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Wizards big bet on Durant might backfire

By: Myles Nelson

The Wizards have set themselves up well to get Kevin Durant but it is far from a sure-thing that they get him.

The Wizards have set themselves up well to get Kevin Durant but it is far from a sure-thing that they get him.

Kevin Durant will be a free-agent this summer…if he doesn’t resign with the Oklahoma City Thunder. It’s no secret that if he hits free agency, the Wizards have every intention of offering Durant a big deal to lure him to his hometown team. It’s painfully obvious that the Wizards are still missing a piece or two that could really make them contenders.

For the Wizards, Durant is that piece. In fact, he’d make almost any team an immediate contender. The Wizard’s have been quietly preparing for this summer for a while now, going back to at least last season.

The 2013-14 Wizards made the playoffs and upset the Chicago Bulls in the first round before losing to the Indiana Pacers in the Conference semifinals. It was the first time they had made the playoffs since 2008. However, the offseason is where things got interesting for the Wizards. They ended up losing their best defender, and starting small forward Trevor Ariza to free agency. Ariza was replaced by Paul Pierce. Sure, you could argue that Ariza may be a better player than Pierce at this point in their careers but that’s not the point. The key was that they could pay Pierce less than Ariza, and give Pierce a shorter contract.

While Ariza signed a four-year, $32 million contract with the Houston Rockets, the Wizards were able to get Pierce with a two-year, $11 million deal. In a perfect world Pierce would be two-year placeholder whose contract expired just in time for them to make a move for Durant. Pierce ended up opting out of his contract to join the Los Angeles Clippers, but the Wizards intent remains the same. Pierce wasn’t the only player with a Durant-friendly contract.

Nene, Jared Dudley, Gary Neal, Ramon Sessions, Garret Temple, and Alan Anderson all have deals that expire after this season. These expiring contracts, along with the rising salary cap, leave plenty of space for Durant. Now the remaining question is: does Kevin Durant want to play for the Wizards?

No one really knows. He could follow the trend set by LeBron James and go play for his hometown team but the situations are totally different. James had already played in Cleveland and at the time was joining a team that included Kyrie Irving, and number one overall draft pick, Andrew Wiggins. The Wizards have talent too. Joining John Wall and Bradley Beal wouldn’t be a bad move for Durant, but it can be questioned whether they would be better than his current team.

In OKC he’s surrounded by Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, and Enes Kanter. Westbrook is an MVP candidate himself. Ibaka is one of the best defensive players in the league, and can hold his own on offense. Kanter is one of the best big men in the league offensively. When you add in guys like DJ Augustin, Dion Waiters, and Steven Adams off the bench, that’s a championship caliber team when everyone’s healthy.

In Washington, Wall and Beal are great but everyone outside of them is a question mark. Otto Porter is a good player because of his intelligence, and his Spur-like ability to be where he needs to be on the court. Kelly Oubre has the potential to be a starting caliber player or a very good sixth man one day. They both play the same position as Durant though. Marcin Gortat hasn’t looked great this season, and will be 32-years old before Durant would even land in Washington. OKC has surrounded Durant with young and athletic players. It’s no guarantee that Washington would be able to do the same.

Outside of Durant, the upcoming free agent that could help the Wizards the most is Hassan Whiteside. The 26-year old center could anchor the Wizards defense for at least the next five years. The only issue with that is they just gave Gortat a big deal. Despite all the hype for Durant, the best option is to ship Gortat off, and go after Whiteside. Durant’s recent comments about how he feels that this whole #KD2DC movement is disrespectful certainly don’t help their cause. The Wizards seem to be betting it all on Durant, but it’s a bet they might just lose.

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Myles Nelson

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