Kevin Durant is a free agent this summer, so you would think that all of Oklahoma City would be on pins and needles waiting for the 27 year old to determine his future. That, however, really hasn’t been the case.
Indeed, while Durant could send shockwaves through the NBA by signing with the Spurs, Warriors, Heat or Celtics – or some other team – the safe money is on the former MVP returning to the Thunder.
“That’s the way I’ve always felt,” Fox Sports Oklahoma analyst Antonio Daniels said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I don’t know anymore than anyone else knows as far as his free agency goes, but being a former player, the two reasons that you leave (are) the reasons for him to come back. You only leave for two reasons: You leave for financial purposes, and you leave for greener pastures – and both of those are in Oklahoma City. So from my point of view, I have no idea what he’s doing, but I would be very, very, very surprised if he left.”
Durant, along with Russell Westbrook and James Harden, led the Thunder to the NBA Finals in 2012, when they lost to the Miami Heat in five games. Oklahoma City traded Harden after that season and has suffered repeated postseason heartbreak ever since, usually due to Durant or Westbrook being injured. This year, they pushed the defending-champion Warriors to the brink in the Western Conference Finals but lost the final three games of the series.
Looking back, what exactly happened? The Thunder won Games 3 and 4 by a combined 52 points before losing Games 5 through 7 by an average of eight points per game. What changed?
“No. 1, you have to give Golden State credit for what they did coming back from 3-1 – the same way you have to give Cleveland credit for coming back 3-1 against Golden State,” Daniels said. “But the difference between Oklahoma City being up 3-1 and losing 4-3, was two things. One, Golden State started hitting shots. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson began to shoot the ball out of their mind. If Klay Thompson and Steph Curry would have shot the ball like they did against Oklahoma City against Cleveland, they would have beat Cleveland. But they didn’t. So it’s a make-or-miss league. It comes down to making shots and missing shots. And second, we got up 3-1 because our small-ball lineup out-played their small-ball lineup for those three games. That death-ball lineup that they have, our small-ball lineup – we countered with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Dion Waiters, Serge Ibaka and Andre Roberson – outplayed their death-ball lineup for three games. That enabled us to get up 3-1. But then they began hitting shots, so it became tougher to close them out.”
The Thunder traded Ibaka to the Magic last week for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and Domantas Sabonis. Daniels thought it was a clear win for Oklahoma City.
“They (got) a vey explosive two-way player in Victor Oladipo,” Daniels said. “The guy plays both sides of the floor, averaged almost 17 points a game – and that’s what they need from that position. OKC was last in the league last year from the 2-guard position in minutes and points. So they need that. Now you have another guy. It gives you another guy that can make and create his own shot. And I like Sabonis a lot. I think that’s going to be a steal for OKC. You don’t let Serge Ibaka go for nothing. So I’m not one that’s going to say when I heard that deal that I was torn apart by it. Honestly, I think if you look at the situation from both sides, I think Oklahoma City definitely made out in that trade.”