When Kevin Durant returned and suffered an Achilles injury in Game 5 in the 2019 NBA Finals, his injury and impending free agency decision will change the league’s landscape.
After Durant signed with the Golden State Warriors prior to the 2016-17 NBA season, they won two consecutive championships and established themselves as a dynasty.
As it is unclear how Durant’s injury will impact his decision heading into June 30, it appears he is exploring all options.
Durant and Kyrie Irving ‘have met twice’ to discuss teaming up now, according to Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report:
Durant and Irving, league sources say, have met twice in recent weeks to discuss their desire to continue their careers on the same team, an idea forged while playing together on the U.S. national team. The first meeting took place in the Bay Area while Durant nursed a strained right calf; the second occurred in New York shortly after Durant had surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
As a result, the Brooklyn Nets reportedly are ‘gaining confidence’ they can sign both Durant and Irving in free agency, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN:
“The Nets are gaining confidence that they can pull this off [signing Durant and Kyrie Irving]. They’ve made three moves in the last week — they’re right there for a second [max salary] slot.”
If the Nets ultimately are the destination, D’Angelo Russell would eventually become an unrestricted free agent.
While it seems unlikely after what happened, Russell could be an option for the Lakers. With former president of basketball operations Magic Johnson no longer around, he reportedly ‘may be open’ to returning to Los Angeles.
As it currently stands, the Lakers are trying to maintain a max-contract slot but will have at least $23.7 million in cap space following the Anthony Davis trade on July 6.
If this is the case, Russell would be a good fit alongside Davis and LeBron James around that price range. However, general manager Rob Pelinka and company may decide to break up the cap space in order to sign role players for much-needed depth around two All-Star players.