Kevin Durant is to become an unrestricted free agent July 1. In addition to choosing where he wants to play, he’ll have different contract options, with the likeliest scenarios listed below.
Note: All numbers below are projected and take into account the NBA’s most recent salary cap projection of $94 million for the 2016-17 season. The NBA will not set the salary cap until July, so any changes from the current 2016-17 projection of $94 million would result in a slight change to the numbers below. Additionally, the current salary cap projection for the 2017-18 season of $107 million could change as well.
Why would Durant take a short-term contract?
1) The salary cap is projected to increase from $94 million this summer to $107 million in summer 2017.
2) Durant’s “experience tier” bucket will jump to the highest level after next season, in summer 2017, allowing him to sign for a higher maximum contract.
3) Russell Westbrook is signed only through 2016-17, meaning he will become an unrestricted free agent in summer 2017. Durant might be hesitant to lock into a long-term deal in Oklahoma City with the possibility of Westbrook leaving.
Option 1: Signs a max deal this summer
If Durant opts to sign a maximum contract in terms of years and dollars this summer, he’ll have two simple options: re-sign with the Thunder for five years and a projected $153 million or sign with another team for four years and a projected $114 million.
A five-year max contract with the Thunder would entail annual projected salaries of $26.6 million, $28.6 million, $30.6 million, $32.6 million and $34.6 million.
A four-year max contract with some other team would entail annual projected salaries of $26.6 million, $27.8 million, $29.0 million and $30.2 million.
Option 2: One-year deal with Thunder followed by five-year deal with them
If Durant signs a one-year deal with the Thunder this summer, he would presumably go the LeBron James route of doing a one-year deal with a player option for the second year, with the intention of declining that option and becoming an unrestricted free agent again in Summer 2017. If Durant executed that plan and signed a five-year max deal with the Thunder in 2017, he’d make a projected $230 million over a six-season span.
In this case, Durant’s salary next season would also be $26.6 million. The first-year salary under a five-year max deal would be approximately $35.3 million.
Option 3: One year with Thunder followed by four-year max deal with another team
If Durant signed a one-year deal with the Thunder this summer and then signed a four-year max deal with a different team in 2017, he would make a projected $177 million over five seasons. It’s important to note that Durant would be able to sign for a maximum of only four years with a team other than the Thunder in 2017, while he can sign a five-year deal with OKC.
Option 4: Leaves Thunder for one-year deal and signs a four-year max deal with that team in summer 2017
The sum in this case would be five years in a projected range of $162.9 million to $177.3 million.
The reason there would be a range in this scenario is that the team that signs Durant would have only his Non-Bird rights: If that team did not have cap space, it would be able to offer him a starting salary of 120 percent of his previous salary.