Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) slowly walks up court during the first half in Game 2 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs on Monday, May 2, 2016, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
The offseason fate of Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant is just around the corner whether the Thunder win it all or not. The lanky forward has declined to give insight about his upcoming summer free agency so rumors have spread like wildfire, naturally. Early chatter of a possible return home as a future Washington Wizard was the sexy slogan early on, but mentions of seemingly any and every team have entered the equation. Boston is expected to make a run, Los Angeles could make Durant the next Laker superstar or maybe even a union with Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors is possible. The San Antonio Spurs even threw their names in the hat as news broke last week that they are looking at scenarios regarding Durant’s acquisition. So many teams have been reported to be “interested” in pursuing the 2014 MVP this summer that the Wizards could be slipping in their chances to land the Maryland-born native. Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate will Washington still be the preferred destination if Durant leaves Oklahoma.
Green: Anytime a front office of the Spurs’ caliber enters the room, it’s going to take a similar big brass team to hold its own, and the Wizards just don’t have that. Wizards General Manager Ernie Grunfeld has his own list of local critics who question his decisions as a personnel man in the District, and this is the guy who the city needs to land Durant? Golden State’s front office has been flawless over the last couple of seasons in piecing together a championship roster. Front office executive extraordinaire Danny Ainge will headline the Celtics’ pursuit of Durant this summer and people are still talking about the job he did when he landed Boston’s Big Three back in 2007. Landing a player of Durant’s caliber is a high-level mission and I just don’t believe the Wizards have the people in place to do that–now that these marquee franchises have risen as contenders.
Riley: The Durant-to-D.C. movement was never about Grunfeld, though, but a simple feel-good story. Durant’s roots from the District was always the driving force behind the topic and it will continue to be that if Durant does, in fact, decide to leave Oklahoma. The hometown factor and the attractive backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal were the District’s two main chips in the game since every team will pretty much be able to offer Durant the same money. It was well understood that retaining Durant’s services was obviously going to take some pitching by any general manager or team, but the allure of playing for the same city that raised him already gave Washington a leg up, much as in the case with LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.
Green: The hometown aspect should weigh heavily in a potential decision but unlike James’ situation, Durant still has yet to win anything. We applauded James’ choice to go back to Cleveland after a four-year stint in Miami that actually ended in two titles and four consecutive Finals appearances. Even if the Thunder don’t win it all this season, the potential of them winning multiple championships will outweigh the allure of returning home. Will the Wizards be able to offer the same stability and promise of not only being competitive but winning it all? The franchise hasn’t won anything since 1978, and if you compare Washington’s organization to the ones that will surely be after Durant, the lack of recent success will definitely be a deterrent. Durant’s spent his whole career building up an organization. I highly doubt a near-10-year veteran is looking to go to a team where he has to help it rebuild into a contender.
Riley: Durant’s insertion into any lineup immediately makes that team factor and the Wizards aren’t too far off into becoming a dominant force inside the Eastern Conference. Outside of James and the Cavs, there isn’t a team that sticks out as a true challenger. But, a threesome involving Durant, Wall and potentially Beal would be good for 50-60 wins fresh out the gate inside the East. Aside from this season, Washington’s had some solid success over their last two postseasons. They gave the contending Indiana Pacers a run for their money in Wall’s first playoff appearance in 2014 and the team could’ve upset the 60-win Atlanta Hawks in the 2015 playoffs had Wall not broken bones in his hand and wrist in Game 1 of that series, which Washington eventually lost 4-2. It doesn’t take much to piece together a contending team in the East. And when you factor in that former Thunder coach is now in Washington, I think the Wizards’ chances of landing Durant are just as good as any team.