Russell Westbrook’s insane hot streak since the All-Star break has some wondering how much the Oklahoma City Thunder need Kevin Durant.
Durant has played only 27 of the Thunder’s 67 games this season, and without him, OKC has climbed back into the playoff race (though they’re currently out of the playoffs, in ninth place).
Durant will be a free agent in 2016, and there’s been rampant speculation as to whether he’ll leave the Thunder if they can’t win a championship.
The uncertain future, combined with Westbrook’s play, caused ESPN analyst and former Portland Trail Blazers executive Tom Penn to say the Thunder will trade Durant if they can’t get him to commit past 2016:
“I think this burst from Westbrook makes it much more likely that Durant ultimately gets traded next year. … Sam Presti has proven that he does not ever want to lose anybody for nothing. So he traded James Harden a year early to avoid a potential luxury tax problem a year later.
“The Kevin Durant drumbeat next year is going to be so loud because he will not commit early to Oklahoma City contractually because the rules are against that…
“So if Sam Presti doesn’t get that commitment, he’ll look to to trade Kevin Durant.”
There is an argument there. No team wants to lose a superstar for nothing, and if Durant doesn’t commit to the team in the future and the Thunder don’t win a championship, then maybe he’ll want to leave as a free agent. If that’s the case, perhaps it’d be sensible for the Thunder to explore trading him.
In the wake of Penn’s comments, Thunder GM Sam Presti was unequivocal in his stance that he wouldn’t trade Durant. Here’s what he told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman:
“It’s ludicrous to assert that we would trade Kevin Durant. There’s no way to measure what he represents for our organisation on and off the floor. He has helped build this organisation from the ground up and personifies the Thunder; past, present and future. When he’s done playing, streets will be named after him throughout the state and younger generations of Oklahoman will learn about the role Kevin has played in elevating this community in ways beyond basketball.”
Streets named after him!
Presti obviously wouldn’t ever admit that the Thunder are considering trading Durant, but this seems like a pretty firm way to put out a fire.
Durant could do as much by saying he wants to remain with the Thunder, but it’s understandable that, like many other players, he wants to keep his options open for the future.
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