It's officially whale hunting season for Pat Riley, and the biggest fish is on its way to the market. The Oklahoma City Thunder's crushing collapse against the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals means Kevin Durant is now officially a few days into the offseason and only a few weeks away from a potential dinner date with the Miami Heat's front office. Admittedly, it's a long shot that the Heat lands Durant, but as we all know, crazier things have happened.
If the question in a vacuum is if Kevin Durant should come to the Heat, the answer is pretty
We are pretty clearly biased, but we think the answer is clear: Kevin Durant should take his talents to South Beach this summer. Here's why:
1. The Thunder has a small, unknown window to compete for a championship.
From the outside, the Thunder seems like a team with a bright future, but that might not be the case. In addition to needing to keep Durant around, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka are both free agents next season, Dion Waiters is a restricted this offseason, and Steven Adams will be a free agent the year after next — that's a lot of uncertainty within the core of your championship team. Not helping things is the fact that the Thunder has a bench player in Enes Kanter that the team signed to a four-year deal worth $70 million last offseason.
What you see is pretty much what you get for the Oklahoma City Thunder: It can either start over around Durant over the course of the next few years or continue on with the core that seems to have topped out with this season's deep run.
If players like Toronto Raptors center Bismack Biyombo will reportedly get $17 million a year in today's NBA, what can Ibaka or Adams demand? It's the wrong time to have multiple players entering free agency, especially ones who have no reason to sacrifice money.
2. Durant can take a one-year deal in Miami too.
"The difference between being a free agent in 2016 and 2017 could be between $40 million and $100 million. Any agent or adviser would tell Durant to sign a one-year deal and then enter free agency again next summer," ESPN's Brian Windhorst said on Mike and Mike Tuesday. That's true anywhere, not just Oklahoma City, so why not give Miami a one-year trial, give yourself an easier path to the finals, and then see where things stand after that one year?
If Durant commits early enough to Miami, the Heat would be in a better position to not only sell Wade on taking a discount for another solid shot at a title but also work some trades to get Hassan Whiteside the money he will command. The Heat could also work on moving Goran Dragic and Josh McRoberts in a trades that save money now and leave open the possibility of the Heat adding better-suited pieces around the team's top heavy four stars.
3. If Durant wants multiple rings, the Eastern Conference is the easier path.
Golden State isn't going anywhere, and the Thunder might have blown its best shot at getting past the Warriors this year. Durant can either stay in the West for the rest of his career, battling against the heavyweights, or he can take his talents to the East, where the corpse of the Toronto Raptors qualifies as a two seed. Durant faced the Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs, and Golden State Warriors in these playoffs — that's one hell of a road just to get to the NBA finals.
Durant might be able to break through in the West once, but if his desire is to win multiple championships, his best route would be to join a team in the East, where the biggest obstacle is LeBron James, who isn't getting any younger. Durant is pushing 30, and if he plans to have a career that includes multiple runs at a title, getting out of the West is a must.
4. Miami's pieces complement him more than Oklahoma City's do.
Durant and Russell Westbrook seem to be getting along for now, but their time together has been extremely uneven; Miami has more to offer in the way of pieces that fit around Durant. Oklahoma City has certainly had a terrific run this year, but its late-game fatal flaws are in large part due to the fact that the team is built upon chaos and ball hogging, two things that don't work well with the game on the line.
Miami has a stretch-four in Chris Bosh (assuming he can return), a dominant center in Whiteside (assuming the Heat can keep him), a Hall of Fame shooting guard in Dwyane Wade (who has proven willing to adapt to his teammates), and plenty of young and cheap players in Justise Winslow, Tyler Johnson, and Josh Richardson, who can play roles that guys like the Thunder's Dion Waiters are unable to pull off. Miami might have to move Goran Dragic to fit Durant on the team, so including Dragic in the Heat-Durant future is tough.
Overall, the Heat would instantly be Durant's team, just as the Thunder is, but in
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Let's be honest: Nobody knows what will be going on in Oklahoma City in five years. It wasn't too long ago that the franchise didn't even exist. Billy Donovan did a nice job in his rookie year as coach, but he's unproven in the NBA. Plus, Oklahoma City is, well, Oklahoma City. The draw of Miami has many facets, but the franchise's stability and the city's appeal (and the state's lack of income tax) are all bold PowerPoint slides.
Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra have built a franchise that has staying power. It's been decades since the Heat had more than a token throw-away rebuilding year. With the salary cap exploding soon,
Also, he'll live in Miami, not Oklahoma City. That's always nice.