After the Oklahoma City Thunder took down the San Antonio Spurs in 6 games and went on to take a commanding 3-1 series lead of the Golden State Warriors, it appeared as though there was absolutely no chance Kevin Durant would leave in the offseason. There is no shame in losing to the 73 win Warriors team and the results of that series may not have changed anything, but it has certainly made it appear as though there is a slight chance Durant might go elsewhere as a free agent.
The clear cut favourite and team that makes the most sense right now still remains the Thunder. With the expected increase in the cap and both Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka having one year left on their contract, Durant is likely to sign a one year max contract or a two year contract with a player option in the second year. Waiting will give Durant more money when he signs his big contract and he will be able to play things out with the players that have spent their entire careers together.
But, with the way the Thunder collapsed and the lingering feeling that the Thunder may never be better than they were this year may cause Durant to feel better off somewhere else. There have also been some rumours that Durant’s agent has already spoken to the Celtics about Durant’s free agency.
According to CSNNE, Butch Sterns claims “I have this on pretty good authority: The Celtics have sat with his agent and other representatives of Durant. The Celtics do know — I don’t know who it is — but they do know who he would prefer to be brought here in a LeBron-Chris Bosh-Dwyane Wade-like way. Because that’s how it works in the NBA. You need to know who the guy or guys that that guy wants, which would be a factor”.
Of course, the quote means nothing in itself. It indicates no actual desire to go to the Celtics and is simply a hypothetical condition. What the quote does reveal, however, is that there is a standard in the back of the head of Durant. He needs wherever he goes to have a better chance at winning the championship than he does with the Thunder and the only way that will happen is if the Celtics form another big 3.
It has happened before, the Celtics traded for two hall of famers in Garnett and Allen to capture their championship in 2008. The Celtics may have to attempt that via free agency this time around, but they certainly have the assets to trade for another top player.
The bottom line is that Durant is almost certainly going to return to the Thunder but if what Butch Sterns claims is true then the Celtics may have an opportunity to form the kind of team that is needed to compete with the likes of the Warriors and Cavaliers. If Brad Stevens got his hand on a big three that included Durant, Isaiah Thomas and another max contract type player then they would have an opportunity to truly compete for a championship.
It is a highly unlikely hypothetical situation but the Celtics have the assets and the cap space and if there is any doubt in the mind of Durant in regard to returning to the Thunder, then forming the next big three with the Celtics would be the best way for him to get a better chance at a championship. He would still have to deal with LeBron, but that would also take him out of a western conference whose top teams were significantly better than the east this year.
Celtics fans will certainly dream of a Durant led big 3 but until he reveals anything himself, the reality of the situation is that Durant will take at least once more chance with the team that many believed would beat the Warriors this season.