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Money Matters: Durant To Decline Option To Stay With Warriors. Now What?

Kevin Durant

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Here’s the thing about being a sports fan – you can’t let yourself get caught up in how much money the players make because it will take the pleasure away from the game.

Once you start equating Giancarlo Stanton’s deal to the nine games he’s played this season or Bryce Harper’s deal with his .246 average and league-leading 97 strikeouts, you want to scream at the television.

So if you’re a fan of the Golden State Warriors, you just have to accept the fact Kevin Durant has apparently decided his $31.5 million player option is not attractive enough and will become an unrestricted free agent.

This is the same Durant who sustained a Achilles tendon injury on the day he returned during the NBA Finals and will not play next season.

According to ESPN, Durant’s agent, Rich Kleiman, gave Warriors general manager Bob Myers the bad news earlier this week

If Durant does not want to play anymore in Golden State, where does he want to play; and again we emphasize that will begin in 2020-21 because of his injury.

The current train of thought seems to center on three teams, the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Clippers.

Money is relative, of course. While its quite possible to provide for generations with $30 million, it’s not enough cash for Durant. He knows wherever he goes he can sign a four-year, $164 million deal with another team. That’s if he decides to turn down a five-year, $221 million deal he can still sign with the Warriors.

Let’s take a look at Durant’s contract history with the Warriors. He initially took $9.6 million less than he could so the team could hold onto two other major components, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. The next time he signed an extension in 2018, he did so for $5.4 million less than he could have. The Athletic estimates his charity (remember, it’s all relative) helped save the organization about $20 million.

However, both moves were not necessarily benevolent acts. When he took the $5.4 million discount it was because the collective bargain agreement wouldn’t allow him to max out unless he agreed to two guaranteed seasons, which he obviously had no interest in doing. From that day on, it became clear Durant had his eyes fixated on free agency.

With all of the interest in his services, you might wonder why he would want to stay in Golden State. Afterall, the allure of playing in Los Angeles or New York City would appear great for a superstar who has spent his time in Oklahoma City and Oakland.

Again, here is what Durant will have to chose from: Golden State is allowed to offer him five years and about $221 million. Anyone else can offer four years and $164 million. So the Warriors deal would be worth more, but would contain him for one more season.

The Athletic tells us that fifth year would be a rather appealing one for Durant: Considering where the NBA’s salary cap might be at that point, Durant’s salary for the 2023-24 season would be $50.3 million.

That would seem to be enough to pacify the desire he might have to test the market again when he’d be 34 years old. And considering the severity of the injury he now has, there really is no guarantee his performance will be at the same level as it was in his 20s.

“Physically at 21, 22, 23, I could get out the bed and windmill or catch a lob,” Durant said last season. “But I have to activate my glutes and hamstrings a little bit more now.”

That was also before a complicated foot injury required three surgeries and necessitated a long recovery. There are also a lot of miles on his tires. Durant has played just under 37,000 minutes in his career, 9,000 more than Steph Curry. What’s left in the tank?

Then again, this is really not Durant’s problem. All he needs to do is field the best offer. It’s up to club that wants to sign him – like it was for the Phillies when they gave Harper a 13-year deal – to decide how worth it he’ll be at the end of the five-year deal, especially now that they know there will be no return on investment next season.

Kevin Durant

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

The Warriors do not want Durant to go. Their first choice would be to re-sign him and Klay Thompson and begin to recalibrate their roster after their defeat to Toronto in the NBA Finals. But they also realize that retaining both is going to cost then over a half-billion, including whatever payroll tax penalties are incurred.

Without Durant, the Warriors can focus entirely on Thompson and begin to head in a different direction, confident they’ll have the money to re-appropriate in a more sensible manner. Really, why would the Warriors want to invest so much in a player who can’t play next season. It’s not like Durant is the only player in the world.

It’s clear that Durant has a big decision to make. But it’s just as apparent his suitors have an even more important choice to make. And if they are proven wrong, they will have only themselves to blame. Durant won’t care a bit.