Report: Kevin Durant willing to accept less than max contract next year

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The Warriors will have seven free agents this summer who are in Golden State’s playoff rotation:

And then there’s Kevin Durant, who holds a $27,734,405 player option for next season.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant is willing to take less than the maximum contract extension he is eligible for this summer as a 10-year veteran if it helps the Warriors keep the core of their team intact, league sources told ESPN.

Durant’s projected max salary next season is more than $35 million. But the Warriors would need cap space to pay him more than $31,848,120 (120% of his salary this year, which could be offered through Non-Bird Rights, technically a form of Bird Rights). To get that cap space, they’d have to renounce Iguodala, Livingston and most of their low-paid free agents (where the cap lands would determine exactly how many).

Obviously, Curry isn’t going anywhere. But another product of his relatively low-paying contract extension is a relatively low free agent amount. Golden State can hold him at $18,168,539 until settling all its other business than replace that cap hold with a designated-veteran-player contract projected to be worth $205 million over five years.

Iguodala and Livingston are the big pivot points.

The Warriors have full Bird Rights on both, but the team loses those Bird Rights if the players are renounced to clear cap space for Durant. If Durant opts in (for $27,734,405) or opts out to accept the Non-Bird Exception (much more likely with a starting salary of $31,848,120 and the ability to add extra years), Golden State could re-sign Iguodala and Livingston to any salary up to the max.

Such an arrangement would come with risk for Durant and the Warriors.

If Durant takes a discount next season, he might not lock into a long-term contract with annual raises limited by a low starting salary. He could sign another 1+1 deal and re-sign with Early Bird Rights in 2018, when he’d be eligible for his full max starting salary (projected to be nearly $36 million) and larger raises (8% vs. 4% this year).

Though Durant has expressed nothing but satisfaction with his time in Golden State, every free agency presents an opportunity to leave. He also loses financial security on a short-term contract.

If Durant opts in or opts out to accept the Non-Bird Exception, the Warriors would also maintain Bird Rights for Zaza Pachulia (Non-Bird), Ian Clark (Early Bird), David West (Non-Bird) and JaVale McGee (Non-Bird). Unlike with Iguodala and Livingston, Golden State would still have financial constraints for its Early Bird and Non-Bird players. Their projected maxes for re-signing without cap space:

  • Clark: Projected $6.5 million (must be on contract for 2-4 years, not including option years)
  • Pachulia: $3,477,600
  • West: $2,794,382
  • McGee: $2,540,346

Is that enough to keep any? Pachulia and West have already taken discounts to join the Warriors. McGee has found a team that maximizes his value, and other teams might be skeptical of what he could do for them. Clark is a wild card.

But even such a strong possibility of keeping the core of a championship contender – maybe champion – is such a boon. It’s in Durant’s hands now.