Kevin Durant has been a focal point of the 2018-19 NBA season, not just for his all-world play on the court, but for his expected free agency, which is scheduled to begin July 1 if he opts out of his contract with the Golden State Warriors.
The 30-year-old has won two NBA championships with the Warriors -- and might win a third next month -- but many around the league expect him to move onto another team.
Here are the four most likely landing spots for Durant (and one wild card):
New York Knicks
The Knicks, the worst team in the NBA this season, are probably the favorites to land Durant. After the blockbuster trade of Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks, the Knicks have enough cap space to sign two max-contract free agents, meaning they can add Durant and another star of his liking.
There have been multiple reports that many around the league believe Durant to the Knicks is a foregone conclusion, possibly in tandem with fellow free agent Kyrie Irving. Even Durant's teammates think he is going to the Knicks. Durant could see it as a chance to bring a long-awaited title to New York (the title drought dates to 1973). Winning the lottery for the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft and the right to select Zion Williamson would make it even more attractive.
Los Angeles Clippers
If the Knicks do not land Durant, look for the Clippers to make the big splash. Like the Knicks, the Clippers should have the space to sign two max-contract free agents -- their other target is Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith says there is a “better than 50 percent chance” that L.A.'s longtime second-banana team lands both Durant and Leonard.
The Clippers also are an attractive destination because of those running the team. Head coach Doc Rivers, who won a title with the Boston Celtics, guided the patchwork Clippers to the playoffs and pushed the Warriors to six games in the opening round. They are also run by executive Jerry West, who was the mastermind of the current Warriors roster and knows how to build a championship squad.
Don't count out the other New York team in the Durant sweepstakes. The ahead-of-schedule Nets had a surprising 2018-19 season, finishing sixth in the Eastern Conference. That success has Durant and others “at least considering” the Nets, per SNY’s Anthony Puccio. Durant is believed to have a close relationship with Nets’ Caris LeVert. The Nets could pair Durant with restricted free agent point guard D’Angelo Russell, or if they can trade Allen Crabbe and renounce Russell and other pending free agents, they could have the space to sign two max-contract free agents.
Golden State Warriors
Durant could decide to stay with the Warriors, who will do everything in their power to keep him around. It is possible the Warriors offer Durant another one-and-one deal (one year with a player option for a second year) to delay his free agency by another year.
It is a long shot, but the Hawks hope at least to get a meeting with Durant this summer. Having Durant and Trae Young would present a dynamic duo for Atlanta.
By John Healy