I can give you 6.7 million reasons this was going to happen, no matter what Kevin Durant decided to do this summer.
Durant has opted out of the $31.5 million final year of his contract with the Warriors, clearing the way to sign a $38.2 new max contract with the Warriors or someone else in July, something first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant has declined his $31.5M player option and will become an unrestricted free agent, league sources tell ESPN. Durant and his business manager Rich Kleiman are in New York, evaluating free agency options. So far, process has stayed private.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 26, 2019
Durant had to do this to maximize his earnings. Since coming to the Warriors, he has always signed short deals, both to give himself options and leverage, and to keep making the new, higher maximum when the salary cap went up.
While Durant tore his Achilles that dynamic didn’t change. He still has multiple teams lined up to offer him max contracts, and whether he signs for four years with another team or five with the Warriors, or takes another shorter deal, his new starting salary will be $38.2 million.
Durant, along with Kawhi Leonard, will be one of the franchise-changing players whose decision will shape both the balance of power in the NBA and this summer’s free agency. All season long, most around the league thought he was going to be a New York Knick, but that dynamic seems to have changed. He could re-sign with the Warriors (although there appears to be some issues in his camp, and maybe with Durant, on how the Achilles injury went down after Warriors’ doctors told him all he could do was re-injure his calf). Brooklyn has emerged as a possible destination, and the Clippers were always in the conversation on some level. Durant’s camp is playing this close to the vest right now and may take multiple meetings.
Durant is going to be in the spotlight again this summer, as he was a few years back when the Warriors players and management went to the Hamptons to convince him to come West. Opting out of his contract was just the first step in making that happen.