Kevin Durant has decided to opt out of the $31.5 million second year of his player option with the Golden State Warriors and will become a free agent, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
It was a move the superstar forward was expected to make, but one that had been clouded a bit by his Achilles injury, suffered during Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
The move just before the start of free agency — which begins on Sunday at 3 p.m. PT — allows Durant to test the market, and see if he can find a situation where he could either team up with another superstar (possibly Kyrie Irving) or be the main attraction on his own team. It also allows him to come back and sign with Golden State for a five-year max contract.
The biggest difference between the Warriors and other suitors is that, because of NBA salary cap rules, only Golden State can offer him a five-year deal that could pay him upwards of $50 million for his age-35 season. For a player who just suffered what’s almost universally been a career-altering injury and facing likely a year of rehab, that extra security could be enticing.
The Warriors can now offer Durant five years, $221 million, while teams can offer four years, $164 million.
It’s been widely reported that, despite the injury, a wide swath of teams are still interested in Durant’s services, including the New York Knicks, who have long been linked to the two-time Finals MVP, and possibly the Brooklyn Nets, who could find a way to make room for both Irving and Durant on max deals. In recent days, though, fellow Warriors forward Andre Iguodala has said on multiple podcasts and interviews to say that Durant isn’t going anywhere, and certainly not New York.
Durant, as it would happen, is in New York, according to Wojnarowski, with his business partner Rich Kleinman.