One of the NBA's most controversial stars, Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant, has made plenty of enemies since joining the two-time defending NBA champions in free agency from the Oklahoma City Thunder during the summer of 2016. While he attempts to perform under the moniker of one of the league's "bad boys," there's no doubting that he has helped Golden State reach another stratosphere of domination.
The nine-time All-Star, 2014 league MVP and two-time NBA Finals MVP has created an all-time collaboration with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, averaging 25.7 points and 7.5 rebounds per game in two years with the Warriors.
This summer though, with his contract up, he took a one-plus-one deal to remain a Warrior for the 2018-19 season where he'll make $30 million. He has a player option for the following season in which he's expected to make $31.5 million, but he probably won't take it.
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Not because he's going to leave the Warriors. There is a good chance that isn't going to happen. But Durant, who turns 30 next month, will be looking to secure a long-term deal that he can likely finish his career on.
Just looking at the past two seasons, there is little incentive as to why Durant would want to leave Golden State. The franchise has become one of the greatest in NBA history, winning three titles over the past four years while looking poised to take a fourth in 2018-19 after adding DeMarcus Cousins in free agency.
But Durant has clearly had problems acting under this bad-guy-label, which isn't a knock on him in any way. During his time with the Oklahoma City Thunder, he was considered one of the most genuine people in the game, which I can only attest to in the handful of encounters I've had with him.
He constantly defends himself on social media when people come after him and just seems generally uncomfortable when presented with confrontational situations.
That kind of negative attention takes a toll on anyone, whether they are willing to admit it or not. If he continues being targeted by detractors and opponents, it would be completely understandable if he would want a change of scenery after this year.
This in no way suggests that he wants it nor is there anyone close to him even presenting such an idea.
But if there is any inkling that Durant will not take his player option in 2019 and would want to search for a new home, the Warriors, like any team, would have to think about trading him.
The return on him would be solid enough even with free agency looming and a more comfortable environment where he wouldn't be a pariah could coax him into re-signing with a hypothetical trade partner.
Could the New York Knicks trade for Kevin Durant?
The Knicks are set to be major players in free agency next year, which is going to put them in the running with big names like Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler.
But Durant could be keen on joining the Knicks as well given the direction the organization is moving in.
In a far-less competitive Eastern Conference, which is set to be dominated by the Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics, the Knicks will have pieces to at least be relevant in the Eastern Conference playoff picture next year with just Kristaps Porzingis and possibly Kevin Knox alone.
It is expected that New York will be a hot spot come next summer for free agents, but if the Knicks want to get the ball rolling early, they could at least kick the tires on Durant if there looks as though there will be any sort of rumblings of a split between him and Golden State.