It’s official, after being ousted by the Golden State Warriors Monday night in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals, there is a chance that Kevin Durant could end up in Celtics’ green next season. OK, OK, so there hasn’t exactly been a report saying that yet and in the post-game press conference Durant said that he “Hadn’t even thought about it,” when asked about free agency, BUT after losing a series they once led three games to one, you’ve got to think there’s a chance he’s considering leaving Oklahoma City purely out of frustration.
When this series started with an OKC win in Golden State, then followed up a Game 2 loss with back-to-back blowout wins at home against the defending champs and the reigning MVP, I thought there was zero chance Durant would even consider leaving. But then the unthinkable happened. OK, so it wasn’t that unthinkable because nothing is impossible for this Warriors team and no deficit is too large to overcome, but the chances of him leaving this team seemed very unlikely. But now? The decision to stay or go isn’t as obvious and it can’t hurt the Celtics chances that Durant now has to watch the team that beat him go on to face his friend and nemesis, LeBron James, in the NBA Finals.
Obviously leaving this OKC team that is loaded with talent would be an extremely hard thing to do for Durant, especially since it would break up the dynamic duo of Durant and Russell Westbrook. But the fact of the matter is that this team and more specifically this duo, will never win an NBA Finals. No matter how good they are together on any given night, no matter how well they play off each other all regular season, they just can’t seem to get it done when it matters most. Even when they had a third scoring option in James Harden they lost in the Finals to the Heat, 4-1. Clearly it’s just not working.
The problem is that Durant and Westbrook are both ball-hungry players, in the sense that both needs the ball in their hands in order to make an impact on offense. Both guys need to be “The Guy” on a team and OKC just isn’t big enough for the two of them. On top of that, I’d go as far as saying Westbrook began to slightly overshadow Durant in OKC this year with all his triple-doubles. And to make matters worse, Steph Curry has established himself the past two seasons as the best player in the West, an honor Kevin Durant once held.
So Durant could choose to stay another year or two and add an opt-out option into his contract, essentially wasting a few more precious years of his “prime,” only to lose in the playoffs again and again to the Warriors, Spurs, or another Western Conference power house. Or, he could call it quits after nine emotionally draining years in Seattle/OKC, come to the East and only have to beat LeBron in the Eastern Conference Finals every year in order to get a chance at hoisting the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy.
1) The Future is bright
The Celtics have a young team that already made some noise this season and are only potentially losing three players to free agency; Evan Turner, Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller. They’re core of Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder is all under contract for the next two seasons with Crowder’s deal keeping him here through 2020. The Celtics own the third overall pick in this years draft and own the rights to seven more picks in this years draft alone.
2) Cap Space
With the departure of the three free agents named above and the release of Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko, the Celtics would be poised to dole out two max contracts this summer. This means if they brought in Durant, they could use him as leverage to persuade another big name free agent to come to Boston and pair up with him and Thomas. Not to mention that with their cap flexibility and treasure trove of draft picks, the Celtics could acquire established talent through trades as well as free agency.
3) In Brad We Trust
Boston has one of the best coaches in the league in Brad Stevens. I was going to say “one of the best young coaches,” but let’s face the facts, this guy is one of the best flat out. He’s a rare hybrid between a player’s coach and an actual coach. By that I mean, he’s not just a Doc Rivers, in the sense that he’s loved by his players but doesn’t do a whole lot in terms of X’s and O’s. His players rave about him and when it comes to drawing up plays, there really aren’t too many that are better. He’s a maestro with the dry-erase board when coming out of timeouts and he’s tireless when it comes to breaking down and studying his opponents. Outside of Gregg Popovich there really probably isn’t a better all-around coach.
Now I’m not usually a fan of the notion of using tradition and team history as selling points to free agents, but when it’s the fourth item on your list it can’t hurt. Playing for the Celtics is just different. The fans, the greats that have played here before, the banners in the rafters, the atmosphere of the Garden, it’s just all very different, there’s nothing and nowhere else like it. If you don’t believe me, just ask Isaiah Thomas.
So it may be a long-shot to get Durant in Celtic’s green next season, but it’s worth it to try. Durant will leave OKC sooner or later and we know Boston is one of the cities on Durant’s mind. We know Danny Ainge will be in his ear as soon as possible and with recruiters like Isaiah Thomas and Terrance Knighton it will be hard for Durant to say no to Boston. After all, did you see Isaiah’s initial sales pitch? “If you don’t want to play for the Celtics,” he said, “then you don’t know basketball.”