Under any circumstances, Kevin Durant risked quite a bit when he suited up for the Golden State Warriors in Monday night’s game five of the NBA Finals. When you factor into that decision that he is potentially up for free agency this year with hundreds of millions of dollars on the line, the outcome of his decision is downright devastating.
Technically speaking, he could simply opt into the final year of his contract and recover on Warriors company time, making $31 million for himself in the process. Should he opt out, though, David Aldridge of The Athletic says Durant will have no shortage of suitors lining up with max contract offers:
League sources Tuesday made it plain: Durant’s injury, whether short-term or longer, has done little to cool the ardor of his most dogged free agent pursuers. The likelihood remains that all of the New York/L.A. teams will stay in the hunt for Durant beginning on the afternoon of June 30.
Honestly, this shouldn’t surprise anyone. Durant is an all-time great player, and while there are legitimate concerns about how he will recover from this injury (which appears to be a blown achilles, but we’re still waiting on official word), he’s young enough and more than skilled enough to recover as close to fully as an athlete can.
Now, for the Lakers specifically, it would be interesting to see how the timeline would play out. Durant would likely miss basically all of next season. Could they maybe see how things go with LeBron James and whoever is left after an Anthony Davis trade that is starting to feel increasingly likely and then add Durant to the mix when he is healthy? Maybe! Though in terms of the cap legality, there isn’t enough room for them to make such a trade and offer Durant his full max, which certainly complicates things.
Going through such scenarios definitely feels like putting the cart before the horse, though.
The larger point here is that Durant will still have options, which is great to hear about given the way his season has likely ended. It will be fascinating to watch how this all plays out, though.
Should Durant opt in and recover on Golden State’s dime, what does that do for Kyrie Irving’s intentions? If Durant stays, does that make Irving’s decision to potentially go to Brooklyn all the more complicated? Does he maybe even stay, and thus allow Boston to trade for Anthony Davis? If Durant doesn’t wind up in New York, do the Knicks embrace a further youth movement after moving Kristaps Porzingis in part to open up max space for a free agent or two?
This summer is going to be insane. That much we know. But more important than any of the outcomes here or any speculation I can attempt is how fortunate everyone involved is that Durant will have these options despite Monday night's nearly heartbreaking turn of events.
That obviously doesn’t change how terrible it was to see him go down in a heap, but it’s a silver lining to an all-around devastating situation for Durant.