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Can Kevin Durant Return to Oklahoma City Thunder in 2019 NBA Free Agency?

Come this summer, Kevin Durant will have a big decision to make in free agency. PHOTO/ Getty Images

By Nicholas Williams

Published: May 8th, 2019

In the 2016 NBA offseason, 10x All-Star Kevin Durant shocked the entire world when he decided to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder and sign with the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors were just coming off two finals appearances and the core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green already achieved a championship back in the 2015 NBA Finals and was out for revenge after falling to a Cleveland Cavaliers team led by LeBron James back in the 2016 Finals. 

Durant’s decision drew plenty of media attention as well as sparked disappointment and anger from the Oklahoma City Thunder fan base and general fans around the league. Fans labeled him as a “snake,” “cupcake,” and a “coward”. His former teammate Russell Westbrook found out about Durant’s decision the same way the fans did which caused some tension between the two. They jawed and butted heads at each other multiple times in some of the games that they played against each other.

But time heals all wounds.

As the years went by after Durant’s decision, it seems all may be forgiven between the two superstars. Westbrook and Durant seem to be on good terms as they showed supporting gestures of handshakes and hugs after their games. Durant described their relationship to be “all love.” Durant has always been linked to the Thunder and was even present at Nick Collison’s jersey retirement earlier in the year. Durant even referred to Oklahoma City to be “home” on Portland Trailblazers shooting guard CJ McCollum’s podcast.

Durant still has some unfinished business with the Thunder, leaving the team after suffering a defeat by the hands of the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 conference finals. The question arises of if a possible reunion between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant could happen in the 2019 free agency?

Durant, in his time with the Warriors, went on to capture two NBA Championships as well as two NBA Finals MVP’s in back to back years. Durant finally captured the championship he had been chasing his whole career and is looking to add a third championship to his shelf. At this point, leaving a situation where you are the best player on the team and winning championships would be foolish.

With the clash of Durant and teammate Draymond Green early on in the season, it seems that Durant may have his foot out the door in Golden State. There have been numerous rumors that Durant may be interested in joining the New York Knicks with Celtics’ star Kyrie Irving. Durant accomplished what he wanted in his career, so venturing off to a new team and lifting them to a championship such as the Knicks would be the biggest accomplishment of his career. 

Some believe that Durant can join one of the Los Angeles teams, Celtics or even the Brooklyn Nets are an option. There is a likely scenario where Durant stays in Golden State, but if Durant has his mind already set on departing why not go back to the team where you started it all with, the Oklahoma City Thunder. Durant doesn’t have that label of being ring-less as he has scratched off that accolade. He can return to OKC and finish what he started with that team.

In the scenario that Durant joins OKC in free agency, the team would be complete and the Thunder would have everything to be championship contenders. The core of Westbrook, Paul George, Steven Adams, and Kevin Durant sounds like a dream come true for Thunder fans.

This scenario does not seem all too likely and this is due to OKC not having the cap space to make this happen. Westbrook, George, and Adams are the top paid players on the team. With Westbrook and George earning over 30 million a year, there is no flexibility that the team has to bring in Kevin Durant unless they trade one of those three guys.

Westbrook and George are the untouchables. For the chance to pull this off, OKC would have to commit to Nerlens Noel being the starting center for the future as they would have to shed the contracts of Dennis Schroder, Andre Roberson and Steven Adams in a trade.

Durant will be looking for a big payday in free agency and teams such as the Lakers, Nets, Knicks, Clippers have the cap to give Durant big-time money right off the bat. The Thunder would have to be creative in how they could shed contracts and land Durant. It’s definitely possible but would just mean letting go of some of their current role players.

Durant’s decision comes down to how satisfied and happy he is. It doesn’t make sense leaving a situation where he is winning championships in Golden State unless he is unhappy with the team.

Durant may possibly be interested in rejoining the team that drafted and molded him at some point in his career but the odds seem low due to OKC’s lack of cap flexibility. But from history, we have learned that the NBA is unpredictable and a scenario such as this doesn’t sound too far-fetched.

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