Now that the Oklahoma City Thunder’s season is over, the Kevin Durant free-agency speculation can begin in earnest, even though he can’t hear pitches from other teams until July 1.
At Wednesday’s exit interviews, Durant was asked about it, and just like he did after the Thunder’s Game 7 loss, declined to go into detail about his plans.
Conventional wisdom is that the smartest move for Durant this summer would be to sign a one-year deal with the Thunder. Not only would this allow him to line up his free agency with Russell Westbrook (whose own deal is up in 2017), but it would qualify Durant for the higher tier of max deal that comes with having 10 years of experience in a summer when the salary cap is expected to jump another $20 million. A long-term deal Durant signs with the Thunder in 2017 could be worth nearly $40 million annually.
Durant, of course, shot down the idea that he had made a decision on that, too.
It would have been silly to expect Durant to tip his hand this early when free agency is a whole month out. But after the Thunder’s successful playoff run, in which they upset the Spurs in the second round and at one point took a 3-1 lead on the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, it’s tough to see any situation in the league that sets him up better in the short term than staying with the Thunder.
That won’t stop plenty of teams from taking a shot at luring him, and it’s still early enough that anything can happen. But the smart money is on a return to Oklahoma City, at least for one more year.