How NBA trade and free agency rumors affect Kevin Durant, Warriors


Editor's note: Grant Liffmann and Drew Shiller are the co-hosts of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 90 minutes before each home game and 60 minutes after every game. Each week, they will drop their Outsider Observations on the state of the Dubs, and this time, it's Grant's turn.

The NBA Hot Stove is heating up!
There are few things in sports that can get Twitter and social media firing away as much as a very active NBA Trade deadline. With Anthony Davis's trade request, the blockbuster trade of Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas in order for New York to clear cap space, and now Kyrie Irving's comments of being non-committal to re-signing in Boston, speculation is ablaze.

For the Warriors front office and Warriors fans, every move made automatically begs the question: What does this mean for Kevin Durant?
Let us first start by saying that the Warriors are not concerned about Klay Thompson's upcoming free agency. By all reports and indications, if the Warriors were to offer Klay the max contract, then he will re-sign with the Dubs. There is no need to speculate otherwise until he (or his father) send out any mixed signals.

Which means unless things dramatically change, at the very least the Warriors will enter the Chase Center with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green under contract next season.

Not bad.
How about DeMarcus Cousins? Well, as has been well-chronicled, Boogie will be able to make A LOT more money on the open market. Obviously, so much of Boogie's pending free agency is dependent on his health and how he performs the rest of the season.

But if he keeps up what he is doing now (he's averaging 14 points per game on 46 percent shooting overall and 46 percent from deep in 22 minutes per game) then he should have no worries about landing a good deal from a team in need of a dominant big man. But you never know, Cousins could enjoy his time in Golden State so much that he decides to take a large pay cut and stay another year.

Let's see how the rest of the season plays out for him first though before jumping to conclusions.
And now we get to Kevin Durant. Since the beginning of the season, the rumors swirling around the NBA were that the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, as well as the New York Knicks, were the favorites to land Durant if he were to leave the Warriors. After Durant's comments about the toxic media environment surrounding LeBron and just the general notion that their pairing may be an odd fit for two alpha dogs, I'd surmise to say at this point in time, knowing anything can change at any moment, that the Lakers are more of a long shot. 
The Clippers have been lurking very quietly behind the scenes, setting themselves up to be in a good situation to land a superstar (or even two, with the right cap management). Would a player like Durant want to play in the shadow of LeBron and the Lakers? Maybe he would see that as a challenge to dethrone them.

But the more it seems that Anthony Davis wants to land with the Lakers, it would be very hard for a Clippers team to compete with that star power. Durant spends a lot of time in Los Angeles during the offseason, so perhaps he would simply appreciate the everyday life of being down in SoCal. A sleeper team like the Clippers are worth keeping an eye on when it comes to Durant's big decision.  
Finally, we come to the New York Knicks, who just made a power move by shedding tons of salary as well as their budding but injured star, in order to free up enough cap space to acquire two max free agents this summer. At some point in every NBA star's free agency, it seems that the media and fans assume that the lure of playing in New York is enough to entice the player to ignore the history of failure and ineptitude of the Knicks organization.

[RELATED: Porzingis trade shows Knicks want Durant, Kyrie Irving]

Let's do a side-by-side between New York and Golden State to see the pros and cons of each situation. 
When it comes to winning and competing for a championship, the choice is very obvious. Durant and the Warriors are favorites to win the title yet again, and if they were to do so, it would be three titles in a row and a tough situation to walk away from when the team has a chance to go on one of the greatest runs in NBA history.

Sure, Durant was not part of the group that won the first title back in 2014-15. But when all is said and done, the two-time Finals MVP will be considered a superstar that was one of the leaders of perhaps the greatest team of all-time.

The Knicks, on the other hand, would be starting from scratch. Sure, if they acquire Irving and Durant they would have a very formidable foundation, but the rest of their roster would be very questionable.

It might even take a few seasons before New York would surpass the other top teams in the East (assuming the Sixers, Bucks and Pacers keep developing, Boston reloads and adds talent to overcome the loss of Irving, and the Raptors retain Kawhi Leonard).
In regards to NBA fans, Durant may be the most highly scrutinized player in the league outside of LeBron James. Ever since he left Oklahoma City, Durant has dealt with an onslaught of ridicule and irrational hatred. It is possible that Durant would like to change the perception of NBA fans and attempt to go to a team like the Knicks to start from the bottom and take on an enormous challenge.

In my opinion, that would be an easy way to reduce some of the chatter that has surrounded him over the last couple seasons, chastising him for joining an incredible team instead of "earning" the titles on his own. While going to New York would ease some of the ridiculous takes on him, I believe in the long run that the perception surrounding KD would be changed in his favor if he were to stay with the Warriors and go on a historic run.

Also I'm sure he knows that when it comes to scrutiny and ridicule that the New York media and fans are by far the most hardcore. Compared to that market, his current situation in the Bay Area is a walk in the park.

The NBA is getting better and more talented each year, and many teams are going to be challengers to the Warriors' throne. If Durant were to stay and fight off the competition over the next five or so years, NBA fans should have no choice but to respect the way he delivered on his goal to win in Golden State. He and Curry together could even end up being considered the best 1-2 teammate combo in NBA history. 
Since he has joined the Warriors and teamed up with Curry, Durant has been putting up the best numbers of his career. When playing for the Sonics/Thunder franchise over nine seasons, Durant averaged 26.1 points on 48 percent shooting overall, 38 percent from deep, 6.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists and one block per 36 minutes played. Now in his third season with the Warriors, his numbers have increased in each of those categories: 27.6 points per game on 52 percent shooting overall, 39 percent from deep, 7.8 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.6 blocks per 36 minutes played.

[RELATED: Durant envisions getting a statue in front of the Chase Center]

Changing situations to New York will without a doubt take some time to build chemistry, possibly hurting his overall production. Also, many could argue that Irving is a lesser, yet still immensely, talented version of Curry, and thrives when the ball is in his hands and when he is creating. Curry, on the other hand, can be just as lethal playing off the ball when sharing the court with Durant. 
Finally, and most importantly, does Durant really want to live in the cold winter in New York? Okay, maybe that isn't most important.

But what is very important to Durant is his overall happiness and lifestyle. Perhaps the excitement of going to a new team and changing things from the status quo would make him happy and motivated. Though, maybe the Warriors moving to Chase Center could be a bonus advantage as there will be a lot of excitement and change next season even if he were to stay. He has said in the past that he has enjoyed living in San Francisco, so an arena down the street from him would be a positive development. 
Let me make this clear, not that it matters to him, but I fully support Durant leaving the Warriors. If he thinks that is the best decision for his life and it would make him happiest, then how on Earth should anyone criticize him for that? The man has already delivered two titles, perhaps a third on the way, so it would be unfortunate if fans lost appreciation for him if he were to leave. 
And yet, if he were to stay and commit himself to the Warriors, he could very well end up being one of the most revered athletes of Bay Area sports history, and one of the most significant pieces to quite possibly the greatest team in ALL of sports history. 

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