The Oklahoma City Thunder are entering one of the most important offseasons in their franchise’s young history with Kevin Durant becoming an unrestricted free agent. The Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs have been linked to Durant already, and both teams could give him a viable opportunity to win his first championship. Additionally, the Washington Wizards have also been linked to Durant due to his hometown ties, and the Wizards also present him with the chance to play with John Wall and Bradley Beal. Still, however, the Thunder seem primed to retain Durant this summer and enter the upcoming season with nearly the same exact roster that lost in the Western Conference Finals this past season.
CBS Sports recently discussed an interview with general manager Sam Presti in which he seems excited for Durant to make his decision this summer.
“I think for us it’s an opportunity to be pretty excited about, quite frankly, to really get excited about and lean into because we have the opportunity to sit down with not only a player but a person that has really defined the Thunder, and I would say Oklahoma City for that matter as well, for the better part of a decade. And at the same time, it’s also someone that we know and that knows us and that we communicate with over a long period of time.”
Presti cites the longstanding relationship between the Thunder and Durant, a factor that could end up being the difference in Durant’s highly anticipated decision this summer. Oklahoma City has come a long way since Durant was drafted by the team in 2007. In his first season in the league, Durant won only 20 games for the Seattle SuperSonics. However, the Thunder have come a long way since then, as the Thunder accumulated 55 wins in 2016. In the season, Oklahoma City posted an offensive rating of 109.9 points per 100 possessions this past season, which ranked No. 2 behind only the Golden State Warriors.
Under Billy Donovan, Durant averaged 28.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 5.0 assists this past season. Durant shot more three-pointers than ever this season as well, with a 34.9 three-point attempt rate according to Basketball-Reference. His true shooting percentage of 63.4 percent was near the top of the league for a wing player, and it was yet another mark that was near the best mark in his career.
This development culminated in a seven-game Western Conference Finals series this past season. Ultimately, the Thunder were unable to defeat the 73-win Warriors, but the battle of the two teams in that series demonstrates that Oklahoma City may not be too far off in terms of a championship. The Thunder had also appeared in the NBA Finals in 2012, but Oklahoma City was ousted by LeBron James and the Miami Heat. This year’s success came under first-year head coach Billy Donovan, who will now look to assert some of the habits that he introduced this past season with the Thunder.
Ultimately, it seems unlikely that Durant will be able to find a better situation than Oklahoma City this summer. Durant is more familiar with the Thunder than any other organization, and Oklahoma City has demonstrated a strong commitment to winning since he arrived with the team. Furthermore, despite a cap explosion this summer that will give nearly every team an opportunity to sign free agents, the Thunder can give Durant more money than any other team due to Bird rights. It is possible that Durant may sign a one-year deal and test his options again next year, but all angles point to Oklahoma City at this point.
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