Kevin Durant is taking his talents to the East Bay side of Oakland, making the Golden State Warriors the official favorites to win the 2017 NBA championship.
Durant announced Monday his decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder in a post on The Players’ Tribune. He started his post titled, “My Next Chapter”, that he has experienced “by far the most challenging few weeks in (his) professional life.”
Durant is expected to sign a two-year, $54.3 million contract, sources told ESPN’s Marc Stein. The deal will include a player option after the first year, which means we could be going through all this wait and see business again this time next year.
“The primary mandate I had for myself in making this decision was to have it based on the potential for my growth as a player — as that has always steered me in the right direction,” Durant wrote. “But I am also at a point in my life where it is of equal importance to find an opportunity that encourages my evolution as a man: moving out of my comfort zone to a new city and community which offers the greatest potential for my contribution and personal growth. With this in mind, I have decided that I am going to join the Golden State Warriors.”
With Durant officially on board with Golden State, two-time reigning MVP Stephen Curry now becomes the fourth-highest-paid player on the Warriors roster next season, behind Durant, Klay Thompson ($16.6 million) and Draymond Green ($15.3 million).
Curry ($12.1 million), just like Durant can become a free agent after next season.
Durant’s contract can be finalized July 7, when a league wide moratorium is lifted on signings and trades.
To make Durant’s contract fit under the salary cap, the Warriors will renounce the rights of small forward Harrison Barnes which will clear the way for him to sign a max deal with the Dallas Mavericks worth $94.4 million.
The Warriors will also renounce its rights to center Festus Ezeli, making him an unrestricted free agent, a source told The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears along with trying to trade center Andrew Bogut to a friendly destination.
On the other side of the coin, it’s nothing but shock and disappointment for the Thunder and the whole state of Oklahoma.
“Kevin made an indelible mark on the Thunder organization and the state of Oklahoma as a founding father of this franchise,” Thunder general manger Sam Presti said. “We can’t adequately articulate what he meant to the foundation of this franchise and our success. While it’s clearly disappointing that he has chosen to move on, the core values that he helped establish only lead to us thanking him for the many tangible and intangible ways that he helped our program.”
To make matters even more tedious for Thunder Nation, they will be in the same position again next summer as All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook will be an unrestricted free agent.
In nine NBA seasons, Durant has averaged 27.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game to emerge as one of top three players in the game. It will be interesting to see how much better he can make a Warriors team which won an NBA record 73 games this season and was one win away from repeating as NBA champions.