Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant will be heavily recruited by the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets in free agency.
Kevin Durant declined the player option on the Golden State Warriors forward’s contract on Wednesday, making him an unrestricted free agent when the market opens at 6:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, June 30th, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Durant, who injured his Achilles in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals, was set to make $31.5 million next season. Instead, the former league MVP can sign max deals with any team, including the ability to sign a five-year max contract with the Warriors worth $221 million.
The New York Knicks will be heavy suitors, pitching a franchise where the two-time Finals MVP can build his brand and explore opportunities outside of the Madison Square Garden hardwood while rehabilitating his ruptured Achilles this coming season.
The Knicks are not alone in pursuing Durant, however. Wojnarowski adds the Warriors will try to re-sign KD, with the Knicks, Nets, and Los Angeles Clippers hot on his trail. Durant is based in New York at the moment with manager Rich Kleiman awaiting options and eventually meeting with team representations to hear pitches.
In recent days, the Nets have looked more attractive than the Knicks, who traded their star forward Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas at the end of January in part to create salary cap room and to pursue high-end impending free agents like Durant and Kyrie Irving this summer. Irving, reportedly, has been inching closer to agreeing with Brooklyn, and a hush-hush plan between the Boston Celtics point guard and Golden State forward to sign with the same team this offseason could materialize by jointly landing in the outer borough.
Matters were complicated with Durant’s return to the Warriors following a calf injury, then subsequent Achilles tendon rupture. It’s possible the former second-overall pick in 2007 NBA Draft could instead choose where he thinks is best to rehab.
The Knicks could reportedly turn their attention to signing players to short-term contracts, per SNY’s Ian Begley, should they strike out on top targets Durant, Irving, and reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who will also enter unrestricted free agency.
With Leonard, teams have “expressed interest” in pairing the Toronto Raptors forward with free agent Jimmy Butler, again from Begley.
New York is not actively pursuing 23-year-old guard D’Angelo Russell, per New York Daily News’ Stefan Bondy. Russell could be cast off from Brooklyn should they sign Irving and Durant. Regardless of inking Durant, a fit in the backcourt between Kyrie and D’Angelo is not seen as conceivable by Nets brass.
One name that has popped up recently in the wake of waning confidence in signing Durant for New York is New Orleans Pelicans power forward Julius Randle. The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears reports there’s “mutual interest” between the Knicks and the 24-year-old Randle.
Signing Randle and other players to short-term deals may be in general manager Scott Perry’s plans should New York’s plan to reload next season with Irving and Durant fold.