Kevin Durant is arguably the best basketball player in the world. He finally won his first MVP award but he could lead the Thunder past the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. Durant has spent his whole career with the Thunder (previously the Sonics) but now we all wonder if he will leave when his contract is up after the 2015-16 season.
This all started when LeBron James “went back home” to the Cavaliers. It was a great story for the league and people quickly looked at Durant and started asking questions. Will Durant leave to play for the Washington Wizards? Will he ask for a trade if the Thunder don’t win? Durant quickly shot down all notions about leaving the Thunder. However if we look at his past maybe it’s time for Kevin Durant to leave the Thunder.
Durant was taken with the second pick in the 2007 draft. They were bad in his first two seasons but they added great pieces. In 2008 they drafted Russell Westbrook 4th and Serge Ibaka with the 24th pick. In 2009 they got James Harden with the 3rd pick. By his third season Durant was averaging 30 points per game. He won the scoring title and led the Thunder to the playoffs. They lost in the 1st round against the Lakers but it was a learning experience.
In July 2010 Kevin Durant signed a five year extension with the Thunder. He did not have an opt out clause or an Early Termination Option. He was excited to get his new deal and just posted the news on twitter. Meanwhile LeBron James was making a decision to leave the Cavaliers to join the Miami Heat. LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh decided to sign three year deals instead of taking a five year deal like Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony before him.
The following year Durant led the league in scoring again and led the Thunder to the Western Conference Finals where they lost to eventually NBA Champions the Dallas Mavericks. The Thunder got good really fast. They had a core of young players who enjoyed playing together even though James Harden was coming off the bench.
During the 2012-13 season Kevin Durant led the Thunder to the NBA Finals. They lost to LeBron James and the Miami Heat but the Thunder had a lot to look forward too. They ran the Spurs off the floor in the Western Conference Finals and they were so young. After the season the Thunder traded Durant’s best friend on the team James Harden to the Rockets. The Thunder were still favorites in the West until Westbrook went down in the 1st round, ironically against the Rockets. The Thunder lost in five games to the Memphis Grizzlies in the Semi Finals.
Kevin Durant led the Thunder to 59 wins and won the MVP award. Russell Westbrook was in and out of the lineup as he had multiple surgeries. The dynamic duo was in full force as the playoffs came around. They had ups and downs against the Grizzlies in the first round. They beat a tough Clippers team but Serge Ibaka was injured in the series. He missed two games against the Spurs and the Thunder got blown out. When Ibaka returned the Thunder beat the Spurs twice. It looked 2012 all over again, when the Thunder lost the first two games before beating the Spurs four times in a row.
The Spurs bounced back and finished the Thunder in a tough overtime game in game six. Westbrook took seven shots in overtime while Durant only took three. Durant looked tired and he should be. Westbrook missed a lot of time and Durant had to carry this team. Even with Ibaka and Westbrook; Durant plays a lot of minutes.
Over the past three seasons Durant has played in 10,924 minutes. That’s more than any other player during that time. LeBron is second with 10,811 and he went to the Finals each year.
After the Spurs won the title, LeBron James exercised his Early Termination Option and became a free agent once again. His time in Miami was a success, four years, two titles and four trips to the Finals. Kevin Durant should now learn from LeBron James. Right now he has no options. He can’t opt out and maybe force the Thunder’s hand to make a move to improve this team.
LeBron signed a short contract with the Cavaliers and that is just to have flexibility. Kevin Durant needs that now. They traded Harden and the players they have brought in are not as good as Harden. They were playing Derek Fisher in crunch time last year against the Spurs.
The window is not closing for the Thunder but they need to win in the next two seasons or I see Kevin Durant leaving. Every time the Thunder loses a game or if Westbrook shoots too much people will speculate if Durant will leave. Under Armour offered Durant a 10 year $285 million dollar deal and their global headquarters is located in Baltimore, Maryland; close to Durant’s hometown. The Wizards also hired Durant’s old high school coach.
The media circus is just getting started around Kevin Durant. The same thing happened to LeBron James. LeBron dodged the questions and played out his contract before leaving the Cavaliers and the Heat. If the Thunder fail to win I know Durant will be frustrated but I don’t think he will ask for a trade before his contract is up like Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Kevin Love. He will play out his contract and become a free agent. His next deal will include an Early Termination Option so he can have more flexibility.
The Under Armour deal and the fact that the Wizards hired his old coach won’t be the only determining factor if Durant decides to leave. Westbrook’s contract would be up after Durant’s and I think it’s time for both of them to move on. I could see Durant going to the Lakers, Wizards, Knicks or Nets. He has given his all to the Thunder and they betrayed him by trading away Harden.
A championship would keep Durant in Oklahoma City but if they fail, the whispers about Durant leaving will continue to grow, he will be a free agent and then he might crush all Thunder fans hopes just like LeBron did to the Cav fans in 2010.