Several NBA teams, including the Warriors, Spurs, Clippers and Heat, will be given an opportunity to meet with Kevin Durant and convince him to play for them next season. The Lakers, however, were not granted a meeting.
It isn’t too difficult to figure out why.
“Kevin Durant wants to win,” Bleacher Report NBA writer Kevin Ding said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “All the things that the Lakers want to sell him on cannot override the fact that they’re not close to winning a championship. They’re not really close to making the playoffs right now. There are certain free agents you can sell on individual accomplishments and more touches and these things and money, obviously. But Kevin Durant has done a lot of these things already, so logically speaking, when he has all the options that he has, why would he choose the Lakers and wait around for years hoping they would win?”
Jim Buss, the vice president of basketball operations, said he needed just three years to build a championship-caliber roster. That was two years ago. This past year, the Lakers finished a franchise-worst 17-65.
“That’s why free agency is such a big deal right now for the Lakers,” Ding said. “If Jim doesn’t do something substantial, then there will be no chance that he has enough talent even to bring a team on the floor that can contend for a championship or at least show dramatic improvement. So he’s got to do something this offseason. They’ve got about $60 million to spend. They’ve got to find somebody to take it.”
With Durant out of the mix, the Lakers may try to sign Harrison Barnes and Hassan Whiteside, but could that combination catapult the Lakers back into the playoffs?
“There’s definitely a chance that that would be enough,” Ding said. “And there’s even a chance that if the Lakers went from 17 victories to making the playoffs that that would be enough improvement to let Jim stay on longer because of the growth, even though that’s not fulfilling his promise of contending for a championship. That’s what they’re looking for at the very least. They would love for this to have brought Kevin Durant and brought Russell Westbrook next summer. That’s the kind of stuff that Jim has thrown out there to people. He just believes that they can do it. He’s that optimistic. He’s used to seeing the Lakers pull that off under his dad. That might be naive, but that’s the way that he thinks.”
As for Durant, Ding believes the 27-year-old former MVP will likely stay with the Thunder.
“If his best chance to win a championship is still in Oklahoma City, then he will stay,” Ding said. “That’s why I think that Golden State is the only really strong option out there because the chance to win is so strong that it might compel him to say, ‘I can’t turn this down’ – even though it’s very much not in his character to be a bandwagon guy and jump on to follow Steph and Draymond and Klay and just sort of attach himself to that. The fact that they lost and didn’t win a championship this year gives Golden State a chance to get him, but I’m still not convinced Durant has the mentality to be a chaser instead of a guy who feels like he’s building something.”