The rumors have started flying about the two best players on the Oklahoma City Thunder, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Durant is entering free agency this summer and Westbrook is entering free agency next summer. Naturally the media is trying to anticipate where they will end up. Some media reports are speculating that will end up with the Los Angeles Lakers, additional reports guess that Westbrook will go to New York Knicks in 17, and a report surfaced indicating that Durant might go to the Golden State Warriors. (Can you imagine the Warriors with Durant? I’m not sure if they would be the greatest team ever or a complete train wreck. I’d put my money on greatest team ever though).
Losing one of the players would be bad enough for the Thunder organization, but losing both players to free agency would be an absolute disaster. The Thunder are poised to make a deep playoff run this summer, and regardless of Durant’s decision this summer, they are still going to be very competitive next season. This means that rebuilding with the draft is going to be hard. The Thunder could try to pick up a few free agents in the event that both players leave, but picking up any other free agents will be like putting a bandage on a bullet wound. It’s not going to stop the bleeding, and the situation will actually be getting much worse. Good free agents are not going to want to Oklahoma City if Durant and Westbrook are not there, and this will force the team to tie up cap space with players who aren’t worth it. In their attempt to continue competing without Durant and Westbrook, the Thunder will end up being an average team and it will take them many more seasons to reach elite status. If Durant and Westbrook do leave, then the best situation for the Thunder organization is to simply bite the bullet and rebuild.
If only one of the players leave, the Thunder will be fine because the organization can focus on filling the roster with players that complement the remaining star. In fact, having only one of the superstars on the team might actually be more beneficial to the team than the current situation of the two players attempting to coexist.
I have no idea what the players are going to do. If I had to guess I would wager that Durant is going home to play DC which would be awesome. It would also catapult the Wizards to the team to beat in the East, as I think Lebron James is going to continue to decline quite quickly. I could see Westbrook joining the Lakers, and I think he is the perfect fit to take over the team as Kobe Bryant retires.
The Thunder undoubtedly hoping that they can convince both players to stay when their respective free agency rolls around. I’m not sure how they’re going to sell those guys since this currently constructed Thunder team has pretty much peaked. There are no major roster changes they can make and they probably aren’t going to get past either the San Antonio Spurs or Warriors this post-season, or any other.
Even though it’s a risky move that would enrage their loyal fan base, Thunder general management has to be considering trading one of those guys. After all, they don’t want both to eventually leave and get nothing in return.