Kevin Durant’s Free Agency Is Going to Be Like Nothing You’ve Ever Seen

Will this be the greatest free agency summer ever?

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Precisely every single summer since The Decision—when free agency was first covered as robustly as the playoffs—the sentiment heading into June has been that this free agency is going to be ‘the wildest one yet’. And each year, free agency rumors creep up earlier and earlier. ‘LeBron to the Lakers’ began the fall of 2017 only for it to become true eight months later, and ‘Durant to the Knicks’ has loomed since he first signed with the Warriors in 2016 conveying his desire for legacy and willingness to relocate.

Part of the uptick in free agency mania is driven by the actual curiosity of NBA fans, but that same coverage has also become a tool for free agents to wield. Players have actualized the leverage that comes with their upcoming free agency or ‘pre-agency’ with tactics like one-year deals, the proven precedent that they will change teams and most recently, influencing the conversation.

The latter has been executed by Kevin Durant & Co. during these last 18 months with surgical precision. When Durant sensed a lull in the conversation, a headline that Thirty-Five Ventures is moving its office to NYC would bubble up. And when conversation rose too steamy, Durant or his business partner Rich Kleiman would appear in a press conference attempting to diffuse the rumors. And this three-Michelin-star management of the NBA’s hot stove has set us up for what we’re calling ‘The Decision: Cosmic Brain Edition’.

This vortex of manufactured hype isn’t just a fictional internet storyline—it’s pulled very key NBA fixtures into its whirlwind that may involve very real implications. Draymond Green was suspended in November after getting into a heated verbal exchange with Durant, including bringing up Durant's contract purgatory. In January, the Knicks traded their best prospect in over two decades for cap space—a maneuver unforgivable for anything less than a guarantee that Durant would sign. And then during All-Star Weekend, fellow free agent classmate Kyrie Irving and Durant set Twitter ablaze when they were filmed discussing ‘two’ of something [max slots].

But yes, Durant’s upcoming decision has also put many of the brightest minds of NBA Twitter into a pretzel as well. The biggest issue here is that the frontrunner to be Durant’s destination per Vegas—the New York Knicks—also doubles as the team that had the worst record in the NBA this past year and has been the most mismanaged franchise of the last decade.

Paul George said it best when he Shakespeare-ingly claimed, “you can’t really entice somebody with a bag”. There are paths the Knicks can take to spit-shine their roster to offer more than just the ‘bag’ to KD, but they’re lengthy. They include signing either All-NBA guards Kemba Walker or Kyrie Irving to max deals and/or a literal fire sale of their entire roster to the New Orleans Pelicans for Anthony Davis.

The other two teams earning earplay—the Clippers and the Nets—are benefiting from the front office negligence of the big brother franchises that they share a city with. Both the Clippers and Nets boast much more talented rosters and much brighter futures than their respective rivals and by adding Durant, could upset the legacies of either storied franchise.

Finally, unlike LeBron’s decision fueled by chasing retired legends like Jordan and then Magic, Durant’s motivation is both more present and more nuanced. He has the ability to position himself as the unanimous "best player in the world"—a claim that his critics still feel is tainted by playing on the stacked Warriors. He also has the chance to distinguish his legacy from LeBron’s. It’s ironic that after the criticism KD received for joining the team he couldn’t beat, he’s in a position to accept a burdening challenge—something LeBron never did.

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