Kevin Durant’s Decision Will Determine Which Teams Are Contenders Or Not

Kevin Durant is finalizing his free agency plans as two more teams plan to meet with him today. Once the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder talk with Durant, he will recall all of the pitches he has heard and come to a decision.

According to ESPN, his answer will come by no later than Monday. That decision will determine the fate of several would-be contending teams. Kevin Durant also controls the fate of several key NBA free agents who have yet to sign deals.

It is a near repeat of 6 years ago, when the free agency circus of LeBron James captivated the Association. Several teams spoke with James with the hopes of luring him to their franchise. Once it was all over, he would sign with the Miami Heat, but it took nearly one week for him to make a choice. It hurt what many teams wanted to accomplish in NBA free agency.

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Kevin Durant will not make teams wait as long as LeBron James did.

Monday marks just 3 days from the day when teams can meet with free agents. And there have been plenty of teams making deals without getting worked up about what Kevin Durant wants to do and where Kevin Durant wants to go. Basically, the NBA has conducted its business as usual.

Only six teams got a chance to meet with Durant. They were the Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs and his incumbent team, the Oklahoma City Thunder. Most of those teams are in a holding pattern while waiting for Kevin Durant to make a choice. One of them either decided not to wait on him, or they were told that they were out of the running.

The Clippers officially moved on from Kevin Durant after they announced the re-signings of guard Austin Rivers and forward Wesley Johnson. Hopes for the Clippers to be in title contention did not hinge on whether or not they signed Durant. The have a good team without him, but they have to remain healthy and avoid bad luck.

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Miami’s shot at Kevin Durant is minimal at best. Their chances of being contenders are also small. Even if they were to sign him, the Heat have a ton of uncertainty on their roster. The status of Chris Bosh is up in the air and Dwyane Wade is one frustrated free agent. Without one or either of them, Durant signing with the Miami Heat might be a step backwards.

Because the San Antonio Spurs are the San Antonio Spurs, they will always be a title contender. The problem that the Spurs have is that they are looking at other free agents, namely Pau Gasol. San Antonio would have to maneuver around in order to get the money to add Kevin Durant. Getting him would be special, and it would cripple the other contenders in the Western Conference.

The same can be said about the Golden State Warriors, who provide the best fit of the teams in the West. Do the Warriors need Kevin Durant to be a great team? Not really.

Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry Kevin Durant could leave the Oklahoma City Thunder to join Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors. If he does, the Warriors will be the odds-on favorite to win the NBA Championship. [Photo by Christian Peterson/Getty Images]Everything is set perfectly for the Dubs to rule the conference for another three seasons unless Durant were to sign with the Spurs. What is hanging in the balance is the decision on matching the offer sheet that the Dallas Mavericks are set to give restricted free agent Harrison Barnes. Durant holds the cards for what the Warriors may do.

That leaves the Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder.

Both teams have made moves that would entice Kevin Durant. The Celtics added Al Horford to go with a young, emerging roster. Not to be outdone, the Thunder added Victor Oladipo in a draft day trade. On paper, the Celtics have the most to gain from a Durant signing. They may have the upper hand because they were able to snatch Horford, despite the Thunder’s interest. And to up the ante, Boston included Tom Brady in their sales pitch, according to the Boston Herald.

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By adding Al Horford, the Boston Celtics are contenders in the Eastern Conference, a conference that is generally weaker than the West. Kevin Durant has to take notice of this as he makes his decision. All the Celtics would have to do is get past the Cleveland Cavaliers, and maybe the New York Knicks. In the Western Conference, Durant has to overtake the Warriors, Spurs, Clippers and a much improved Portland Trailblazers team.

That being the case, familiarity and Russell Westbrook are reasons to stay in Oklahoma City. The Thunder were a couple of quarters away from going to the NBA Finals. With Durant back in the fold, they remain contenders. Without him, the Thunder are a solid playoff team and a tough out in the NBA Playoffs.

What choice Kevin Durant makes will create a domino effect with the teams that are in the running for his services. Some of them will be contenders, others will not. Kevin Durant, you are on the clock.

[Photo by J. Pat Carter/Getty Images]