Kevin Durant had already let it be known that he was all but a lock to return to the Warriors next season. According to a report that emerged Thursday, hours before Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the all-star forward is even willing to give Golden State a discount, all the better to help the team retain other important players.
Durant signed a two-year contract worth approximately $27 million annually last year, when he moved from the Thunder to the Warriors as a free agent. That deal included a one-year player option, allowing the 28-year-old to test the market again, at least in theory.
However, earlier in May, Durant gave an affirmative answer to a question about whether he would be back next season with Golden State. “Yeah. I love it here,” he said. “I love my teammates. I love the city. I love the organization. I love it here. I don’t plan on going anywhere else.”
He is still nearly certain to opt out of his contract and reset the terms of his employment with the Warriors. What ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Chris Haynes reported Thursday was that Durant “is willing to take less than the maximum contract extension he is eligible for this summer as a 10-year veteran.”
That concession would be made to allow Golden State to re-sign him without having to create extra space for him under the salary cap. Otherwise, creating that room would mean renouncing their rights to impending free agents Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, a pair of veteran wing players who provide key depth.
Of Durant’s potential contract concession, ESPN’s Tracy McGrady said, “I think it’s a very smart move. This team could possibly be in the championship for the next three or four years, if they can keep this thing intact. … It’s about winning.”
In the grand scheme of things, Durant would not have to sacrifice a huge amount, possibly around $4 million less than the estimated $35.4 million per year he could get in a max offer. He could sign a four-year extension, but ESPN theorized that the 2014 NBA MVP could choose instead to continue to sign two-year contracts with opt-outs until 2019, when he would be eligible for a “super” maximum deal that would pay him around $217 million over five years.
As it is, teammate Steph Curry, who has been a massive bargain under his current contract, is set this summer for a five-year contract worth around $205 million. Even if Durant takes less than the maximum over the next two years, leaving room for market-rate pacts with Iguodala and Livingston, he will still make well over $30 million each year, then over $40 million starting in 2020.
Add in the looming extensions for the likes of Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, and in a few years, the Warriors could be spending over $200 million annually — before luxury-tax payments — on their roster. At least it sounds like they’ll get a little bit of a discount from Durant.
More from the NBA Finals:
Russell Westbrook took a pass on Game 1 and watched “Sister Act II” instead
NBA stars read some really mean tweets about themselves before Game 1
Kevin Durant scores 38 points as Warriors blow out Cavaliers in Game 1
Adam Silver, NBA considering blowing up age-limit rule
Commissioner defends bringing All-Star Game back to N.C.
Draymond Green says he’s learned to control outbursts since 2016 Finals
Kyrie Irving consulted Kobe Bryant to avoid a Shaq-like feud with James
Steve Kerr mills return, doesn’t want to be a ‘distraction’