According to many keyboard-banging reactionaries on Twitter, Kevin Durant morphed into a no-show choke artist and a "non-closer" down the stretch of Oklahoma City's Western Conference finals loss to Golden State.
Tell that to any of NBA's 30 ownership groups, general managers and coaches and I'm pretty sure you'll get the same response: "I'll take him."
Durant led Oklahoma City with 27 points on 10-of-19 shooting. The worst thing that could be said about him was he didn't take enough shots. But the Thunder lost Game 7 to the Warriors Monday night, thereby blowing a 3-1 series lead. So Golden State moves on to the NBA finals and Durant officially becomes an unrestricted free agent soon.
Depending on what rumor you believe, Durant is headed for either Miami, Washington, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Antonio, Boston, Philadelphia, Houston or .... I don't know, let's go crazy ... Atlanta.
Before getting to what the Hawks' realistic chances are in all this derby, let me state what I believe is going to happen: Durant's not going anywhere.
Few teams are in a better position right now than Oklahoma City to win NBA titles. I understand this is a team that has fallen short several times over the last six years (losing once in the league finals, three times in the conference finals). But the Thunder eliminated San Antonio and led the Warriors 3-1 before seemingly reverting to their old two-man basketball selves. Coach Billy Donovan made significant progress in his first season and he'll try to convince Durant that will continue next season.
There's also the money factor: OKC can give Durant a five-year max contract worth a projected $149 million. Competing teams in free agency can offer only a four-year deal worth about $111 million.
But let's say Durant does want out. Where does he go (either via free agency or a sign-and-trade)? Two finals teams, Cleveland and Golden State, can't fit him in their payroll unless they radically change their roster. The Warriors also know Steph Curry becomes a free agent next year.
The Hawks, led by owner Tony Ressler, are expected to make a strong push for Durant. A front line with Durant, Paul Millsap and Al Horford would make the Hawks an immediate title contender, regardless of what decisions they make in the backcourt with Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder. But several teams -- particularly Miami, Boston and San Antonio -- will try to convince Durant that he's the final piece to their title hopes. I'm not sure the Hawks are in any better position than those teams.
My view is that even though the Thunder blew the conference finals, what they accomplished this season will convince Durant to stay where he is. But that won't stop the Hawks and almost every other team from making their pitch.
Recent ramblings from the Digital Jukebox
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