Clippers could be in play to sign Kevin Durant next year


May 11, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) is defended by Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) in game four of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. The Clippers defeated the Thunder 101-99 to tie the series 2-2.Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

“The Los Angeles Clippers have lost DeAndre Jordan“.

Hearing that still hurts. But if there’s one thing you want to hear to give you hope for the future, it’s that with a possible $30 million in cap space next summer, the Clippers could potentially be in play to sign Kevin Durant next summer.

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Simply put, he’s the best scorer in the league. And until he faced injury and was forced to play just 27 games this year, he was the unquestioned second best player in the league, behind only LeBron James himself.

In his remarkable MVP campaign during the 2013-14 season, Kevin Durant elevated his game to a level we hadn’t seen before. He averaged 32 points per game to take his fourth NBA scoring title, 7.4 rebounds and a career best 5.5 assists. And he did all that while making 50.3 percent of his shots and 39.1 percent of his three point attempts. Add on the fact he also scored 25+ points in 41 straight games (which, for the record, is better than the great Michael Jordan) and there’s no denying that Durant had a season for the ages.

But how does any of this help the Clippers?

With the Oklahoma City Thunder, Durant already has an elite running mate in the form of Russell “Triple Double” Westbrook, who tallied 11 triple doubles in this season alone. And seeing as he only played 67 games, it’s quite remarkable that he virtually had three times as many as any other player (James Harden was second with four). So, would Durant want to leave Westbrook, Serge IbakaEnes Kanter, Steven Adams, and the core of young talent that the Thunder have assembled? It doesn’t seem all that likely.

However, the possibility of Durant leaving Oklahoma to head home and join the Washington Wizards has been considered for some time now. Occasionally by experts who put some genuine perspective on the situation, but more often by hopeful fans who want free agency to get even more insane.

As Adrian Wojnarowski has suggested, the Clippers would definitely have enough to try and sign Durant with $30 million in cap space. His salary with the Thunder for 2015-16 is $20,158,622, meaning Doc Rivers would easily be in range to offer him the kind of money he’s used to, or to bring him to L.A. with a max contract. But can we really expect there to be any kind of genuine possibility for Durant to join the Clippers?

Well, for a start, he should certainly fit in with a selfless, pass-first point guard such as Chris Paul — perhaps better than he does with Westbrook, when the crazed point guard looks to take over a game by himself, or takes late fourth quarter shots away from Kevin. Of course, Durant and Russ have had a lot of success turning the Thunder into a contender and even taking them to the NBA Finals in 2011-12. Although, it’s hard to think Paul and Durant wouldn’t work well in tandem.

Both shot at least 39 percent from beyond the arc this year and could consistently test defenses from outside, Paul can penetrate and kick the ball out to either Durant or Blake Griffin (and anyone else for that matter), or Paul can simply let Durant take over when need be. And as a four-time league leader in assists per game, that’s something he’d probably be willing to do more than Westbrook.

Feb 9, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) during the game against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

The talent of Griffin must at least catch the attention of Durant, too. He may not be the elite defender that Serge Ibaka is, but he’s a stronger rebounder (especially without Jordan being around to steal his boards now) and he’s a better scorer. Ibaka did make 77 threes in comparison to Griffin’s 10, and they both shoot well from mid-range (making at least 40 percent of their shots from 16 feet out this season), but Griffin is a go-to option in the post now, which is something Ibaka has never needed to become for the Thunder.

Speculation and forward thinking aside, though, there’s no need to get your hopes up, Clipper nation. Yes, $30 million is the kind of cap space that would allow the Clippers to go after a franchise changing free agent, but Durant isn’t going anywhere for money alone. If he continues with the Thunder, he can see how far his team can go with their newly added depth (Kanter, Mitch McGary etc) when he and Westbrook are both healthy. If not, he can go home to Washington and unite with another elite point guard in John Wall.

However, the Clippers may actually have some money next year, and they’ll certainly have the star power to entice him. They have the allure of Los Angeles and a great head coach in Doc Rivers, too. And combined with their talent on the court, they have several factors that could intrigue Durant. Who knows, though, Woj may have just been trying to console grieving Clips’ fans by putting that thought into their heads.

There’s simply no reason to think about Durant yet, but at least the idea of it is still exciting.

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