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Our free agency predictions: Where will Kevin Durant end up?

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Kevin Durant’s decision about where he’ll play for the foreseeable future will be made sometime today. A few brave souls on GSoM’s staff have stepped forward to make their decisions public.

2019 NBA Finals - Game Five Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Clearly, the odds are that Kevin Durant will be leaving the Golden State Warriors to pursue a new adventure with some team in New York.

This issue has been an undercurrent—and sometimes a tsunami — all season among the staff of Golden State of Mind and there’s a good number of us that just want this whole ordeal to be over, regardless of where he goes.

So in advance of the opening of the 2019 NBA free agency period, a few of us are going on the record to demonstrate the range of thinking here at GSoM.

Where will KD end up and why?

Brady: Not the Warriors. I don’t have a prediction beyond that - the Clippers, Knicks, and Nets all present various reasons for interest - but I’m picking the field over the Warriors.

Ever since Durant signed in 2016, I’ve believed his tenure would be short lived. I’ll write an article explaining why, if he signs elsewhere - and if he re-signs, I’ll come back to this roundtable and edit my answer out. Gotta cover the tracks.

I expected Durant to stay four years - as LeBron James did in Miami, and then in Cleveland - but that obviously won’t happen. Between the Achilles injury and the issues that Draymond Green brought up in November, one more year ain’t happening. It’s either a long-term commitment, or goodbye, sweet prince.

So I say the latter. Players who leave their teams in their peaks usually aren’t looking to settle down for 10 years - they’re in search of the next chapter in their book. KD lived that chapter, and it was glorious, and I think he’s ready for a new chapter. I don’t blame him - if anything, I envy him.

There’s also a lot of smoke, and it’s not often (or ever?) that a marquee free agent goes through the free agency process, takes meetings with teams, listens to pitches, and then just returns to where he was before. There’s a reason he at least has an interest in leaving - and that interest doesn’t just dissipate.

All that said, I recognize that Durant is one of the least predictable players in the league, so I’m not saying any of this with too much confidence.

Dr. Tom: From the beginning of the season, I’ve thought that Durant was coming back to the Warriors. I didn’t believe that some secret handshake deal had been made, that all of the body language-analysis and speculation was on to anything, that the reports (even from pretty high-level people) that Durant was gone and already thinking about his next stop were shaky at best and unethical at worst. So I’m not going to change my tune now. I firmly believe Durant will re-sign with the Warriors.

Why? In addition to the fact that they can offer him the longest deal and the most money, I just don’t see any other team closing the deal. The Knicks front office has consistently shown a propensity for screwing things up and I just don’t think the Nets or Clippers have the people there to seal the deal. But I think Bob Myers and co. can certainly close the deal. Because I never believed that the deal to leave was done and everyone was just keeping it a secret; I believed Durant when he said he hadn’t made any decisions and would think about it in the offseason. So then it comes down to who can get it done during the free agency period, who’s going to make it happen. And the Warriors, over the past few seasons, have possessed a remarkable ability to make these kinds of things happen.

I also think that assuming because Durant does have a close friendship with Kyrie Iriving that they would automatically want to be on the same team is a bit of a leap. Just because someone is your best friend doesn’t mean they should be your roommate. Perhaps the same thing goes for teammates. I also think that seeing the struggles and challenges LeBron James experienced after leaving the Cavaliers for the Lakers might have made Durant think twice about any potential move.

I also think there’s an appreciation for how special this Warriors thing is. I think it’s why you’re seeing Stephen Curry join Bob Myers in this meeting and Klay Thompson joining in too via FaceTime. Maybe it’s because of Durant’s incredibly unfortunate injury, maybe because of the brutal nature of this year’s playoffs, but I think Durant sees (or sees again) how great it is here and his teammates see how great it is to play with him. There might be other things out there that could entice him to go elsewhere, it could very well happen. But how unique and magical this Warriors thing is, I don’t think it will be lost on someone like Durant who appreciates these really special and unique things. It’s why I think the odds are in favor of him remaining with the Warriors.

Nate P.: For me, Tom’s last point has always been the most significant. Fans and media can argue all they want about who’s better between KD & Steph, but in terms of legacy Durant has won two titles and two Finals MVP awards here — there isn’t really a better place for him to achieve the accolades that will help cement his legacy the way he would with the Warriors.

That said, the Clippers look like a great situation for him to be in to me and the Nets wouldn’t be too bad either. Really, I just don’t want him to go to the Knicks — the way that rumor has been covered this season has just bogged down the experience of the entire season and the petty side of me just wants him to prove all those people wrong.

It would also be hilarious if he just chose some random team like the Suns for maximum chaos, but I’ll stay within the realm of reality here and continue to push that conspiracy theory on GSOM Slack.

If Durant doesn’t stay with the Warriors, what would you want to see the franchise do for the remainder of the offseason?

Brady: On a recent episode of Tim Kawakami’s podcast, Steve Kerr said that the team was focused on development this year. For the most part, that’s what I want to see. I want minutes for players like Jacob Evans III, Jordan Poole, Alen Smailagic, Eric Paschall, Damian Jones, and Jordan Bell (who I believe will be back).

I’d love to see the team signs some younger players who haven’t quite lived up to their potential, and see what they can do in this system, alongside stars like Steph Curry and Draymond Green.

If they can convince some really good veterans to take massive discounts for the Mid-Level Exception and vet min, then great - try and build a contender. But in the absence of that, I’d rather the minutes go to players who have a chance to contribute in 2021 than to established veteran role players who will be gone next summer. Depth was an issue this year, and if the Warriors can turn three of the aforementioned youngsters into quality role players, they’ll be ready to make another run towards the throne when Klay Thompson emerges healthy in a year.

Dr. Tom: Start building the statue to KD outside Chase Center. Oh wait, this says if I don’t think he’s going to stay...

Nate P.: As we have now seen this team get to five straight NBA Finals, I’d find this process of trying to re-establish themselves as bona fide contenders while everyone doubts them pretty intriguing. Obviously, with their expected lack of depth, just making the playoffs would be an accomplishment next season. But for this season, I’m really looking forward to them bringing Looney back and seeing how he develops even further. Maybe one of the other centers on the roster makes a leap — Damian Jones or Jordan Bell have shown flashes of something — or maybe DeMarcus Cousins sees an opportunity to better improve his value for a season with both Durant and Thompson sidelined. But absent those scenarios, seeing how Looney can step up his game as part of this core would be exciting for me.