As NBA free agency nears, several teams have their sights on Kevin Durant, and the Miami Heat could be a darkhorse candidate to land this summer’s biggest prize. The Heat are coming off of a 48-win season and a second-round playoff appearance and boast several potential selling points in their pursuit of Durant.
As one agent described to the Oklahoman, Durant wants to go to a big market and play for a team that is ready to win.
“In the case of Durant, the club that wants to pry him away from the Thunder ‘needs to be a good team, in a better market with a better chance to win than [Oklahoma City]. So Golden State and Miami become the only real players. It’s too hard to justify a move to Los Angeles (Lakers) or New York because they are not close to winning. Houston’s out.’ ”
— Dime Magazine (@DimeMag) June 26, 2016
Miami certainly fits the tag that this NBA agent describes, and Durant has already scheduled a meeting with the Heat, according to the Vertical. Pat Riley is no stranger to recruiting top free agents to Miami, most recently securing deals with LeBron James and Chris Bosh to play alongside Dwyane Wade. Now, Riley will look to use his recruiting experience in an upcoming meeting with Durant.
Miami’s head coach Erik Spoelstra also has valuable experience that could become useful in the Heat’s pitch to Durant. Spoelstra led Miami to four straight NBA Finals with James, Bosh and Wade, winning two championships in the end. He is widely regarded as one of the best coaches in the NBA and could take Durant’s game to another level if he had the opportunity to coach him.
However, luring Durant to the Heat while also re-signing Hassan Whiteside will be no easy task. Whiteside, like Durant, is a free agent who is expected to receive several maximum contract offers when free agency begins. Whiteside averaged 17.6 points and 14.7 rebounds and 4.6 blocks per 36 minutes, demonstrating this his 48-game season the year before was not an aberration. Several teams are eyeing a rim protecting center like Whiteside, and with the salary cap exploding this summer, he will have a plethora of options. If Miami is unable to retain Whiteside, the Heat’s chances to sign Durant will fall significantly.
— SI NBA (@si_nba) June 26, 2016
Alongside Whiteside, Miami featured the likes of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Goran Dragic, and Justise Winslow last season, players who could help lure Durant to the Heat. Wade played 74 games last season and averaged 22.5 points and 5.5 assists per 36 minutes last season. It is unknown if Bosh will return this season due to blood clots, but his presence would certainly propel Miami into elite status in the Eastern Conference. Additionally, Winslow demonstrated his defensive abilities translate to the NBA, and his development is also important to the Heat as a whole.
Despite the clear selling points that the Heat will likely make when Miami pitches their organization to Durant in the near future, the frontrunners remain the Oklahoma City Thunder. According to the Vertical, Durant will likely choose to sign a one-plus-one-year deal, and he will become a free agent again next summer. However, if Durant deviates from this plan, the Golden State Warriors likely have the next-best chance of signing Durant. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green deserve strong consideration from Durant, even though the Warriors will likely have to make several serious trades to make room for a big-name free agent. Knowing this, it will be an uphill battle for Miami in the team’s pursuit of Durant, but Pat Riley and the Heat should not be counted out just yet.
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