Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Kevin Durant. Now what?

Much speculation has swirled as to what the star player for the Okla City Thunder might do next. After all, he's a free agent that is likely to be coveted and courted by many NBA teams.

Does he have a "home-town" loyalty like Lebron James did for Cleveland? If so, it's hard to detect. Durant was born and raised in the Washington DC area, went to high school there, and then played a single season at the Univ of Texas.

Then he was snatched up in the draft (#2 overall) by the then Seattle Supersonics in 2008. The following year that franchise would relocate to OKC. They would make it to the NBA Finals in 2012, only to get hammered in 5 games by Lebron James and Co. during his Miami Heat days.

Though a wonderfully gifted player and, by most all accounts, a truly good man off the court, Kevin Durant has garnered several awards and accolades along the way -- but never won squat. He'll be 28 years old when the 2016-17 season starts. Not on the back side of his bell curve, but hardly the proverbial spring chicken either. Rather, he's right smack dab in his "prime" and facing a crossroads. Which way to go?

Many think he should re-sign with the Thunder for one more year with perhaps a player option for a second. It makes sense. Teammate and fellow star Russell Westbrook is under contract for one more year, and the Thunder were oh-so-close this year to getting back to the Finals. As we know, those pesky Golden State Warriors stormed back from a 3-1 deficit to break the hearts of the Okie faithful. Maybe next year could be the one. And even if not, Durant could rethink his options, in no small manner depending on what Westbrook decides to do.

Or he could bolt outright. No doubt he would command and get a long-term bazillion dollar contract somewhere -- but where would be the best "fit"? Assuming winning an NBA championship or two is still high on his to-do list, now what?

Forget going back home to the Washington Wizards. With or without KD, that team is going nowhere in the near future.

Miami has been mentioned. But their best players, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, are getting long in the tooth. The latter can't even seem to stay healthy.

San Antonio would be an interesting option. Tim Duncan is 40 years old and a shell of what he once was. The Spurs would likely dearly love to have Durant slide into Duncan's place. Plus, head coach Gregg Popovich is widely considered to possess the shrewdest mind in the game. If there's a way -- he'll find it. Sounds great -- right? Maybe. But the Spurs have an age problem as well. Besides Duncan, long-time stalwarts like Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are nearing the end as well. True, Kawhi Leonard was quite the "find" and will likely be a sensational player for many years to come. Yet San Antonio has this "dotcom" aura about them. The bubble is going to burst eventually. And it might be soon. Even the most storied franchises can't stay dominant forever in modern times. I give you the LA Lakers as Exhibit A.

Though the sting is likely still there, would Durant consider the Golden State Warriors? More to the point, would they even want him? It seems like a stupid question. Of course they would want him. We're talking Kevin Durant, superstar, dammit. Or so many claim. But would they?

Last time I looked, the Warriors were defending world champions and had just put up the best regular season record of all time this year. They're back in the Finals and so far having their way with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Two games. Two wins -- by a whopping margin of 48 points.

Like all other teams, the Warriors have to do a juggling act to comply with the salary cap. Did you know unanimous MVP Stephen Curry is making less money than both Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala?

Thing is, the Warriors appear to be a happy bunch as a team. The chemistry thing. And why would anyone want to radically change something that is obviously working so well? As they say, if it ain't broke -- don't fix it.

Bringing even a superstar like KD on board could backfire. The Warriors would have to shed at least a couple key cogs in their machine to make salary cap room for him. More so than any other team in recent memory, the ongoing success of the Dubs is a result of all the parts coming together to get the job done. Sure, we know all about the Splash Brothers and the tenaciousness of Draymond Green.

But when those guys have an off-game -- it happens -- the rest of their deep roster has a way of stepping up to keep the motor humming along. It's the epitome of the team concept, and who can doubt their success of late?

Who would they get rid of to make room for Durant? Harrison Barnes, age 24? Shaun Livingstone, age 30? Iguodala at 32? Would Draymond, age 26, have to be sacrificed? Do any combination of that and the Warriors might have added a superstar, but gutted their team chemistry in the process.

If they stay together as is, GS could be championship contenders for the next few years. Dare I say even a mini-dynasty? So tell me again, why would they blow it up to get Kevin Durant? They don't need him any more than a farmer needs a new batch of expensive "miracle" fertilizer when he's turned out bumper crops for the last couple years. Why toy with success?

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