There's a connection making news between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors. No, it's not about the Washington Wizards facing both in consecutive games this week.
Just as the KD2DC buzz is cooling, the idea of Thunder star Kevin Durant joining the defending NBA Champions as a free agent gains steam.
It's not just that the Warriors would throw their proverbial hat into the ring along with the Wizards, Lakers, Heat and basically every contender/ big market team. According to a report based on league sources from Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski, "If Durant leaves the Thunder, the Warriors are the significant frontrunners to sign him."
That sound you heard was every other team in the league gasping about the thought of Golden State' offensive juggernaut adding one of the league's all-time best shooters and point producers.
The 2014 NBA Most Valuable Player becomes a free agent this summer. That's assuming Durant indeed enters free agency in July rather than delaying the open market by signing a one-year deal with the Thunder to match the contract length of tag-team partner Russell Westbrook.
As the Wizards witnessed Monday in Oklahoma City, that combo plus the rest of the impressive roster can make a real run at a title. However, the same goes for the Warriors and San Antonio Spurs. Those obstacles, particularly Golden State, likely exist for the 2016-17 title as well. According to Wojnarowski's reporting, getting a title is what matters to Durant most. That could mean he goes down the 'if you can't beat them, join them' path.
Make no mistake: Durant isn’t close to gone in Oklahoma City – no decision, no leaning, sources said – but the real threats on the summer market are beginning to reveal themselves. Durant is determined to win – to be an immediate championship contender at 27 years old – and that keeps bringing him back to the Warriors should he make the decision to leave Oklahoma City.
Outside of a Thunder championship closing down the process before July 1, there’s a strong expectation that Durant will hit the road, tour campuses and become a recruit again.
The big free agents, they’re forever living one of two things in the months leading into summer: searching for reasons to stay, or searching for reasons to leave. Durant has always been looking for reasons to stay. He adores the Oklahoma City community and holds a fondness for the franchise, but Durant is chasing championships, chasing a legacy.
This limits his choices, leaving the Los Angeles Lakers with little, if any, chance.
Wojnarowski mentions Washington as one the well-known suitors. He explains that the Los Angeles Clippers are in it to win it for Durant even if it means trading Oklahoma native Blake Griffin. However, Wojnarowski also makes the case for why Golden State may trump all in the eyes of Durant.
The Warriors have a billion-dollar arena on the horizon in downtown San Francisco, expensive seats and suites to fill, a monster of a local television deal to feed. Golden State’s core is young, and Durant’s disposition fits the Warriors’ culture. He has won his scoring titles. He needs a legacy and believes fully that has to include multiple titles. He doesn’t want to wait for a new team to form around him, which is why it will still be hard to lure him from the Thunder.
Wizards fans reading that last sentence probably have a Steve Buckhantz "dagger" call running through their head. "He doesn’t want to wait for a new team to form around him." Obviously the Wizards, currently 11th in the Eastern Conference, have some interesting pieces, namely John Wall and Bradley Beal. No offense to the starry backcourt, but that's not Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and Draymond Green and coach Steve Kerr and at least one if not back-to-back NBA titles.
We've seen plenty of reporting on Durant's future over the last two years. The Golden State angle is relatively new. We'll see what the future holds for the rumor mill over the next few months. But if Durant is insistent on landing with a ready-made winner and is open to leaving Oklahoma CIty, it's hard imagining a better scenario than Golden State.