Kevin Durant’s return to action in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Monday was expected to shake up the series in a major way. Instead, he suffered an Achilles injury in the second quarter that will impact not only the remainder of the Finals, but the entire league for years to come.
For months, there have been rumors and reports flying around about where Durant would sign in free agency this summer, and that conversation only got more interesting now that he could end up missing all of next season, pending the results of his MRI. Will teams still be willing to offer Durant the max contract he was after? Could Durant just opt in to the final year of his current deal with the Golden State Warriors? We’ll have to wait until July to know for sure, but we’ve already gotten some reports about possible paths forward.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, opting in to the final year of his current deal would be a “last resort” type of move for Durant.
“I think opting in is the last resort.”
Thirty one and a half million dollars for next season. That’s really if you couldn’t find any other team to commit to you on a contract. Because if he opts out of the contract, and even if he does a short deal with another team — a two-year deal — that starts at $38 million. I still think there’s going to be a market for Kevin Durant to get a long-term — whether it’s max or near max — contract. He’ll be 32 before he plays again, if indeed he misses all of next season. But that $31 million opt in is really if there’s nothing else out there after canvassing the league, or if the Warriors decided that they didn’t want to do that. I’d be shocked if the Warriors were not willing to still go long term with Kevin Durant on a deal. But essentially he’ll be a $38 million redshirt player for whoever he signs with next year, or opts in in Golden State.
Wojnarowski’s report echoes what his colleague at ESPN, Bobby Marks, reported following Durant’s injury. According to Marks, he spoke to three different teams, all of whom said they wouldn’t hesitate to still sign Durant.
“Each of the teams also said that they wouldn’t even put any injury language in there for maybe years three and four to protect.”
I talked to three teams and I didn’t even get the question out. I said if you had cap space would you go out and sign Kevin Durant knowing that he will likely be out the whole year and the resounding answer was ‘yes.’ Each of the teams also said that they wouldn’t even put any injury language in there for maybe years three and four to protect. So yes, there will be a market place out there for Kevin Durant this summer, either with a team for four years, $141 million or even back in Golden State.
One of the teams that we know has had interest in Durant since the free agency rumors started heating up is the New York Knicks. Whether they were one of the teams Marks was speaking of is unknown, but according to a report from Marc Berman, the Knicks are indeed still interested in the superstar. Via the New York Post:
A lot has changed on the Kevin Durant free-agency landscape but not the Knicks’ interest in signing him, according to people familiar with the club’s plans.
The Knicks still have two max salary slots and they still intend to explore Durant being part of the franchise whether he is able to play next season or not with what is feared to be a torn Achilles tendon.
Based on these various reports, it seems likely that Durant will be able to find a long-term deal this summer. Who it will be with remains to be seen, but the fact that multiple teams are still eager to sign him despite the likelihood he misses all of next season, and the uncertainty of how he’ll look once he hits the court again, shows just how highly thought of Durant is around the league.
Courtesy: CBS Sports