Will Kevin Durant Sign With the Lakers Next Season?

by Taylor Smith
on October 16, 2018

Minute Read

It can be argued that no athletes in the world have as much power as star players in the NBA. These days it seems as though we hear about a handful of All-Star caliber players demanding to be traded every season. The Jimmy Butler fiasco with the Minnesota Timberwolves looks like it will seep into the regular season, while the San Antonio Spurs are coming off a season in which they were essentially held hostage by Kawhi Leonard. Leonard was subsequently traded to the Toronto Raptors over the summer.

Kevin Durant has largely been a good soldier as a pro. He spent his first 9 seasons in the league emerging as a legitimate superstar for the Seattle SuperSonics and Oklahoma City Thunder. While he did help the team to a Finals berth, he was never able to get over the hump during his time in OKC. So, once he became a free agent in the summer of 2016, he decided to bolt and chase a ring with the Golden State Warriors. That has since proven to be a smart move, as he’s won a title in each of his first 2 seasons in the Bay Area.

Durant signed a 2-year extension after his first season in Golden State that gave him some flexibility. He’s currently set to enter the second and final year of said deal, which means he will hit the market as an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2019. The Warriors are expected by just about everyone to win a third consecutive title this season. With literally nothing left to prove with Golden State, there is some speculation that Durant could move on and find himself a new challenge. Doing so would put a huge dent in what appears to be a budding Warriors dynasty.

MyBookie has odds posted regarding which team’s uniform Durant will be wearing at the beginning of the 2019-20 NBA campaign:

  • Golden State Warriors +200
  • Los Angeles Lakers +200
  • New York Knicks +350
  • Oklahoma City Thunder +700
  • Los Angeles Clippers +1000
  • Miami Heat +1000
  • New Orleans Pelicans +1500
  • Houston Rockets +1500
  • The Field +300

Warriors or Bust?

As mentioned in the open, there really isn’t a whole lot left for Durant to accomplish with Golden State. He has won 2 titles in 2 years there, and he has won Finals MVP both times, for good measure. The Dubs are heavy favorites to make it 3 titles in 3 years with KD this season.

On the flip side, why should Durant feel the need to leave a dynasty? The Warriors’ core is still young, and there is little reason to believe they can’t keep winning titles for the next several years, assuming health remains on their side. Durant has found a way to fit in seamlessly alongside the likes of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. He also lives in the San Francisco area, which seems like a pleasant place to live. If Durant wants to keep adding championship rings to his collection, his best bet is to stay where he is and re-up with Golden State.

At this point, we have little reason to believe Durant has any desire to leave, so I’d be happy to place a bet on Golden State to retain his services at +200. He has said all the right things since coming to town a couple of years ago, and he seems to be embracing the team’s growing status as the NBA’s preeminent villain. You can do a lot worse than getting KD at +200 to stay with the Warriors, so I like the bet.

Could He Join LeBron?

LeBron James effectively shifted the balance of power even more heavily toward the Western Conference when he made the decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Los Angeles Lakers back in July. LeBron has faced the Warriors in the Finals in each of the last 4 years with the Cavs, which is obviously a streak that will come to an end now that he has joined Golden State in the Pacific Division.

James signed a 4-year deal with the Lakers, so he’s not leaving any time soon. It sounds as though he wants to be there to help rebuild the league’s most prolific franchise. The Lakers haven’t been seen in the playoffs since 2013, which is the longest skid in the team’s history. Most believe the drought will end this season with LeBron in the fold, but there are still plenty of question marks surrounding him in L.A.

The Lakers will have enough cap space to sign another superstar to a max contract in the summer of 2019. One would imagine someone will take the Lakers’ money for the chance to play with LeBron in Los Angeles. There are plenty of stars set to hit the market, though Durant will presumably be the most sought-after player if he indicates that he plans to leave the Warriors. You can bet the Lakers will jump to the front of his long line of suitors.

Can LeBron convince Durant to leave his current cushy spot with the Warriors to join their primary rival to the south? It’s possible. The allure of the Lakers is real, and it would be fascinating to see a player like Durant suddenly turn around and join what may be Golden State’s chief competitor next season. You can bet a team with LeBron and Durant together would stand a credible chance of dethroning the Warriors.

Every player in the league has dreamed of playing for the Lakers at some point. It is what it is. It’s hard to fathom Durant leaving the Warriors for what may emerge as the biggest threat to their dynasty. That said, why not move to L.A. in order to take the chance to play alongside the best player of all-time? That doesn’t sound too shabby, either. I think the Lakers are viable at +200, but the Warriors make for a far safer bet at the same price.

Back to OKC?

Back in 2010, the NBA world was stunned when LeBron James went on TV to say that he was leaving Cleveland, the only franchise he’d ever known, to join a potential super team down in Miami. 4 years and 2 titles later, LeBron decided to go back to Cleveland in order to help the Cavs win a title for the first time. 2 years later, he accomplished said goal.

Could Durant take a similar path? It’s definitely not out of the realm of possibility. Durant left Oklahoma City after 9 seasons without a title. He has since gone on to join the Warriors, with whom he’s got a great chance of winning a championship for a third time. When LeBron left Cleveland, devastated fans swore him off for good and took to the streets to burn their James 23 Cavalier jerseys. 4 years later, Cavs fans welcomed LeBron back with open arms.

After Durant left, Thunder fans felt similarly spurned. We’ve seen Durant return to Oklahoma City to a chorus of boos since his departure, and OKC fans have also taken the time to burn his jersey. However, you can be sure that OKC fans would be overjoyed if KD were to decide after this season that he wants to take his talents back to Oklahoma in a quest to help the team win a title for the first time ever. Like LeBron in Cleveland, it would be a great redemption story.

The Thunder have done a fine job of remaining relevant even after Durant’s departure. Russell Westbrook has averaged a triple-double in back-to-back seasons, while Paul George, another All-Star, has since inked a long-term deal to stick around. Steven Adams is one of the more underrated big men in the game, too. If Durant were to join what the Thunder already have, OKC would once again pose a serious threat to Durant’s old team, Golden State.

You can get Durant to return to the Thunder at +700, which I like. Of course, one difference between this situation and LeBron with the Cavs is that James sort of felt obligated to go back to Cleveland because it’s near his hometown of Akron. Durant doesn’t hail from Oklahoma, so that whole tie-in isn’t there with this particular narrative. Still, I think this bridge can be mended. Durant won’t be public enemy No. 1 in Oklahoma City forever. I kinda like the idea of KD taking his talents back to OKC next summer at +700. Anything can happen in the NBA.

Other Options

I think the likely outcome here is that Durant either stays with Golden State, joins LeBron with the Lakers or returns to Oklahoma City. At this point, it feels like any other outcome would be quite the surprise. Let’s roll through the rest of the list to break it all down.

The Knicks actually have the third-best odds to secure Durant’s signature at +350, ahead of OKC at +700. The Knicks are always listed as a potential destination for big-name free agents, but they rarely seem to actually get those kinds of players to come to New York. However, there is actual reason for optimism in the Big Apple for the first time in a while. Kristaps Porzingis is one of the NBA’s brightest young stars, while the Knicks also have high hopes for fellow youngsters Frank Ntilikina and Kevin Knox. If one or both of those guys can become something, the Knicks may have a bright future ahead.

Adding a player of Durant’s caliber would certainly expedite the rebuilding process. The Knicks would presumably want to add an established veteran star to help bring the kids along, and KD would obviously fit the bill. Playing in New York would also grant Durant the chance to be the undisputed No. 1 guy. He’s currently sharing the spotlight with Steph Curry in Oakland. With the Lakers, he would presumably be overshadowed a bit by LeBron. Back in OKC, he and Westbrook were essentially options 1 and 1A. Porzingis is a star in his own right, but Durant is on another level at the moment.

Durant potentially joining the Knicks would look an awful lot like LeBron’s choice to join the Lakers. He would essentially be joining a roster full of high-upside-but-unproven talent. If it pans out, Durant would have the chance to be known forever as the guy that put the Knicks back on the map. I think there is some viability to New York here, so I don’t hate them at +350.

The rest of the field is comprised of mega long shots. I think Durant would rather join the Lakers than the Clippers if he were to make the trip south to L.A., so I’m not really seeing the Clippers as a legitimate landing spot at +1000. Miami is one of those destinations that NBA players seem to flock toward, but the Heat are currently mired in something of a salary cap hell with all sorts of lucrative deals already on the books. They may well be a Durant-caliber player away from being a title contender, but Miami would have to make a few trades just to be able to offer Durant a halfway decent contract. At this point, I just don’t see it with Miami.

The Pelicans and Rockets look like complete dart throws. Perhaps KD could be enticed to go to New Orleans in order to team up with Anthony Davis? Frankly, I think the Pelicans are more likely to trade Davis than they are to successfully attract a player like Durant to join him in the Big Easy.

The Rockets are obsessed with catching the Warriors, and they potentially came to within a Chris Paul hamstring injury of doing so in last season’s Western Conference Finals. Houston had an interest in Durant when he was a free agent in 2016, but they were never seen as a legitimate contender for his services. Warriors-Rockets is the preeminent rivalry in the game right now. While it would be fun to see Durant team up with his former teammate James Harden, I can’t imagine KD just bolting from one side of the rivalry to the other like this. Neither Houston nor New Orleans make sense at +1500 here.

The field at +300 has some decent value. Durant is originally from the Washington DC area, so maybe he’ll want the opportunity to play for his hometown Wizards? We know the Celtics are flush with all sorts of appealing young assets and talent. Who’s to say KD won’t want to go to Boston as the last piece of the puzzle? He could do the exact same thing with the 76ers, who look like a team right on the doorstep of a potential decade’s worth of championship contention themselves. I think there are a number of teams that make more sense as logical landing spots for Durant that don’t have listed betting odds, so taking the field at +300 has plenty of merit.

I will rank my favorite potential Kevin Durant destinations as follows:

  1. Golden State Warriors +200
  2. Los Angeles Lakers +200
  3. Oklahoma City Thunder +700
  4. The Field +300
  5. New York Knicks +350
  6. Miami Heat +1000
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