Kevin Durant could miss up to a year with what the Golden State Warriors fear is an Achilles' injury -- and the entire complexion of the NBA has changed as a result.
The Knicks, Nets, Lakers and Clippers are all thought to be leading contenders for Durant, but will they all still pursue him knowing he could miss up to a year? Durant is slated to undergo an MRI on Tuesday after going down in the second quarter of Game 5 Monday night.
"The NBA just changed," ESPN's Brian Windhorst said on air. "The NBA just changed. Next year teams will be crawling all over themselves to get Durant. There's going to be this pecking order. There are teams making trades to clear salary-cap space. The thought was he's going to be available on the market."
The Knicks, for example, were thought by many around the league to be the leading contenders to land Durant in free agency this summer. Some reports had Durant already purchasing property in the New York area.
But if Durant has to miss a year, the Knicks' instant rebuild would take a hit -- even if they add Duke phenom R.J. Barrett in the Draft and add another max free agent. (Barrett said after Monday's workout, "I would love to play for them.")
"I would certainly still go after [Durant] but I might have some serious concerns about recovery," one veteran NBA agent said. "Obviously need to see what the MRI says. He's a tremendous player though."
The New York Daily News put out this back page on Tuesday -- and is already getting some serious Twitter blowback as a result, with many fans saying the paper is "tone deaf."
Today’s Daily News pic.twitter.com/gFfXIIrh26— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) June 11, 2019
Durant's injury raises the possibility that he might be more inclined to stay in Golden State. In a supermax deal, the Warriors can give him a five-year, roughly $221 million deal based on next year’s cap projections. The most Durant could get from the Knicks, Lakers or any other franchise would be $164 million over four years.
On top of that, he may now feel he has unfinished business in Golden State. The thought before was that he wanted to break free from the Warriors and lead his own team, but now he may feel the desire to come back and try to win another championship with them in 2020.
The Warriors' ownership may also feel some obligation to pay Durant after all that's transpired.
"I do think this might actually help Golden State keep him," the NBA agent said. "They can offer the max and they may feel more like they have to. That they owe him. Some teams may rethink based on the MRI. It's a shame but it's a possibility."
As ESPN's Bobby Marks pointed out, Durant's team next year won't get any reimbursement from the injury because an Achilles' injury is not insurable. That may give some teams pause.
It's also notable that Klay Thompson is also a free agent this summer and Draymond Green becomes one in 2020. Will the Warriors be willing to pay Durant and Thompson this summer -- and Green next summer -- knowing that Durant will miss a year?
"It's going to be interesting now," Charles Barkley said on ESPN's 'Get Up.' "It puts the Golden State Warriors in a very awkward situation because Kevin's probably not going to play next year but you've got to pay Klay Thompson, the best two guard in the league. He probably deserves a max deal. And then you've got to pay Draymond. So I don't know who can pay that luxury tax. So it's a lot of open-ended questions.
"The Knicks, the Nets, the Clippers, they can do without Kevin for a year. But can the Warriors pay all four of those guys and one of them's not going to play? That's an interesting financial situation."
After their Game 5 win, the Warriors remained alive and will head back to Oracle Arena down 3-2. They need to win Game 6 on Thursday to force a decisive Game 7 on Sunday back on Toronto.
At least now, Steve Kerr and the rest of the Warriors know they won't have Durant for the remainder of the series. He came back from the calf injury and looked good in scoring 11 points early before going down with the apparent Achilles' injury in the second quarter.
"The people that questioned whether he wanted to get back and play were wrong," Warriors GM Bob Myers said. "He’s one of the most misunderstood people. He’s a good teammate and I’m lucky to know him."
Said Warriors owner Joe Lacob: "I have experienced a lot since owning this team. Some lows and many highs. Tonight was incredible pride in the resiliency of our team. And respect for KD coming back with our backs against the wall. But I am also so unbelievably sad about the KD injury.”
The whole NBA has changed as a result of Durant's injury. Now on top of waiting to see who wins the Larry O'Brien Trophy, the basketball world must wait until July 1 to see what Kevin Durant does next.