With the 2016 NBA free agency signing period less than two weeks away, rumors are heating up regarding some of the biggest free agents and their destinations. While LeBron James is easily the top free agent, he has already announced his plans to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Oklahoma City Thunder star forward Kevin Durant is No. 2 on the list, and he has been linked to the Golden State Warriors for the past few months.
There is still a chance that Durant leaves Oklahoma City and takes his talents to the Bay Area, but the Warriors are reportedly already making other plans. If they are unable to land Durant, the latest rumors believe that they will target a variety of key free agents, including Al Horford, Hassan Whiteside, Evan Turner, Joakim Noah, and Nicolas Batum.
Report: Warriors eying Al Horford, Hassan Whiteside, Nicolas Batum if they don’t get Kevin Durant https://t.co/963iTFnYaA
— Kurt Helin (@basketballtalk) June 24, 2016
As Mercury News reports, the Warriors’ front office is dedicated to making their team better after being upset by the Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals.
“According to sources familiar with free agent talks, the Warriors are looking at Al Horford, Joakim Noah and even Hassan Whiteside. The contract demands might be too hefty but the goal is clear. The Warriors can’t thrive with a center that doesn’t attack the rim or score inside. Free agents Nicolas Batum and Evan Turner are among the players being considered at small forward, per sources, if the Warriors don’t get Kevin Durant.”
The biggest question is whether or not Durant is going to leave the Thunder for apparent greener pastures. While the Warriors broke the NBA record for wins last season, the Thunder played extremely well against them in the Western Conference Finals. The Warriors eventually defeated the Thunder in Game 7, but the Thunder had a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.
While the Warriors are still the early favorites to win the NBA Finals next season, the Cavaliers proved that they are not unbeatable. With a record of 55-27 last season, the Thunder were still one of the best teams in the league. Their playoff success proved that Oklahoma City is a place where Durant could potentially win a championship. Along with Russell Westbrook and a variety of key role players, Oklahoma City still has to be the No. 1 destination for Durant.
Regardless of the appeal of re-signing with the Thunder, certain NBA analysts believe that there is now a 50 percent chance that Durant could leave for the Warriors.
"I was about 10% that Durant would leave OKC. Now I'm 50-50 that he goes to Golden State."
– Ryen pic.twitter.com/11jBkpcPW8
— Russillo and Kanell (@RussilloKanell) June 24, 2016
Team chemistry is the other issue. While Durant would give the Warriors another tremendous scoring threat, there is only one basketball and numerous mouths to feed. The Warriors offense eventually broke down towards the end of the NBA Finals, but their success in the regular season and in last year’s finals was strongly influenced by their remarkable team chemistry. In playing with Russell Westbrook, Durant has proven that he is capable of sharing the basketball, but it would be an entirely different situation with the number of weapons that the Warriors have on their roster.
In the event that the Warriors cannot come to an agreement with Durant, Al Horford and Hassan Whiteside might be their best options out of the previously mentioned list. At 30-years-old, Horford has been a model of consistency over the course of his eight-year career. While his rebounding has slipped over the past two seasons, he remains a solid scoring threat and an underrated defender.
At 27-years-old, Whiteside has come into his own over the past two seasons with the Miami Heat. In addition to scoring a solid 14.2 points per game last season, he also shot 60.6 percent from the field. He also pulled down an elite 11.8 rebounds per game. Like Horford, Whiteside is not going to come cheap, but he could give the Warriors an offensive threat from a big man, which they have been lacking.
With the NBA free agency signing period set to begin on July 7, rumors will continue to surround the Golden State Warriors. Kevin Durant remains their top target, but players such as Al Horford, Hassan Whiteside, or Evan Turner may have to be their consolation prize.
[Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images]