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For the second consecutive year, the Warriors will have locked up one of their star players with a max contract. Kevin Durant and the Warriors are expected to agree to a so-called “one-plus one” deal, which would pay him up to around $30 million for the 2018-19 season and a player option worth up to about $31 million for the 2019-20 season, league sources told Bay Area News Group. The New York Times first reported the news.
Durant had stressed repeatedly throughout the 2017-18 season he planed to re-sign with the Warriors for fairly obvious reasons. He eventually collected NBA championships and Finals MVP award in consecutive years since leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Warriors as a free agent in the 2016 offseason. The only uncertainty: how many years would Durant commit to the Warriors and for how much?
A year after sacrificing nearly $10 million in salary to help the Warriors fill out their roster, Durant will help the Warriors save in another way. Durant will accept a max deal that will pay him $30 million for the 2018-19 season, but that is about $5 million less than if he had agreed to a two-year guaranteed deal that would have paid him about $35 million for the 2018-19 season. That $5 million difference nearly equals the amount the Warriors can use on a taxpayer mid-level exception ($5.2 million). The Warriors will also save about $20 million in luxury taxes.
The agreement will not become official until the league moratorium ends on July 6. At that point, Durant will be able to sign his contract that will cement his time with the Warriors through the 2019-20 season and the choice to opt out to become an unrestricted free agent in the 2019 offseason. Then, Durant could re-sign with the Warriors next summer to a five-year deal up to $219 million. That time period will also coincide for when Warriors guard Klay Thompson becomes an unrestricted free agent. He has also stated repeatedly he plans to re-sign with the Warriors.
Durant had kept it open ended on what terms he would want in his latest contract. Durant wanted to maximize his monetary value after his pay cut last year helped the Warriors re-sign veterans Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, while also adding Nick Young at the mid-level exception ($5.2 million). This year, the Warriors only have a taxpayer mid-level exception (up to $5.3 million) and veteran’s minimum deals to sign players.
Regardless, the Warriors maintained that Durant would dictate the terms of his next deal. So much that Warriors general manager Bob Myers said last month he would give Durant “whatever he wants.” Myers added, “sometimes you don’t negotiate.”
“I’d love to have him for 10 years. But, Kevin Durant, look at what he did last year for us. He did us a great service,” Myers said in mid-June. “He’s earned the right to sign whatever deal he wants. I just want him to sign a deal. I want him to be happy and want him to know we want him as long as he wants to be here. He’s earned that right to lay out the terms.”
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All of which seemed like a foregone conclusion leading into and after the Warriors won the NBA championship against Cleveland for the second consecutive season. That also marked the Warriors’ third NBA title in the past four years against the Cavaliers. Rich Kleiman, Durant’s business manager, sounded unequivocal when he reiterated Durant’s free agency plans after the Finals.
“He wants to be here, of course,” Kleiman told Bay Area News Group last month. “Why would you not?”
Nonetheless, plenty of intrigue centered on Durant toward the end of the championship run.
First, Durant sparked criticism for his high volume shooting in the Western Conference finals against Houston after posting efficient numbers in the regular season in points (26.4), field-goal percentage (51.6 percent) and 3-point shooting (41.9 percent).
In Games 1 and 2 against the Rockets, Durant averaged 37.5 points on 55.1 percent shooting. With Houston increasingly relying on a switch-heavy defense. Durant further resorted to isolation plays at the expense of his own efficiency in Game 4 (9 of 24), Game 5 (8 of 22) and Game 6 (6 of 17).
Second, Durant then turned his play around in the NBA Finals, but it did not come without controversy. Durant won the Finals MVP award by a 7-4 vote over Curry, as determined by a select panel of Warriors and Cavaliers beat writers as well as national NBA writers and broadcasters.
Among the reasons for Durant’s MVP vote: he posted 43 points on 15-of-23 shooting, 13 rebounds and seven assists to cement a Game 3 win, while Curry went only 3 of 16 from the field and 1 of 10 from 3-point range. Throughout the series, Durant averaged 28.8 points while shooting 52.6 percent from the field and 40.9 percent from 3-point range, along with 10.8 rebounds and 7.5 assists. Meanwhile, Curry averaged 27.5 points while shooting 40.2 percent from the field and 41.5 percent from 3-point range, along with 6.8 assists and 6.0 rebounds. Still, Curry missed out on what would have been his first Finals MVP award despite shooting better in Game 1 (11 of 23 to 8 of 22), setting an NBA Finals record in 3-pointers in Game 2 (nine) and topping Durant in Game 4 in points (37 to 20), field-goal percentage (12 of 27 to 7 of 17) and 3-point shooting (7 of 15 to 0 of 3).
Lastly, the Warriors shared an awkward moment during the team’s championship parade involving Durant’s pending free agency.
When moderator and NBC Sports Bay Area broadcaster Bob Fitzgerald referenced Myers’ comments that Durant “can have whatever he wants” in free agency, Myers interjected. “That was just for the media. He can’t have anything like that at all,” Myers joked. Warriors coach Steve Kerr jokingly added “Mid level.” Myers further played along, saying that the Warriors would agree with Durant to a “mid-level behind closed doors.”
The ribbing continued.
“Last year, you told Steph he can have any contract he wants, too … ” Fitzgerald said before Myers interrupted. “Yeah, well that was different,” he said. “He’s been here for the run in the way before days. He’s earned it.”
During that exchange, Durant went from playfully laughing to shaking his head in confusion. When Fitzgerald revisited the free agency topic later on stage with Durant, he shook his head with a hint of annoyance.
“Why was that even a discussion?” Durant asked, rhetorically. “Why are we even talking about that? For sure, we’re going to do this thing again.”
Shortly after free agency begins, Durant and the Warriors then plan to put words into action.