Kevin Durant suffered an Achilles injury that was so emotionally jarring to watch it has essentially overshadowed that the Warriors still have a pulse in the NBA Finals. It shifts the whole dynamic of free agency, and also presents the Warriors with the fascinating decision calculus as to whether to extend him a max contract offer.
According to Woj and Ramona Shelburne, the Warriors expect that Durant’s MRI today will reveal that he tore his right Achilles tendon. If that’s the case, it’s a real question as to whether Durant will be able to return next season. He has a player option for $31.5 million for next season, and at this point, it is all but a no-brainer for him to opt into that deal.
After Game 5, Warriors GM Bob Myers addressed the media. He was choked up and ultimately expressed confidence in the organization’s process in clearing Durant, and said to put the blame on him as head of basketball operations.
Myers undoubtedly feels terrible about the whole situation, but the question remains if it changes his desire to extend Durant now. The whole narrative all season was that KD was definitely leaving, but the Warriors held a trump card in their ability to offer him a 5-year supermax contract worth about $220 million. If Myers believes Durant will ultimately return to his former self or anything approaching it, locking Durant up for the long run would be the right move, though it would cost more this upcoming season than if he opted in.
Nonetheless, the Warriors are facing a real luxury tax pickle. Klay Thompson is a looming free agent. Draymond Green is up after next season. They signed Steph Curry to the supermax in the 2017 offseason. The payroll could swell to $300 million after luxury tax if they keep their stars, and they’d have little room to maneuver elsewhere. We’ve seen in these playoffs the issues that come with their lack of depth, and their stars aren’t getting any younger.
The Warriors are entering a new arena, and it’s a double-edged sword. Yes, it promises a windfall. But they have to move PSL’s and luxury suites, and the fans paying those astronomical sums are going to demand the excellence they’re accustomed to.
We haven’t even gotten into what teams like the Knicks, Nets, and Clippers, who have been moving mountains for a shot at Durant, must be feeling today. The whole landscape of this offseason has shifted. Meanwhile, the NBA Finals are still going on as we all seek to find out whether the Warriors can continue to be the living embodiment of an Undertaker GIF.