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2016 NBA free agency primer: Key dates, Kevin Durant's decision timeline, Warriors free agents

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The free agent negotiating period begins at 9:01 p.m. PST with the Warriors being the first team to talk to Kevin Durant after his meeting with the Thunder.

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After months (years?) of speculation, the Golden State Warriors will finally get to sit down with unrestricted free agent Kevin Durant to discuss the possibility of him joining a championship-caliber trio in Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson.

Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical just tweeted tonight that Durant will make his decision by July 4, which is big news given the previous expectation that it would be more like July 9, as described by Bram Kincheloe.

Of course, Durant has already met with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the franchise for which he has played for the entirety of his career, and that pushed the rumor mill into full speed even before the meeting ended, according to ESPN's Marc J. Spears and Marc Stein — Spears reported this afternoon that Durant's decision is 90% made and Stein reported this evening that the meeting with the Thunder "went well".

Thankfully, we have Twitter to keep things in perspective.

In other words, no matter what the rumor mill churns out, anything can happen before Durant actually puts pen to paper to sign with a team. He wouldn't be setting up meetings if he was definitely going back to OKC, so there's no reason to curtail the drama now.

Key free agency dates

Nevertheless, the NBA did do us a favor this year after last year's DeAndre Jordan debacle by shortening the "moratorium" period during which free agents are not allowed to sign new contracts to five days. Just so we're all on the same page in discussing that, here's some key offseason dates (via HoopsRumors):

July 1st: Official start of 2016/17 season; July moratorium begins.

July 6th: Last day of July moratorium

July 7th: Moratorium over; teams can begin signing players and making trades.

July 15th: Last day for teams to issue required tenders to unsigned first-round picks; those players become free agents July 16th if not tendered.

July 23th: Last day for teams to unilaterally withdraw qualifying offers to restricted free agents

August 31st: Last day teams may waive players and apply the stretch provision to their 2016/17 salaries.

September 5th: Last day for teams to issue required tenders to unsigned first-round picks; those players become free agents September 6th if not tendered.

Warriors free agents will also begin negotiations

While the headline news has been the pursuit of Durant, the Warriors also have eight free agents from their own roster to be mindful of as well — if they don't end up winning the Durant Sweepstakes, they'll have to figure out whether they want to keep any of those.

Most interestingly, Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli are restricted free agents, which means another team can make them an offer that the Warriors will have three days to match, as outlined by Jeremy Woo of SI.

Apricot already outlined the details on what might influence the Warriors from a financial perspective earlier today. The following is just a list of their free agents with links to those that we've done a season review for:

Restricted free agents:

Harrison Barnes

Festus Ezeli

Unrestricted free agents:

Leandro Barbosa

Ian Clark

James Michael McAdoo

Brandon Rush

Marreese Speights

Anderson Varejao

So what's next?

Tonight (PST), the free agent rumor flood gates will open as teams are officially allowed to contact players. What will happen next? I can't speculate on who goes where, but I can say that with a rising salary cap for next season, a bunch of players — perhaps even some of those names above — are about to get PAID.

No matter what, this will be a fun offseason.