Will Kevin Durant Leave The Oklahoma City Thunder?

By Brian Anderson
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Durant is currently in the middle of a 5-year, $89.16 million contract that he signed in 2010 that didn’t come into effect until the 2011-12 NBA season. That means that Durant will unfortunately become an unrestricted free-agent after the 2015-16 season. Some may say that it’s a little too early to start this particular conversation. Well, Carmelo Anthony didn’t seem think so when he recently decided to blurt out his intentions on opting out of his contract after this year to test the free-agency market, so I’m just going to go ahead with it.

It’s no secret that NBA players aren’t the most loyal people around. After LeBron James‘ “Decision”, players most likely figured that they couldn’t look any worse than James did in that situation. There may never be another ESPN special that focuses on a player’s destination in free-agency, but decisions just as big are made almost every year.

Center Dwight Howard made big news when he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers before last season. He made even bigger news with all of the controversy that surrounded his struggling team during the 2012-13 season. Dwight again shocked the sports world when he signed with the Houston Rockets this offseason. Anthony probably looked at Dwight’s situation and figured that he couldn’t look any worse than that, so it wouldn’t hurt to just come out and tell the world his plans to test the market. Although people will talk down on Anthony’s decision, I’m sure he won’t be losing any sleep over it.

A few years from now, Durant will be another player faced with a major decision. There will be a lot of things that factor into Durant’s choice. Most players seem to be easily influenced by other players’ decisions, but I don’t see Durant as one of those guys. Durant proved that he is a from a different breed by quietly signing his current contract extension. There were no lights, cameras or interviews to break the news of his decision to stay with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Durant did manage to raise a few eyebrows when he became the first NBA player to be represented by Roc Nation Sports, a company run by Jay-Z, who is part-owner of the Brooklyn Nets. Durant quickly shot down any talk of the affiliation leading to his departure from the Thunder. While it may not be smart to believe everything that comes out of a player’s mouth, I’m pretty sure we can trust Durant here.

The one thing that Durant does care about is championships. If his Thunder are still without a title by the time he is in his last year of his contract, that could indeed play a big role on whether or not he sticks around. Then there’s his relationship with star point-guard Russell Westbrook. Their current relationship to some is seen as a ticking time-bomb. If these two are near blows in a few years, then I’m sure one of those guys will want a change of address. We’ve already seen this happen with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, so there’s no reason why Durant and Westbrook would be exempt from what would be a very unfortunate situation.

What we have next may be the most important factor of them all: money. Durant would see the most dollar signs if he stayed with the Thunder. Personally, I doubt that Durant will be worried about his financial future at that point of his career, especially if he doesn’t have a ring by then. He’ll surely be on the hunt for an NBA championship. There will be a potential super-team out there wooing Durant with everything they have, including the kitchen sink.

One thing I am sure of is that Durant loves Oklahoma City, and they love him back. The Thunder would never be the same without Durant, and I’d hate to see him leave. I do understand that the NBA is a business, but as a fan, it’s hard not to get attached to your favorite players. If I have to, I’ll start writing up the petition for Durant to remain a member of the Thunder, for life.

Brian Anderson is a NBA writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @MrAnderson035 “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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