It must feel good to be Kevin Durant right now. He’s on top of the NBA world, looking down on everybody else outside of anyone from the Golden State Warriors. For the second season in a row, he’s higher than his estranged former running mate, Russell Westbrook, by reaching the pinnacle of NBA success once again.
Durant is now a two-time world champion, a two-time NBA Finals MVP, a one-time league MVP, and a movie star once featured in a flick with a jaw-dropping grade of 5.2 on IMDB. Durant’s place in the pantheon of all-time NBA greats is secured. If one day Durant becomes an analyst on TNT, Shaq can’t ridicule his ringless hands like he always does to poor Charles Barkley.
Durant is in basketball heaven in both financial and professional sense. Even though his current deal with the Warriors is set to expire in the summer, barely anyone thinks that he would switch teams any time soon.
It’s almost universally expected that Durant will sign a new deal with the Warriors, especially with Golden State general manager Bob Myers practically saying that the forward has the permission to walk into the team’s treasury and take as much money as he can.
Durant could sign for as long as four years and about $160 million, and Myers is prepared to give him “whatever he wants.” Durant has said all along he wants to stay put, especially after winning a pair of championships in his first two seasons with Golden State.
“Sometimes you don’t negotiate. I’d love to have him for 10 years. Kevin Durant, look what he did for us last year, he did us a great service,” Myers said. “He’s earned the right to sign whatever deal he wants. I just want him to sign a deal. But want him to be happy and want him to know that we want him as long as he wants to be here. He’s earned that, to kind of lay out the terms. He can do whatever he wants. That shouldn’t be a long negotiation. Our goal, to be honest, is to try to keep the whole thing together, so that’s the pieces of the puzzle we’ve got to try to figure out.”
That is as secure of a guarantee as Durant can get about how intent the Warriors are of repaying his on-court heroics by way of stuffing his pocket with cash. With All-Star teammates, virtually-secured mega-sized contract, and playing in a team with a proven blueprint to a championship, there’s basically no existing practical reason that would outweigh the pros for Durant to stay put in Golden State.
All those being said, it won’t hurt the NBA if Durant takes his act somewhere else.
Before Durant took his talents to the Bay Area, the idea of him joining forces with the Warriors sounded too absurd. It’s almost like a heresy. Suggesting then that Durant would go to Golden State just after his Oklahoma City Thunder were taken down by the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals would get you the same kind of glances Nicolaus Copernicus got from the church when he postulated the Sun as the center of the solar system and not the Earth.
The Warriors did not need Durant to succeed. They won a title without him in 2015 and could have done it again had Draymond Green not gone for LeBron James’ family jewels. Conversely, Durant could lead a team of his own, too, even without all-time shooting greats in Steph Curry and Klay Thompson flanking him.
Durant’s Thunder even went up 3-1 in the 2016 Western Conference Finals. He needed to play at his best for the Thunder to win. It was a necessity. Nowadays, a Durant explosion is commonly taken for granted because the Warriors don’t really need him to regularly go off for 30-35 points a night to survive in the playoffs.
There’s a certain thrill that fans get when they see a superstar hit full-Terminator mode to carry his team in the postseason a la Allen Iverson circa 2001 and LeBron James over the course of the 2018 NBA Playoffs. Wouldn’t the NBA be more intriguing to watch tif instead of Durant trying to torch opponents while with a loaded Warriors team it was him recreating this performance against Golden State?
The Thunder lost that game, but Durant scoring 40 points for the Thunder felt more heroic than that of him dropping 40 against LeBron James and a bunch of barely-functioning, brain-cramped teammates.
There might be no line blurrier to the vision of NBA fans than the one that separates the wholesome goal of the league’s entities to win a title and the business side of things. Durant’s decision to take a pay cut last year was viewed by most folks as a selfless gesture on the negotiation table seldom seen from a player of his ilk.
By doing so, the Warriors were able to carve out just enough space on their salary cap to re-sign the pair of Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. But Durant is not going to take another pay cut this year, altruism be damned.
With Durant slated to seal a new deal with the Warriors worth enough to maybe fund his own space program, Golden State is in line to suffer from a great financial migraine if it wants to keep the band together past 2020. Draymond Green is reportedly unwilling to sign an extension deal this summer with the Warriors, which would keep him in the team’s fold beyond 2020.
Per Chris Haynes of ESPN.
According to league sources, Green will turn the extension down when it’s offered. That’s because if he earns MVP, Defensive Player of the Year or All-NBA Team honors next season, he will be eligible for a super-max contract of five years, $226 million.
Without navigating through the intricate financial acrobatics that the Warriors have to pull off in order to retain their current core of superstars for the long haul, it’s likely that at some point, things are going to get ugly in the Bay Area. Someone has to give in eventually, but it seems no one wants to sacrifice his ability to earn the maximum possible income.
Durant can choose to avoid that scenario and subsequently be put in a bad light by leaving the Warriors now that he’s on top. His trophy room is stacked and no longer missing a Larry O’Brien. He’s got two of them even.
If there’s anything that he does not have, it’s a team he could truly call his own.