As Kevin Durant's free agency draws closer, rumblings that the Golden State Warriors could somehow sign the 2014 MVP keep getting louder. Those whispers exploded Tuesday when Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the defending champs are the "significant" front-runners to sign Durant if he chooses to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder.
This report isn't coming out of thin air. A month ago, ESPN's Chris Broussard reported that executives around the league saw the Warriors as a legitimate possibility for Durant. Klay Thompson's father, Mychal, said last April he "heard it on good authority" that Golden State would make a strong push for Durant's services.
While Durant heading to the Warriors sounds terrifying to the rest of the league, Woj notes that the 27-year-old has given no real indication he'll leave Oklahoma City. He "adores" the community, "holds a fondness" for the Thunder franchise and the team has been highly successful when healthy.
But if the Thunder flame out in the postseason, perhaps Durant looks to the juggernaut in the Bay as his best chance to get that elusive first ring. The possibility of the dominant Warriors somehow adding Kevin Durant to their roster is very real.
Wait, how is this even possible?
As great as the Warriors currently are, they've given themselves the flexibility to pursue Durant when the time comes. It'll take a few dominoes falling their way, but they absolutely can create the salary-cap space to sign Durant. You can thank Stephen Curry's absurdly below-market value contract (he will make $11.3 million this year and $12.1 million next season) for that space.
The Warriors have nearly $75 million in salaries committed for next season, so even with the expected cap jump to around $90 million, they can't just simply sign Durant to a max contract that'll start at around $25 million a year right off the bat. However, they have plenty of room to maneuver quickly to create that cap space in case Durant wants to come. Remember all the maneuvering the Warriors pulled off to sign Andre Iguodala in the summer of 2013? Creating space for Durant will be easier than that.
Golden State has six players with fully guaranteed deals for next year in Thompson, Iguodala, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Andrew Bogut and rookie Kevon Looney. Thompson, Curry and Green aren't going anywhere and Looney is a talented young player on a cheap rookie deal, so he's likely staying as well.
Iguodala and Bogut are two players who could be moved to make room for Durant. Iguodala is set to make $11.13 million in the last year of his deal in 2016-17 and he could be a coveted asset on the trade market considering he's still effective. Bogut will make $12.68 million as an expiring contract next year and the Warriors could look to trade him as well, although he may be a bit tougher to unload. Yahoo Sports' Bobby Marks suggests using the stretch provision on Bogut, which will spread out his remaining salary over three seasons. This will lessen Bogut's cap hit for next year and create more cap space for Durant.
Then there are the two key restricted free agents, Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli. With certain other moves and the cooperation of all parties, the Warriors could keep their cap holds on the sheet, have space to sign Durant and then go over the cap to re-sign the two youngsters. The more likely scenario is that one or both are let go for Durant, with Barnes in particular looking expendable in such a situation.
There are other decisions to be made on role players. Jason Thompson has $2.65 million of his $7.01 million expiring contract guaranteed, but Thompson has no place on the roster and could easily be stretched out like Bogut. Shaun Livingston has $3 million of his $5.78 million guaranteed and he could either be kept around or dealt depending on other moves. Finally, there are the low-level free agents like Marreese Speights, Brandon Rush and Leandro Barbosa, whose cap holds will easily be renounced.
There are several hoops to jump through, but there are multiple ways the Warriors could attack this. The Spurs proved last season that it's possible to trim salary at the last minute to sign a marquee free agent. The Warriors have the necessary flexibility to do the same if Durant wants to come.
But c'mon. Kevin Durant on the Warriors?
While the Warriors are an attractive destination for Durant, he will have to sacrifice shots and a bit of money. The Thunder can offer a fifth year on a contract that the Warriors can't and while Durant's already sharing the ball with Russell Westbrook, he'd have to share even more with Curry, Thompson and Green. If he's worried about his legacy, he'd get more respect for winning a title as "The Man" in Oklahoma City as opposed to being a part of the overwhelming Golden State juggernaut. The Thunder aren't that far off from a title themselves, after all.
But perhaps that doesn't matter to Durant. Winning one or more titles with the Warriors would be better than winning zero in Oklahoma City and he may be worried that his Thunder can't get past Golden State anytime soon. What happens this postseason could play a big part in the decision.
There is a chance that Durant gives the Thunder at least one more chance after this year by signing a two-year deal with a player option, much like LeBron James has with Cleveland. That would align Durant's free agency with Westbrook's in 2017 and he'd get even more money with a new maximum deal when the cap is expected to rise to around $108 million.
On the other hand, Durant may not want to deal with more free-agent speculation and would prefer to lock in a new long-term deal now. In that case, the Warriors are certainly a serious threat to get him. Durant cares about winning and the Warriors may never lose if he joins them.
We give this a 4/10 chance of happening.
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OKC lost to Golden State but gave us an amazing series
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