OAKLAND, Calif. -- Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant is willing to take less than the maximum contract extension he is eligible for this summer as a 10-year veteran if it helps the Warriors keep the core of their team intact, league sources told ESPN.
Durant's gesture would allow the Warriors to keep their entire core together for years to come. That's even if star point guard Stephen Curry signs one of the first five-year, "supermax" contracts under the new collective bargaining agreement in which a team can reward one designated veteran per year with a contract starting at 35 percent of next year's projected $101 million salary cap.
In order to sign Durant to the maximum possible extension this offseason, starting at an estimated $35.4 million per year, the Warriors would have to renounce their rights to Iguodala and Livingston to create room under the salary cap. The most they can pay Durant in 2017-18 without creating cap space is 120 percent of his 2016-17 salary, a little less than $32 million.
Curry, long one of the league's most underpaid stars at about $11 million per year, could then sign a new contract starting at $35.4 million a season and worth about $205 million over the next five years.
But because Durant is willing to take less than the maximum he is eligible for this season, according to league sources, the Warriors would not need to create room under the cap to re-sign him and thus would not need to renounce their rights to any of their other free agents.
Durant could sign a so-called "non-Bird" extension for up to four years, but a more likely scenario would have him sign another two-year deal, with a player option on the second year (similar to what LeBron James did in Cleveland for several years). Durant would then be eligible for another one-plus-one deal next year starting at an estimated $35.7 million and a five-year, supermax contract of about $217 starting in 2019-20.
By taking about $4 million less than his max next year and waiting to get his long-term extension for at least another season, Durant would allow the Warriors a chance to use their Bird rights to re-sign their own free agents (mostly notably Iguodala and Livingston) to deals far more comparable to what they'd likely see on the open market.
Iguodala is expected to receive interest from a number of teams such as Phoenix, Minnesota and Atlanta, league sources tell ESPN.
While sources stressed that Durant has not yet decided on how to structure his next contract, it is believed he's willing to take less than the maximum he's eligible for this summer in order to keep the Warriors' core together and give them the best chance of contending for years to come.
Durant has said on multiple occasions that he intends to stay with the Warriors for many years, and he has put roots down in the Bay Area both personally and professionally. Durant and his business partner Rich Kleiman have set up their business, the Durant Company, in the Bay Area. He has forged partnerships with California-based companies such as YouTube, Acorns and Postmates. In a New York Times profile this spring, Durant revealed that he is in business with Silicon Valley "super angel" investor Ronald Conway and consulting with Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs.
According to the Times story, Durant and Kleiman watched the election results at the home of Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president for internet software and services, along with Tim Cook, Apple chief executive, and Pharrell Williams.
For the past four years, Curry has been one of the best bargains in the NBA, despite winning back-to-back MVP awards in 2015 and 2016.
Curry's contract, which was signed at a time when concerns over his chronically sprained ankles cast doubt that he'd reach his enormous potential, has enabled the Warriors to surround him with a stronger supporting cast than other teams with multiple superstars.