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Could Kevin Durant Leave the Oklahoma City Thunder?

Updated on May 28, 2013
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He is one of the best players in the NBA. Teams wish they had him and the Oklahoma City Thunder feel fortunate they do. However, after yet another playoff failure is the patience of Kevin Durant beginning to wear down in his quest to finally win a championship?

Russell Westbrook injury magnified loss of James Harden

Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and James Harden
Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and James Harden | Source

As the second seed in the West, most people fully expected Oklahoma City to challenge the mighty San Antonio Spurs once again for supremacy. That all changed when star point guard Russell Westbrook went down with a torn meniscus in his knee. Without him running the floor, it was only a matter of time before teams figured out the truth about the Thunder. Outside of Durant they have no true scoring threat without Westbrook. That is exactly what the Memphis Grizzlies discovered. Using their suffocating defense they frustrated Durant throughout the divisional playoffs. In three out of five games during the series he scored under his regular season average of 28 points. Oklahoma City failed to crack 100 points in any of those games.

People will look back and think the Westbrook injury was the single reason the Thunder fell apart. However, that entire scenario really grew roots back in the off-season when the front office was forced into a difficult decision to either retain forward Serge Ibaka or extend rather than trade star bench man James Harden. Though not a starter, Harden averaged 16 points per game the season before. He was a main cog in their offensive attack. In the end, Oklahoma City felt the deal offered to them by the Houston Rockets was too good to pass up. They dealt Harden and kept Ibaka, believing with Durant and Westbrook they had enough scoring potential to win.

Their mistake didn’t become apparent until later in the season. It was an unspoken feeling, but the Thunder just didn’t seem like the juggernaut they were a year ago despite winning lots of games. Meanwhile Harden became a major boost for the Rockets, averaging 26 points per game as a starter. When Oklahoma City knocked Houston out of the playoffs it seemed like the Thunder made the right call. Then Westbrook went down. Without another scorer on the team they were helpless. Memphis shut them down and cruised to a series victory in five games.

NBA Trade becomes more realistic with every failure

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A year ago it was inconceivable that Durant might leave the Thunder. He’d been with the team since the franchise drafted him in Seattle and had watched him blossom into a superstar after they made the move to Oklahoma City. Yet after three scoring titles, four All-Star appearances, Rookie of the Year and a gold medal the 24-year old is running out of personal career milestones to achieve. He hasn’t won a championship of any kind since his days in high school for the PG Jaguars. His lone year in college met with an early exit in the NCAA tournament. Since then not much has changed. The Thunder are very good and get very close but they, just like the great Supersonics teams of the past, can’t get over the hump.

Free agency is not something to think about at this point. Oklahoma City handed Durant a five-year, $86 million extension back in 2010. That means he would have to wait until 2016 to consider a move. That is a long time to wait. As good as the Thunder still are, can Durant accept the possibility of three more seasons without a ring? His only other avenue of escape would be a trade. If Dwight Howard caused a media circus, one can only imagine what unfolds if Oklahoma City received a similar demand for a deal to a new team from their star.

The logistics alone that would go into such a trade are mind boggling. Given Durant is 24-years old and entering his prime, and that he’s already one of if not the best scorer in the league, there is no doubt a team would have to pay through the nose to get him. Theoretically, are there any teams in position for such a move? The New York Knicks might have pieces the Thunder like what with Carmelo Anthony (another great scorer), Amare Stoudemire, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith. The Brooklyn Nets have a nice, young core of talent with Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, and Gerald Wallace. One team that might have the best trade package is the Chicago Bulls. Outside of Derrick Rose they have two All-Stars in Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, a rising bench man in Jimmy Butler, ACB league MVP Nikola Mirotic and a valuable draft pick from the Charlotte Bobcats. Though the price is steep, the idea of Rose and Durant pairing together is something Bulls fans dream about.

Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets figure to offer future problems

Nuggets pose a real threat in the West
Nuggets pose a real threat in the West | Source

All that being said the status quo is unchanged. Durant has no plans to leave Oklahoma City and the team should return healthy and ready for another run next season. That doesn’t mean their road to a championship lay wide open. The San Antonio Spurs are proving as dangerous as always, not to mention looming threats posed by the upstart Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets. The Thunder essentially have at least another season to get it right before their star scorer begins to feel that itch to try someplace else. It may take one and a half seasons but sooner or later Durant will begin to believe, true or not, that finding a new team is his best hope to get that ring.

How many more early playoff exits before Durant considers asking for a trade?

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    • Thief12 profile image

      Thief12 3 years ago from Puerto Rico

      I really thought the Thunder would overcome the loss of Westbrook. I mean, they have arguably the best scorer in the league in Durant, a solid frontcourt in Ibaka and Perkins, and solid contributors from the bench like Martin, Collison, etc. Even the loss of Harden wasn't that glaring because Martin had been such a good contributor from the bench averaging 14-something points. So, overall, Westbrook is just one part of a great team. But after his injury, they just looked flustered and lost. I suppose it really took them off guard, and they couldn't compose themselves.

      As for Durant staying in OKC, he really seems committed to the team, and vice versa. But this is a business and one never knows. But considering that this isn't a big market team, I really don't see the Thunder shopping him around anytime soon. As for him wanting to stay, if he wins a championship in the next 2-3 years, it's possible he might stay longer. If he doesn't, maybe the bright lights of another city could entice him. Who knows.

    • EJ Lambert profile image
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      EJ Lambert 3 years ago from Chicago, IL

      The thing about Westbrook and Harden was they can create their own offense. Martin scores that many points but usually doesn't with set up shots. Ibaka and Perkins are great defenders but can't spark any offensive rhythm. That meant it was all on Durant. That is not how you win in the playoffs.

    • profile image

      grandmathunder 3 years ago

      Please Kevin Durant do not leave the Thunder,your time is this year coming up,the Thunder will win the Championship.I realize you cannot do it on your own.All the team members need to get together and realize you are all part of a big family .Westbrook is coming back this season and together you will win,please do not leave not yet.Please!

    • EJ Lambert profile image
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      EJ Lambert 3 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Take a breath, my man. They have two first round picks this year. If they put them to good use and Westbrook comes back healthy, they are clear favorites to win the west this coming season. Their younger legs and experience should also be an unwelcome sight if they see the Heat again.

    • agilitymach profile image

      agilitymach 3 years ago

      I live in Oklahoma City. Durant LOVES it here. OKC rocks an arena like no other NBA city in the nation. Plus, as Durant has already learned, OKC has the best, most loving people around. We may lack in a lot of areas, but are people are tops.

      Durant is a smart kid. He knows that championships take time and that team building is a process. He understands the business of the NBA. He also knows when he's got it good, and in OKC, he's got it great.

      He won't be leaving any time soon. The local media here, who obviously have an "in" with the team, aren't even worried about it.

      Durant is a Thunder-man, and I'm hoping a franchise player for his career.

    • EJ Lambert profile image
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      EJ Lambert 3 years ago from Chicago, IL

      There is no doubt he fits that city and he should stay, but you have to admit it must be hard staying there while watching LeBron James switch teams and immediately win two championships. If Durant ends up doing it for OKC, he will be universally celebrated, but you can't deny it's only getting harder.

    • agilitymach profile image

      agilitymach 3 years ago

      Durant is still young. You don't see desperation for championships in sports until the athlete has started to notice his or her age. He's not desperate yet. That may come, but not now nor in the near future. He's got a good head on his shoulders and understands that the Thunder is still a young franchise being built.

    • EJ Lambert profile image
      Author

      EJ Lambert 3 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Very true. He's only 24 but you also have to remember he's already played six seasons. One or two more disappointing ends in the playoffs can have a bad effect on the psyche.

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