The Los Angeles Lakers were rumored to have the inside track on Kevin Durant, with sources close to the Oklahoma City Thunder star saying he had eyes on Los Angeles for his next stop.
Now, that seems to have changed course, with increasing rumors that the Lakers are falling back in considering and the Golden State Warriors rising. Durant will be a free agent this summer and is expected to be the most coveted since LeBron James made The Decision (and, to a lesser extent, The Decision Part 2).
Despite the rumors that the Los Angeles Lakers were the front-runner for Durant’s next destination, newer reports indicate that Durant wants to go to a winner. The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski said that means the Lakers are likely out of the running.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 24, 2016
Wojnarowski recently said that Durant will likely only leave Oklahoma City if he has a better chance to win a title. He noted the following (via Fox Sports).
“The Lakers are not front-runners for Kevin Durant, he wants to win a championship. If he leaves Oklahoma, he may end up staying there and I’ve written that. Golden State is a team that is worrisome for Oklahoma City — that’s a team that has Kevin Durant’s attention. Kevin Durant wants to win a championship right away and either he wants to do that in Oklahoma City with the group they have or he’s going to go somewhere where he can win a title right away.
“Listen, I just don’t think that the Lakers are a real significant factor for Kevin Durant.”
Wojnarowski has been beating the drum for the Golden State Warriors for a few weeks now, saying that Durant likes what he sees in the franchise. After having won an NBA title last year, the Warriors are on track for the best regular season record of all time and appear poised for another title run.
While the Oklahoma City Thunder can offer the biggest package for Durant, he is reportedly less concerned with money and more about winning a title that has eluded him so far during his time with the Seattle/Oklahoma City franchise. A number of teams are expected to be in the running for Durant, but none of them have a case as strong as the Warriors.
Wojnarowski added that the Warriors have been positioning themselves to make a run at Durant since even before their 2015 title and have all the elements to be the most attractive draw for him.
“Steph Curry. Klay Thompson. Draymond Green. Committed ownership. Bob Myers, the executive of the year,” Wojnarowski wrote. “Steve Kerr, a championship coach. Yes, Golden State has everything, including the ability to create the salary-cap space and a belief that Durant’s persona could fit seamlessly – even onto a potential two-time defending champion.”
That could be a blow to the Los Angeles Lakers as they look to build a contender in the post-Kobe Bryant era. The team has hovered around the bottom of the Western Conference over the last few seasons, and while they have some talented young players, it will take a while for them to develop, CBS Sports noted. A superstar like Kevin Durant would have accelerated that process and could have brought the team at least back into playoff contention.
In the long term, some believe losing out on Kevin Durant may not be the worst thing for the Los Angeles Lakers. Durant would be the focal point of the team’s offense, and without him, it could give more room for Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell to grow.
[Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images]