Let’s start with the obvious: If Kevin Durant decides to become a free agent in 2016 and talk to other teams, the line of GMs at his door will be as long or longer than the one LeBron James saw in 2010. The other obvious statements here are Durant and LeBron are different people, their situations with the team that drafted them feel different (at least right now), and nobody has any idea right now what Durant will be thinking come 2016. Including Durant. It’s more than two years away.
All that said, if you’re a team GM or president looking to restructure your roster, you need to think now about having cap space in 2016 to go after Durant, in case he does decide to see what lies outside OKC.
The impending Durant free agency bonanza should start picking up steam next season and will undoubtedly engulf the NBA in the summer of 2016. And make no mistake: the Nets are targeting Durant, the 25-year-old offensive juggernaut, even if it’s too early to predict their odds.
The Nets could be committed to no salary when Durant becomes a free agent, depending on whether Deron Williams picks up his one-year option for the 2016-17 season. Everybody else is off the books.
Just know that the Knicks, Lakers and a host of other teams in major markets potentially will have cap space that summer (depending on what happens with Carmelo Anthony and the rest of the class this summer, then Kevin Love and others in 2015).
For Durant, his decision likely will come down to where he thinks he can best contend for titles and where he feels the most comfortable.
He’s a max salary player and while the Thunder can offer him an extra season of guaranteed money Durant will be 27 in the summer of 2016 so another huge contract is very likely to come after this one.
If your argument is endorsements, Durant is one of only a couple players (LeBron James, Kobe Bryant) who are so big nationally and internationally that the market they are in is not going to really matter for endorsements. Everyone is knocking on his door already. Moving to a major market is not the same major boost for them it is for players on other tiers.
Durant likes living in Oklahoma City and with a team around him that is a contender he may not even look outside the Thunder organization. That would be the smart bet right now. But it’s impossible to say what the Thunder will look like exactly (this ownership group does not want to pay the luxury tax) and how Durant will feel about it more than two years from now.
Know GMs around the league are planning now, just in case Durant does decide to test the waters.