The Oklahoma City Thunder are arriving at a crossroads next season—Kevin Durant will be in the final season of his contract extension, and he has hinted that he’s open to leaving if OKC can’t secure a championship before his contract expires.
That, combined with the outrageous explosion from Russell Westbrook in the last dozen games or so, led ESPN analyst Tom Penn to assert that Thunder general manager Sam Presti could very well look to trade Durant next season.
Presti is known as much for dealing James Harden away before his contract expired—and Reggie Jackson as well—as he is for his stellar picks in the draft, which include Durant, Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka.
Some things sound farfetched when first heard but are actually quite possible—this is one of them. So let’s check out three plausible deals that would reap rewards for both sides.
Durant to Wizards
Out of all the teams that would take a shot at Durant if he became a true free agent (opting to explore the market instead of re-signing quickly with Oklahoma City), Washington is believed to have perhaps the best chance. John Wall has vaulted into the top tier of point guards in the NBA and represents a big change from Westbrook, which could be a welcome one for Durant.
The Wizards’ second-best player, in terms of current status and potential, is shooting guard Bradley Beal. The Wizards reportedly declined a James Harden for Beal trade several years ago, but that was prior to Harden’s becoming the star he is right now. Washington would likely be willing to trade Beal for Durant, but could try to insist on adding another first-round pick instead of giving up the budding star, and also throw in Otto Porter Jr., who still has star potential. Martell Webster’s inclusion is as an expiring contract, which could be valuable for another trade.
Remember the two main factors are that Durant is one of the top five players in the league, but the Wizards would have some leverage since the Thunder wouldn’t want him to walk for nothing.
To Wizards: Kevin Durant, Steven Adams, Jeremy Lamb
To Thunder: Bradley Beal, Marcin Gortat, Martell Webster, 2016 unprotected first-round pick, right to swap 2017 first-round picks, 2018 unprotected first-round pick
To Wizards: Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Perry Jones
To Thunder: Otto Porter Jr., Nene, Kris Humphries, 2016 unprotected first-round pick, 2018 unprotected first-round pick, 2020 unprotected first-round pick
Durant to Sixers
Durant wants to go to a competitive team and would likely refuse to re-sign with certain teams. But GM Sam Hinkie would meet personally with Durant, wowing him with a presentation like the one that got Hinkie the job in the first place.
Sure, the Sixers would have to ship out three young prospects, but they could likely get away with only needing to add in one or two first-round picks, perhaps giving back the Thunder’s pick that it’s owed.
The Sixers have plenty of other picks, including a bevy of second-round picks and two extra picks this draft or the next (depending on protections). Now that Hinkie has his superstar, he can quickly build around him, and plenty of free agents will want to sign on to join Durant in his new city.
To 76ers: Kevin Durant
To Thunder: Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, first-round pick from Lakers, Thunder’s owed first-round pick back
To 76ers: Kevin Durant, Steven Adams
To Thunder: Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, Robert Covington, first-round pick from Lakers (protected 1-3 in 2016)
Durant to Lakers
Durant wants to go to a competitive team, seemingly ruling out Los Angeles and New York. But these teams, like Philadelphia, could easily become competitive very quickly with the addition of the star forward.
Going to New York would be nice but Durant would always be partly in Carmelo Anthony’s shadow, since Carmelo has been the face of the franchise for so long already. Why not head to sunny L.A. and take over from Kobe?
The main problem is that the Lakers have very few assets—since they would likely have to send Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson to OKC, and an extra pick to unload Nick Young. But Kobe would only spend one season playing alongside Durant before his contract comes off the books. Then the Lakers can sign another top free agent or three in the vaunted 2016 offseason to go with Durant and their 2015 draft pick, completing their quick rebuild with an eye on yet another championship.
To Lakers: Kevin Durant, Mitch McGary
To Thunder: Julius Randle, Jordan Hill, Nick Young, 2017 unprotected first-round pick, 2019 unprotected first-round pick
To Lakers: Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka
To Thunder: Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Jordan Hill, Jeremy Lin, Nick Young, 2016 unprotected first-round pick, right to swap 2017 first-round picks, 2018 unprotected first-round pick