Could Kevin Durant really leave the Thunder for his hometown Wizards?

Posted by Ben Parker on Monday, August 04, 2014 with No comments

With LeBron James leaving Miami to return to play for his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, many people are now starting to wonder if Kevin Durant will pull a similar move and leave the Oklahoma City Thunder to join his hometown Washington Wizards. Durant was born and raised in the D.C. area and he is proud of where he is from, but would he really leave the Oklahoma City Thunder to join the Washington Wizards when he hits free agency in 2016? While it sounds like pie in the sky for Wizards fans, I will argue why it could actually end up happening.

The first reason why it is possible that Kevin Durant joins the Wizards in 2016 is that he may find their roster more attractive. If Kevin Durant can't win a championship or at least get back to the NBA Finals with Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, he may look at what the Wizards have with Bradley Beal, John Wall, and Marcin Gortat and think to himself that his odds of winning a title with the Wizards are higher than they are with the Thunder.

I don't doubt for one second that Durant likes Oklahoma City a lot, but he is also a very competitive guy who wants to win. If he feels like the grass is greener somewhere else, odds are good he leaves, especially if it's his hometown team calling with an attractive roster.


The second reason why it's possible he makes the move from Oklahoma City to Washington D.C. is that I'm not convinced he really likes playing with Russell Westbrook. Russell Westbrook will be a free agent in 2017, which means that if Kevin Durant re-ups on another 5 year max contract with the Thunder, he'll have to do it with Russell Westbrook still on the team for the following season. It would be hard to negotiate things in such a fashion in which he says "It's me or him" when Westbrook still has one year left on his contract, which is why I think if he doesn't care for Westbrook, he'll probably just go somewhere else to play.

The final reason why I think a move to Washington D.C. is possible is that if Kevin Durant wanted to get out of Oklahoma City, Washington D.C. would be the most publicly acceptable place for him to go. Nobody would criticize him for desiring to bring his hometown team a championship especially since it is the Wizards, a team that has historically been unsuccessful at recruiting marquee free agents. If his hometown team happened to be the Lakers, Bulls, or Knicks, a lot of people would perceive the whole "I wanna play in my hometown" argument through a more cynical lens.

While I think these are legitimate reasons for thinking he goes to the Wizards, there are reasons for why it's also very unlikely that he leaves the Thunder. For one thing, he seems to enjoy playing for the Thunder and seems to really have an attachment to the fans and the Oklahoma City community. Durant has repeatedly talked about how much it would mean to him to bring that city a championship and how he feels a sense of duty to the community. Durant comes off as a really humble and sincere guy. If he says he loves it there, I want to believe him.

In addition, he and Russell Westbrook overall make a great team and he once again seems to like playing alongside Russell Westbrook. While I do think it's possible that things between them are strained, it sure doesn't look like it judging by what Durant says about him. He seems to genuinely enjoy Westbrook's company and seems to want to make things work between them.

Finally, he has a great thing going with the Thunder as is. The fans love him, the community loves him, the Spurs are sure to go away eventually, and the team is really good. Leaving behind the Thunder would be leaving behind a very good team, which may only be one piece away from a championship. He knows what he's getting in Oklahoma City, whereas in D.C. there would be some unknowns such as whether or not the team could afford both him and Bradley Beal.


While over $70M in cap space will open up in 2016 to sign Kevin Durant thanks to Nene and Paul Pierce becoming free agents, Bradley Beal will be a free agent, too. Beal is certain to command a lot of money which means that Durant may not be able to play with John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Marcin Gortat. He may only be able to play with Wall and Gortat, which suddenly doesn't sound as good.  Plus, going to the Eastern Conference means playing in the same conference as LeBron James and I'm not sure he wants to do that.

In conclusion, could Kevin Durant really leave the Thunder to join the Wizards? I think it's very possible, but it's far from being a slam dunk. A lot of factors are still at play that could make him lean one way or the other. His love for the city of Oklahoma City, the fact that he knows what he's getting there, and also being in an opposite conference from LeBron James are good reasons to stay where he is. On the other hand, his hometown would also fully embrace him while also providing him with an attractive roster to play with. Both options seem possible to me at this point, and only time will tell what decision Durant ends up making. It will certainly be interesting to see.

---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord