Kevin Durant has largely succeeded in keeping the chatter surrounding his impending free agency to a minimum. Durant will hit the open market for the first time in his career when the Oklahoma City Thunder's season is over, and the 27-year-old will be the most coveted player available by a mile.
With the league salary cap jumping from $70 million to $92 million, Durant will have no shortage of suitors who are just a few moves away from clearing max cap space. One of those teams will reportedly be the San Antonio Spurs.
San Antonio's interest in Durant was first reported by ESPN's Zach Lowe and corroborated by colleague Marc Stein on Friday. According to Stein, Durant could be on his way out of town if the Thunder are eliminated in the second round of the 2016 NBA playoffs ... by the Spurs.
As well as Durant and his close-knit tandem of representatives, Rich Kleiman and Charlie Bell, have done in terms of keeping their intentions mysterious, there is a working assumption among KD's would-be suitors that a second-round Thunder exit essentially cinches the notion that he'll indeed walk away and look for the best external situation that positions him to win that elusive first championship.
Could San Antonio pull the ultimate coup by ending Oklahoma City's playoff run and stealing away Durant in the summer? The possibility is on the table.
Why the Spurs can land Durant
Who wouldn't want to play in San Antonio? Gregg Popovich's Spurs may be the most respected institution in the league, and Durant is getting an up close look at the machine in these playoffs. After spending his entire career playing for a team defined by isolation scoring, the Spurs' signature ball movement should be appealing.
Durant noted the differences between the Thunder and Spurs earlier this season:
"Look, we're not the San Antonio Spurs," Durant said. "We're not going to make 30 passes in a possession. We're not that. Of course, people want us to be that. That's great basketball, don't get me wrong. But we're not that. We've got guys that can score. We've got two guys on this team that can get a bucket. There's going to be times we gotta iso, there's going to be times we gotta be aggressive to look for our shot to make a play.
Signing Durant to a max contract that would start at $25.8 million would require some serious cap gymnastics by San Antonio, but it's very possible. Danny Leroux broke down how the Spurs could make Durant fit at the Sporting News. Essentially, the team would have to ship out Boris Diaw and choose one of Tony Parker and Danny Green.
The plan also requires Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili to come back on contracts well below their market value, but Duncan and Ginobili are already doing that this year.
The major spike in the salary cap means almost every team can daydream about Kevin Durant. With all things being equal, why not join the most consistent organization in the NBA?
Why the Spurs can't get Durant
A key part to Durant's availability is presumed to be how the Thunder fare in the playoffs. Well, Oklahoma City and San Antonio are currently tied 1-1 in the best of seven series after the Thunder took Game 2 amid a controversial ending to steal away home court advantage.
Even if the Spurs win this series, Durant still has incentive to re-sign with OKC. He's spent his entire career with the same organization where he's won an MVP, reached the NBA Finals and collected four scoring titles.
The most likely option to stay with the Thunder is signing a 1+1 deal: a one-year max contract with a player option tacked on for the 2017-18 season. This would align Durant's free agency with Russell Westbrook's. Westbrook will hit the open market himself in the summer of 2017.
The Spurs have a couple other things working against them, too: Durant will have a lot of suitors. That includes the record-setting Golden State Warriors, the big market Los Angeles Lakers and everyone else. Also, it could be hard for San Antonio to move pieces when everyone knows they're chasing KD.
With so much money flushing through the league and Durant doing his best to divert attention away from his free agency to this point, it truly feels like no one has a grasp on how this summer might shake out. Why not the Spurs?
One thing is for sure: whenever Durant decided to go, you can expect a domino effect of signings and trades to follow. It happened with LeBron James two summers ago, and now it will happen with KD.
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Everyone messed up during Thunder-Spurs Game 2
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