Starting July 1, Kevin Durant is expected to grant a series of free agency meetings in L.A. (where he has a home and spends a great deal of time in the summer) with various interested teams. According to a source close to the Durant camp, the former MVP has a wish list of players he’d like to team up with in a big market team, preferably the Boston Celtics or Los Angeles Lakers.
At this stage, these are merely rumors. Most insiders still reckon Durant will return to Oklahoma City Thunder on a short-term deal and re-enter free agency next summer. However, teams such as Lakers and Celtics, loaded with cap space and assets, won’t hurt their chances by acquiring some of the players on Durant’s “so-called” wish list.
The Lakers would significant bolster its chances by trading for Chicago Bulls wing Jimmy Butler and acquiring center Al Horford in free agency. Having endured the worst season in franchise history, the Lakers are desperate for all-star talent. Both Butler and Horford would fill immediate holes in the roster and more importantly, give them a solid recruiting pitch during the Durant meeting.
Kevin Durant: Kobe Bryant’s successor?
Popular analyst Bill Simmons wrote in his latest column that Nike would love a scenario in which Durant replaces departing legend Kobe Bryant as the new face of the Purple & Gold. “Durant returning to OKC won’t help Nike in its holy war against Under Armour unless he wins a title. But Kevin Durant building his own Eastern contender in Miami, Boston or Washington, or grabbing the torch from Kobe in Los Angeles for the Lakers? Now that would grab eyeballs and sell sneakers. And Nike has 300 million reasons to hope it happens,” Simmons opined in The Ringer.
Meanwhile, Thunder GM Sam Presti is unaware of Durant’s plans. “We’ll get an answer from him at the appropriate time. I think it really is important for him to take his time, get away from things. Look, Kevin is a highly, highly intelligent person. He’s a mature person. He’s a rational person, and he’s going to work through the decision in a way that will help him do what he feels is best for him. We’ll react accordingly once we have that information, and we’ll try to be as prepared as possible,” Presti said on Monday, addressing Durant’s impending free agency.
How Lakers can acquire Butler + Horford
In April, Chicago Bulls executives John Paxson and Gar Forman let it be known in the team’s exit press conference that Butler wasn’t on “the untouchables list”. In other words, the two-time All-Star can be had with the proverbial right offer. “We’ve got to explore all options and I don’t think there’s anything that’s off the table when you have a disappointing year like this.”
According to the Chicago Tribune, “it would take a significant offer involving at least one high-profile player and multiple first-round picks to pry him (Butler) loose.” The Lakers can package the No. 2 draft pick and 2014-15 Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams, an offer that is sure to excite Paxson and Forman. The Bulls, under new coach Fred Hoiberg, are hitting the reset button and could be keen on building around an 18-year-old prodigy such as Brandon Ingram.
As far as Horford goes, the Lakers will have enough cap space to offer him a four-year max contract. According to Bleacher Report, Horford is expected to consider all offers in free agency and would prefer going to a big market team to maximize his earnings. Under new coach Luke Walton’s motion offense, the Lakers are desperate for a high IQ big man and Horford fits that description perfectly.
The Lakers have three options: 1) Return to the playoffs by sacrificing all its young assets, 2) Retain the young assets and sign available free agents, or 3) Find a balance between youth and veterans.
Kevin Durant could shock the world and re-sign with Thunder before free agency starts. That way, Lakers and other suitors can move on to other free agents.