Kevin Durant is two years away from free agency, but the talk won’t cease between now and then about where he’ll play in the future.
Oklahoma City or somewhere else? It’s not going away.
With LeBron James recently deciding to go back to Cleveland, the conversation of stars going home has turned to the league MVP and his chances of returning to his native Washington D.C. when his free agency arrives in 2016.
Steven A. Smith was on the radio with ESPN 980′s Brian Mitchell on Monday afternoon. Mitchell asked who the Wizards will have to compete against in free agency if Durant decides to test the waters in 2016.
From Dan Steinberg’s Washington Post blog (NOTE: Steinberg also mentions that about a year ago, Smith was pretty much dead on about James’ decision coming down to Cleveland or Miami — with the New York Knicks a distant third):
“I don’t think anybody, to be quite honest with you,” Smith said. “Obviously the New York Knicks would be in the mix and what have you. But there are folks that I’ve spoken to that are relatively close to Kevin Durant that tell me if he were to decide to leave Oklahoma City, it would be for the nation’s capital. That’s the kind of dude he is. That’s a place that he would consider.
“I certainly don’t want to sit here as a reporter and insider and try to give indications that he’s planning on leaving Oklahoma City,” Smith said. “I don’t know that to be sure. I don’t know that to be the case. But I was told that if there is a team that would be strongly considered, it is the Washington Wizards, and him returning home.”
The circumstances will certainly be far different for Durant in 2016 than James in 2014. For one, Durant will have much better and younger players around him in two seasons than James did this past season. The Heat was the oldest team in the league in 2013-14 (average age: 30.6), while the Thunder was ranked 15th (26.2). Oklahoma City has consistently been one of the youngest in Durant’s tenure and its other prime players (Serge Ibaka and Russell Westbrook) are 24 and 25, respectively. In James’ case, the Heat were deteriorating before his eyes.
Saying Durant has a chance to bolt for The Capitol in 2016 isn’t unrealistic. The Wizards have their own set of young, rising superstars in John Wall and Bradley Beal, and showed impressive growth in the Eastern Conference playoffs this season.
Smith’s not saying it’s going to happen. That was just Smith saying as lightly as possible that if Durant makes it to free agency, it’s Oklahoma City vs. Washington.