NBA front office insider Bobby Marks appeared on ESPN’s Get Up! on Tuesday and noted that the free-agent market for Kevin Durant doesn’t figure to change much despite the injury he suffered during the Golden State Warriors’ Game 5 victory in the NBA Finals Monday night.
After missing the previous nine games with a calf strain, Durant left the 106-105 win early in the second quarter after recording 11 points in 12 minutes. According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski, the Warriors believe an MRI will show that KD suffered a torn Achilles.
Although a torn Achilles could cost Durant the entire 2019-20 season, Marks said he spoke with three teams, and all of them remain willing to pursue KD in free agency:
“I said … If you had cap space, would you go out and sign Kevin Durant knowing that he will likely be out maybe the whole year? And the resounding answer was ‘yes.’ Each of the teams also said that they wouldn’t even put any injury language in there for maybe years three and four to protect. So, yes, there will be a marketplace for Kevin Durant this summer, either with a team for four years, $141 million dollars or even back in Golden State here.”
Durant can become a free agent if he opts out of his contract as expected. The Warriors, New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Clippers are among the teams that have been linked to the two-time NBA Finals MVP thus far.
After tearing his Achilles in January 2018, DeMarcus Cousins opted to sign a one-year, prove-it deal with the Warriors. He returned to game action just short of one year after suffering the injury and appeared in 30 regular-season games.
When he tore his Achilles, Cousins was 27 years of age. Durant is 30, and he will be 31 by the time the 2019-20 season begins. Given his age and the timing of the injury, there is undoubtedly some risk involved with signing KD.
Unlike Cousins, however, Durant almost certainly won’t have to settle for anything less than a fat contract since he is widely considered to be among the best players in the world.
Also, with Golden State able to offer Durant a max contract, opposing teams that want the 10-time All-Star have to come through with strong offers.
Per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, players from opposing teams have been “plotting” ways to sell KD on joining them in free agency, but Durant responded to those rumors last week by saying, “I can’t be recruited. Write that.”
If Durant does leave the Warriors in free agency, his injury changes the narrative that previously surrounded him. KD was viewed as an immediate franchise-changing acquisition for a team like the New York Knicks that has been among the NBA’s worst teams in recent years.
Signing Durant could potentially help the Knicks add a second star like Kyrie Irving, and while that would aid in New York’s improvement next season, he wouldn’t even guarantee a playoff berth after the team finished with the NBA’s worst record this season.
Bringing in Durant now looks like a move that would be made with an eye toward 2020-21 and beyond, and it will require the team that signs him to be patient, especially amid speculation that Durant’s Achilles injury came from returning too soon from his strained calf.