bigger payday in 2017 than it would be in 2016.”
The salary cap is rising this summer, and it will rise yet again next year. To maximize his earnings, Durant’s best choice is doing exactly that. There are two downsides to the plan, though:
1. Durant would not be protected from a career-threatening injury.
2. Durant would have to endure another full season of uncertainty and deflect even more questions about his commitment to Oklahoma City.
There is risk involved in signing a long-term deal with the Thunder, though. Even if you assume that he’s thrilled with what’s happened this season and doesn’t care about the extra money he could make next year, Westbrook’s contract status is a massive variable. If Durant signs a five-year maximum contract in July and his co-star leaves 12 months later, he might be stuck on a non-contending team in his prime.
It is too early to know what Durant’s priorities will be when he sits down to think about the biggest decision of his career. It’s been clear all along, though, that a short-term deal with Oklahoma City makes sense, and beating San Antonio certainly doesn’t hurt.