There have been rumors all year that Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant would take a hard look at the Los Angeles Lakers and their league leading $65.8 million in cap space this summer when and if he becomes a free agent, but the latest reports say that scenario is either no longer the case, or never was.
Durant has served reminder that he is still a bonafide superstar this season after losing the majority of last season due to injury, averaging 27.8 points per game on 50.8 percent shooting to go with 7.9 rebounds and 4.5 assists. Even with these Herculean averages, it is still obvious that the Lakers are more than just the addition of Durant and some growth from their young players away from beating Golden State in a playoff series, something Adrian Wojnarowski of the Vertical reports will be an important factor in Durant's thinking.
According to Wojnarowski during an appearance on Jason McIntyre's Fox Sports Radio, Durant will only be interested in teams he thinks can help him win a championship right away. (h/t Bleacher Report for the transcription):
Washington and the Lakers, they are not frontrunners for [Durant]. He wants to win a championship. If he leaves Oklahoma - he may end up staying there - Golden State is the team that is worrisome for Oklahoma City. That's the team that has [Durant's] attention ... [Durant] wants to win a Championship right away. Either he wants to do that in Oklahoma City, with the group they have, or he's going to go somewhere he can win a title right away. ...
If [Durant] leaves Oklahoma - if he leaves - he wants to be ready to win a Championship right away. He's at a point in his career [where] he can't wait 2-3 years or wait for a team to build or hope that it happens.
Part of his criteria, sources tell me: Is that team good enough to beat Golden State with me on it? Or is it Golden State? Or can I stay in Oklahoma and continue to compete for a Championship? The thing with the Thunder is, you never know how close you might be to a title. It's very true ... Are they good enough defensively?
[A few sentences later] I just don't think the Lakers are a real significant factor for [Durant].
This follows up on Wojnarowski's earlier report that Los Angeles has "little, if any," chance to sign Durant this summer. The Lakers are currently last in the league in both defensive efficiency (108.5) and net rating (-10.7), according to NBA.com, and additionally sit at second to last in offensive efficiency (97.8). The product on the floor has not been a great advertisement for free agents looking to win right away.
However, the Lakers' aforementioned cap space will likely give them at least the theoretical ability to sign three players at close to the max, and so if Durant were to decide that he wanted to team up with multiple members of his free agency class in Los Angeles, the team would be able to do so.
Such an outcome is highly unlikely though, and it's probably a better bet that the Lakers will end up being forced to continue a more methodical rebuild around their young core of D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and Jordan Clarkson while adding some talent around that group this summer.
All stats per NBA.com. You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.