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Kevin Durant setting free agent meetings, just not with Wizards for now

Kevin Durant setting free agent meetings, just not with Wizards for now

As of next week, the discussion about Kevin Durant entering free agency isn't some far off hypothetical. Starting July 1, the Oklahoma City star can begin meeting with any of the NBA's 29 other teams. That includes the D.C. area native's hometown team.

Initial indications suggest a meeting with the Washington Wizards isn't on Durant's docket.

Multiple reports surfaced Friday night about upcoming plans for the 2014 NBA Most Valuable Player. According to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski, Durant’s representatives "are working to solidify invitations with the Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs and Thunder, league sources said."

Why those teams? Seeing as all would pay Durant the maximum salary allowed under NBA rules -- though only Oklahoma City can offer a fifth year -- money isn't the issue. It's all about jewelry. Specifically, a ring.

"Durant’s public and private criteria for the free-agent selection process have pertained to a singular focus: the chance to win titles immediately," Wojnarowski reported.


Last season 10 teams won at least 48 games. Six of those teams are on Durant's list. Expectations have Durant staying with the Thunder on a two-year deal with a player option so he can retest free agency again in 2017 when the league's salary cap increases significantly for the second straight year. 

The Thunder were one game from reaching the 2016 NBA Finals, but blew a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference Finals and did so to the other team Durant is reportedly strongly considering.

"More than any other rival suitor, the Warriors have Durant's attention," league sources told Wojnarowski.

Golden State won the NBA title in 2015 and then set an NBA record with 73 regular season wins before also blowing a 3-1 series lead, eventually losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals earlier this month. Adding Durant to the established core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green would make the Warriors an overwhelming favorite for the 2017 NBA title.

As for the other teams, all immediately enter championship talk with Durant on board, though the Spurs are there already. Like many NBA players, Durant owns a home in Los Angeles. Boston and Miami have the allure of a possibly easier path playing in the inferior Eastern Conference.

The Wizards, who finished 41-41 last season, are also in the East and have All-Star guard John Wall. They just might have something working against them, an issue real estate agents usually tout: Location, location, location. 

Northeast Ohio native LeBron James wanted to play in Cleveland. The rampant speculation about KD2DC, which truly took off during the summer of 2014 and then spiked during each of his subsequent games in Washington, took place largely because Durant grew up in the area and remains an important figure.

While fans were beyond hopeful, reports surfaced that "Durant isn't all that keen on returning to play in the city in which he grew up." Durant never said never when it came to playing in Washington, though he has lamented about the extra hassles that come with playing so close to those who knew him when. 

For now, the Wizards are on the outside of the scenario. Per Wojnarowski, "several teams that have interest in Durant – the Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards – could still find audiences with him, but appear to be outsiders in the process now.

Another report states the Wizards already recognized the situation. ESPN's Marc Stein reported Friday, "Sources say Durant's hometown Washington Wizards are likewise pessimistic about their chances of emerging as a real factor in the Durant sweepstakes, despite the recent hiring of former Thunder coach Scott Brooks."

Durant not playing for the Wizards is one thing. Even at peak speculation, which ended last winter when Durant described the fawning from Wizards fans at Oklahoma City games at Verizon Center as "disrespectful," the odds were never great. Yet after two years of discussion and dreaming, not even getting a meeting would be stunning. 

The decision is expected before Durant leaves for an international promotion tour on July 9. That leaves plenty of time for speculation on his plans, whether they include his hometown team or not.


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Road ahead suggests a wild finish in Eastern Conference playoff race

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Road ahead suggests a wild finish in Eastern Conference playoff race

The Eastern Conference standings are so closely bunched as of today that the third-place Cleveland Cavaliers are only 1 1/2 games ahead of the sixth-place Philadelphia 76ers. With roughly a dozen games remaining for each NBA team, much can and likely will change over the next several weeks.

That is common for this time of the year, but a closer look suggests we could be in for some chaos in the final stretch. There are lopsided remaining schedules and impending personnel changes which could all contribute to one of the wildest regular season finishes in recent memory.

The Wizards are smack dab in the middle of the East playoff race and have their own circumstances to navigate. Let's take a team-by-team look at the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, knowing the top two seeds are all but locked up by the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics...


3. Cleveland Cavaliers (41-29, 12 games left)

Monday was a crazy day for the Cavaliers. First, they announced their head coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence to deal with an undiagnosed health issue. He will be replaced by associate head coach Larry Drew in the interim as he hopes to heal up before the playoffs.

Then, news broke they were getting Kevin Love back from a broken wrist after missing 21 games. Love returned to put up 18 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks in a big win over the Milwaukee Bucks. 

The Cavaliers will be without their coach for an undefined period of time, but now have their second-best player back on the court. That makes their final part of the season extra fascinating.

The Cavs are the team to watch of this group. Even though this season has been filled with turmoil, they still have LeBron James. He and Love have helped form the core of the last three Eastern Conference champion teams. If they pick things up, it's not crazy to consider them among the favorites to get out of the East again.


4. Indiana Pacers (41-30, 11 games left)

The Pacers are mostly healthy as they only feature a slew of minor injuries to big men Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis. But Indiana's remaining schedule is unusually tough and it could make the difference in where they end up.

With only 11 games remaining, the Pacers still have to play the first-place Toronto Raptors once and the Golden State Warriors twice. Six of their last eight games will be on the road. They also see the Heat, Pelicans, Nuggets and Clippers.

The Clippers are currently ninth in the West and battling to make the playoffs. The Pacers will play them twice.

Keep in mind the Wizards own the season series over Indiana and will have a playoff seeding tiebreaker if they end up with the same record. Also worth noting is the Pacers have been much better at home (24-13) than on the road (17-17) this season.


5. Washington Wizards (40-30, 12 games left)

Though the Wizards' schedule is finally letting up soon from the 13 straight playoff teams stretch they have had to endure dating back to February, they too have a tough road ahead. The Wizards still have to play the Spurs (twice), Rockets, Cavaliers, Celtics and Nuggets. Four of their last six games are on the road and they have three back-to-back sets in their final seven games.

That's brutal. They may not have to see the defending champions twice like Indiana does, but the Wizards don't exactly have it easy.

The Wizards will, however, get John Wall back at some point. The five-time All-Star is slowly but surely working his way back and could participate in a full practice by the end of the week. Ideally they will get some games under his belt before the playoffs, but any time an All-NBA player is coming back to your team it's a good thing.

The problem is that there is little room for error in the standings and head coach Scott Brooks will have to reinsert Wall into the lineup during a tough schedule and while Wall is on a minutes restriction. It will be a tricky task to balance his lineups. 


6. Philadelphia 76ers (39-30, 13 games left)

The Sixers may have the most ideal road ahead of these four teams, at least in terms of their schedule. They still have the Timberwolves, Nuggets, Cavs and Bucks. But none of those teams are the juggernauts that Golden State, Houston and Toronto are. And of their final 13 games, the Sixers will play nine against teams outside of the playoff picture.

Philly also does not have to reincorporate a major piece into their rotation, like the Cavs do with Love and the Wizards with Wall. Their biggest injury is to Markelle Fultz, the 2017 No. 1 overall pick. If he does return this season, it will likely be in a minimal role, at least to start.

What could work against the Sixers is their inexperience and recent struggles against good teams. The Sixers are relying on very young players who have never been here before to carry the way. And since Valentine's Day, Philly has just one win against a team above the .500 mark, when they beat the Cavs on March 1. During those 14 games since Feb. 14, they have beaten up on the bad teams but lost to the Wizards, Bucks, Pacers and Heat (twice), basically all the teams surrounding them in the standings. 

Philly also lost their season series against the Cavs and Pacers, tied with the Wizards and are down 2-1 against the Bucks with one game to go. They may go to the finish line without a playoff tiebreaker against all the teams they would want one against.

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Oklahoma star freshman Trae Young to enter NBA Draft

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Oklahoma star freshman Trae Young to enter NBA Draft

After a sensational freshman season at the University of Oklahoma, point guard Trae Young plans to enter the 2018 NBA Draft, according to a report by ESPN.

Young will be one of the most fascinating prospects in this class given the extreme highs and lows of his one college season. He vaulted into the top 10 in most mock drafts after beginning his freshman year on fire, but then began to slip over the final months as his shooting percentage dropped.


Right now the Wizards are lined up to be in the late teens, so it's unlikely he falls to their range. But at this point it's difficult to predict where he will go, whether that is top five or later in the lottery.

It really could go either way. Some teams may see him as a Steph Curry-like scorer who can hit shots from unusually deep range. There were certainly times where Young backed up those comparisons.

Teams could see his flaws as a result of opposing defenses honing in on him because they could at the college level. In the NBA he may have more space and therefore be able to play to his strengths.


Or, teams could look at the fact he shot 36.1 percent from three on a whopping 10.2 attempts per game as a sign he is a chucker. He also led the nation in turnovers, commiting 24 more than the next guy. Young averaged 5.2 giveaways per game.

While Curry is the best-case scenario, Jimmer Fredette may be the worst-case. Fredette was the 10th overall pick in 2011 and now plays in China. 

Young will be an intriguing prospect in the draft because the ceiling is high and the basement is low. 

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