All Eyes On the Prize: The Kevin Durant 6

Free Agency for Kevin Durant is almost here. We discuss….

Kevin Durant has identified the six teams he will interview with.  According to Adrian Wojnarwoski of the Vertical, they are the Thunder, Spurs, Warriors, Celtics, Clippers and Heat. Who is the big surprise?

C.J. Hampshire: The Clippers. There has always been talk of a seamless trade. Blake going back home to Oklahoma and Durant coming to L.A. But it doesn’t make any sense as a business proposition. Only J.J. Redick (2009 Finals) has been out of the second round. The Clippers with Durant would have no power forward. Their bench is thin since Jamal Crawford is probably not coming back. No one on the Clippers is better than Westbrook, even Chris Paul. The Thunder are deeper.

Mallory Stith-Wheat: Unless Durant wants his name associated with one of the most improbable things in sports history, a Clippers title, he’s not going to sign in L.A. The Clippers don’t have the depth of the Warriors or Spurs. This business decision would only be about money and not about titles.

Brendan Gillespie: The Celtics seem like a good fit. But every coach in this group has won a ring but the Thunder and Celtics. That matters. They have been there.

Julian Billick: The Heat are a team that are always in the mix for a free-agent but they have an old Dwyane Wade. Goran Dragic didn’t really fit. Hassan Whiteside is a stud but their bench is questionable and who knows Chris Bosh’s future. A Heat interview is all about Riley and respect.

The Lakers are not on the list but the Clippers are. Is this the final nail in the Lakers mythology, not even to get an interview? And what about BFF James Harden skipping the Olympics to recruit Durant and then getting punked?

Brendan: Carmelo and LaMarcus interviewed because they were the Lakers and Kobe was on the team. No Kobe, no chance. They are rebuilding. Who can you trust? D’Angelo Russell? No jumpshot Julius Randle? The Lakers need two years.

Mallory: James Harden is delusional. BFF or not. No way, no how is Durant going to be coached by Mike D’Antoni just for the fact that he was the coach who played Kobe 48 minutes three games in a row and he tore his Achilles.

Julian: The Rockets? Me laughing.

C.J.: The Lakers are a young team who have to lose first before they win. Goodbye Jim Buss. The Clippers also had a LeBron interview in 2010 so let’s not make more out of the Clippers than it is. Durant wants one interview in L.A. Clippers need to get out of the 2nd round first before trying to land a marquee free agent.  The Rockets are the comical story, not the Lakers fall from grace. The Lakers have a lot of young talent, a young coach and are building for the future. They are the Thunder in 2008. The Rockets have James Harden and…Patrick Beverly.

Obviously Durant wasn’t swayed by Derrick Rose being on the Knicks. Does Phil Jackson look desperate?

Julian: Yes. Rose was a good addition though. One year on the deal. The Knicks will have cap space next year and can sign Westbrook who would love playing in Gotham. Knicks have to be happy with Joakim Noah.

C.J: Rose was a solid choice by the Zen Master. He’s not what he was but so what? The Knicks aren’t contenders. He’ll pack the house and the Knicks will fight for a seventh seed if Rose can stay healthy but everyone on that team is past their prime. Durant is 27.

Mallory: Phil tried but he doesn’t have the talent. When you look at the teams that made the cut, they have developed players  they drafted. Porzingis is nice but he only has one year of experience. You can’t be the new kid on the block and try to snag Durant.

Brendan: It’s a lot harder to build a team than to coach a team. New Yorkers are delusional. Like Lakers fans, they think everyone wants to play in thier city. Um…no.  Scott Presti isn’t a better GM than Jackson was a coach because none of his moves have netted a title. But he is very shrewd.

If the Warriors had Durant in Game 7 would they have beaten Cleveland?

C.J.: No. Durant’s record against LeBron is 3-13. LeBron owns him. LeBron would have bullied him the way he did the rest of the Warriors. The Warriors need someone who can defend top tier point guards like Kyrie, Lillard, Lowry. They need size up front. Small ball is over.

Julian: What Durant would have done is forced LeBron to defend. Harrison Barnes was a joke in the Finals. LeBron would have had to concern himself with not only Durant but all the action with Curry off the dribble dishing to Durant and Durant feeding  Klay. It’s a tough team to defend. The Warriors wouldn’t have had those droughts.

Mallory: No. When LeBron stops playing facilitator and goes into angry scoring mode and has help, only one team has stopped him, the 2014 Spurs. Durant makes the Warriors more potent but doesn’t change how dominant LeBron and Kyrie have been these last two years.

Brendan: The Warriors need size. They need not to win 73 games that exhausts them. They need their bench to show up. Kevin Durant changes their star power. I don’t see him and Steph together.

Who wins the sweepstakes and will that get them a title in 2017?

Mallory: OKC. No title. LeBron always wins two in a row.

Brendan: He’d be stupid to leave the best team out of the bunch. Collectively, OKC are younger than all the teams on the list. They have the most talent. They are deeper. This is just a Durant ego trip. OKC had a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals.

C.J.: The Thunder have the inside track but I wouldn’t sleep on the Warriors. Durant would have to sacrifice but the bottom line is the Warriors lost. Their Strength in Numbers needs a re-do. They need Durant in order to continue their reign to stay on top of the conference. They are moving into a new building in 2018, in San Francisco. Durant can make that building his.

Julian: The Thunder and it will be a victory for Sam Presti and small markets. The fact is, the only transcendent player(s) to leave the team that drafted them were Shaq (Orlando) and LeBron (Cleveland). Rarely does it happen. It won’t happen here. Presti bringing in Victor Oladipo sealed the deal. OKC loses to Cleveland in the NBA Finals.

photo via llananba