Wojnarowski: Thunder Remain Strong Frontrunner For Durant

Kevin Durant will meet with the Spurs, Warriors, Clippers, Heat and Celtics – as well as the Thunder – when free agency begins July 1. But don’t expect the seven-time All-Star to pack his bags just yet.

“I think that Oklahoma City remains the frontrunner – and a strong frontrunner,” The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I’m told even if he left, he would do a one-year deal. Economically, it makes sense for him to do a one-year deal and then do the longer deal after it. It’ll be worth more money because the cap goes up next year. But Oklahoma City is a frontrunner. They’re a strong frontrunner.”

At least for right now. As we all know, the Warriors, Spurs and Heat, among others, can be fairly compelling in their pitches.

“Things can change,” Wojnarowski said. “We saw that in LaMarcus Aldridge last summer. He went in thinking one thing and his view of things changed day to day. You never know how someone’s head can get turned around. There are no absolutes in this. People change their mind. That’s human nature. But right now, Oklahoma City, I think, feels good about their chances. I think Kevin Durant is going in there with an open mind but understanding that the most likely scenario is he does (a two-year deal with a one-year opt-out), and then he and Russell Westbrook next year will be free agents together and they’ll probably take a longer view on what their next step is.”

Wherever Durant plays next season is likely the favorite to win the NBA title, aside from perhaps Miami or Boston. But let’s not forget that Durant, 27, will likely test the free-agent waters again next summer, which is why several teams meeting with him are likely taking a long-view approach.

“Listen, they’d love to get him now, but they kind of feel like they’re planting the seed and laying the ground work for next year,” Wojnarowski said. “They all know he’s likely to stay in OKC. They feel like they’re laying the groundwork for the 2017 free agency by getting in front of him now and maybe they get another crack at him next summer.”

Looking at other free agents, Wojnarowski believes that Mike Conley Jr. and DeMar DeRozan will stay in Memphis and Toronto, respectively.

“Remember: When you leave a team, you can only sign a four-year deal; your team can sign you to a five-year deal,” Wojnarowski said. “If you’re Mike Conley and you’re heading into your 30s and you’ve had some injury, that $30 million+ salary that you have in your fifth year, that’s probably not going to be out there when you do a new deal four years from now. You’re probably not going to be that player anymore. So economically, it makes sense for a player like Conley to stay where he is, but that’s going to depend on how far each of these teams are willing to go to keep their own guy.”

Wojnarowski also prepared listeners for the potentially shocking numbers they’re going to see in the coming weeks.

“The dollar amounts on players who are fairly marginal are going to stand out to people because of the rise of the salary cap,” he said. “The salary cup jumps to $94 million and teams are going to be spending. I think out of the gate you’re going to see big numbers. Players who have not necessarily been starters on their team are going to get big numbers and big offer sheets. Hassan Whiteside, he’s going to get a max offer from somebody. The story is going to be the numbers.”

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