There are 30 teams that would like a meeting with Kevin Durant.
But only a handful of them are going to get one, and even of those only a few likely have any chance of landing one of the best pure scorers on the planet.
That short list starts with the three best teams in the West — Oklahoma City, Golden State, and San Antonio — reports Marc Stein of ESPN.
The Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and incumbent Oklahoma City Thunder are the first three known teams to secure face-to-face meetings with free agent-to-be Kevin Durant, starting next weekend, according to league sources.
Sources told ESPN that the list of teams that get to pitch Durant directly will grow before NBA free agency officially commences July 1 at 12:01 a.m. ET, but the list of confirmed suitors for now features the Thunder and their two main rivals in the Western Conference….
Other teams hopeful of getting their own opportunity to make a recruiting pitch to 2016’s most coveted free agent but whose status is not yet known include the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers.
Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports reports that three other teams — the Heat, Celtics, and Clippers — have meetings as well.
Durant’s representatives at Roc Nation are working to solidify invitations with the Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs and Thunder, league sources said.
The meetings are expected to take place in New York, but teams are still awaiting word on a location.
The Thunder remain the frontrunners to re-sign Durant, likely on a one-plus-one-year deal that will allow Durant to return to free agency in the summer of 2017, league sources said. But more than any other rival suitor, the Warriors have Durant’s attention, league sources said.
Durant has said this will be a “basketball decision,” so seeing three of the four best teams in the league on the list isn’t a shock. The most likely outcome remains Durant re-signing with Oklahoma City for two years, with an opt-out after one year — even if in 2017 he left for another team his next contract would be worth about $45 million more (because the cap goes up again and he becomes a 10-year veteran in the league getting him to the next max contract tier). He would get the same money with a one-year opt out with another team as well.
The sense around the league has been for a while that the Warriors are the front runners if Durant leaves OKC. Those teams still on the outside — the Knicks and Lakers in particular — are long shots in this race. Notice that Houston and Durant’s hometown Washington are not mentioned, he remains uninterested in them as landing spots.
The Heat and Celtics may make part of their pitch about how much easier a path to the Finals Durant would have in the East (Durant in Miami/Boston makes it the second best team in the East, with just Cleveland in their way). But as Matt Moore of CBS noted on Twitter: How many intense competitors like Durant say, “I will seek out the easiest path?”
That’s why the top teams in the West are at the top of the list.