With the Oklahoma City Thunder becoming the 10th team to blow a 3-1 lead in a playoff series, it's time to start thinking about Kevin Durant becoming an unrestricted free agent in the upcoming offseason. Will Durant stay or go and how can his decision influence the NBA odds?
Kevin Durant is the biggest free agent ahead of the 2016-17 season. It's not often that such a talented player is available and now that the salary cap will jump to about $92 million this summer, many teams will offer him a maximum contract at 11:00 PM ET on June 30th.
Durant is a franchise-changing player and you can bet on his future right now, as Bovada has opened a prop on where he will play next season. The Thunder are -290 favorites to retain Durant, while the "any other team" option is available at +190 NBA odds.
Let's look at which teams have the best chance to sign Durant so we can decide how to place our NBA picks.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant has unfinished business with the Thunder. This is what he had to say regarding his next move: "I respect the fans here. It's a huge decision. I just want some time to decompress and think about the season. I'm really trying to make sure I tie everything up properly and make the right decision for me."
To me, he should stay with the Thunder. His duo with Russell Westbrook is amazing, they just need a bit more help so they can close games out better. You can say what you want about the Thunder but they just took the defending NBA champion Warriors to seven games and this team has an excellent chance to win a championship soon as long as Durant and Westbrook are around.
San Antonio Spurs
Durant respects Gregg Popovich and the dynasty that he has built in San Antonio and if he joins them he would make them instant title favorites. San Antonio would have to restructure some contracts and Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili would have to retire to create cap room, but Durant playing on the same team with Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge is a scary thought.
Pat Riley is capable of bringing any free agent to South Beach based on his ability to put together championship contenders every year. Riley managed to sign LeBron James and Chris Bosh in 2010 and he almost added LaMarcus Aldridge last summer. Durant could find an easier path to the NBA Finals by competing in the weaker Eastern Conference. The Heat have a lot of talent on their roster but they would likely have to lose star center Hassan Whiteside via free agency to have enough cap space to go after Durant.
Golden State Warriors
Should the Warriors go after Durant if they win a second straight championship? A Big Three of Durant, Curry and Thompson would be fun to watch, but having Durant could ruin their team chemistry and force them to let Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli go. Golden State would also have to make other roster moves to have enough cap space to make an offer that Durant can't refuse.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers don't have the cap room to sign Durant, but they could make a sign-and-trade deal with the Thunder, sending Blake Griffin to OKC. Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan could take the Clippers far and Griffin would return to the state where he played in college, but this idea is unlikely to happen.
Los Angeles Lakers
I don't see Durant leaving a championship contender to join a rebuilding team. Sure, playing with a storied franchise is an attractive idea and Kobe Bryant will likely help recruit him but I think that Durant wants to win a ring as soon as possible.
Durant will have no shortage of suitors and teams like the Celtics, Knicks and his hometown Wizards will also talk to him, but I think it will come down to three teams, the Thunder, Spurs and Warriors.