Championship or bust was a term used to speculate about Kevin Durant’s free agency this summer. There was common belief that the Oklahoma City Thunder would have to at least make it to the NBA Finals for Durant to definitely re-sign, otherwise he might flee to another team that is more equipped to get him there.
My belief has been similar, but I was under the impression that how OKC lost in the postseason would hold more weight than when they lost. A lopsided, embarrassing postseason exit might’ve influenced Durant’s thinking one way, but a Game 7 loss to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals shouldn’t be enough to drive Durant out of town. Durant is reportedly expected to pursue a short term, two-year deal with a player option on the second year, which would give him the chance to enter free agency with his teammate Russell Westbrook in 2017.
If he waits until next summer, Kevin Durant can sign a max deal worth over $200M with the Thunder pic.twitter.com/ljZFVE7do5
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 31, 2016
Durant doesn’t have much reason to leave the second best team in the West right now. The Thunder looked to make some monumental strides throughout this postseason. They had a wide open window to put the defending champions away and blew it, but this team still has frightening potential to improve. First-year coach Billy Donovan talked about the team carrying over and mastering those improved habits after the loss in Game 7:
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) May 31, 2016
The West is still the Warriors’ to lose until otherwise, and the rest of the conference itself will remain dynamically competitive, but Durant shouldn’t be inclined to leave at this juncture. Many felt that a deal such as the aforementioned report would be a possibility for Durant, giving him one more crack at a title with Westbrook before they can go into free agency together. That’s the most reasonable option right now considering just how close they were to making another Finals appearance.
Obviously any and every team that can land a meeting with Durant this summer will do so. Unless an unforeseen opportunity surfaces, one that can put Durant next to two other stars in a more promising situation than where he is now with the Thunder, there’s not much reason to believe he won’t be in a Thunder uniform next season. For now at least, Durant leaving Oklahoma City shouldn’t be anticipated.
If Durant does re-sign, next season becomes the more definitive test for his future.