Now that the Oklahoma City Thunder have been eliminated from the NBA playoffs, the Kevin Durant Sweepstakes can officially begin.
It remains unclear if Durant played his last game in an OKC jersey in Monday night's Game 7 loss to the Golden State Warriors, but it could have been. Free agency begins July 1.
"We just lost like 30 minutes ago, so I haven't even thought about it," Durant told reporters after the game.
ESPN's Marc Stein reported that teams around the NBA are under the impression Durant will take visits and listed the Knicks, the Lakers, Washington, Miami, Boston, Houston and San Antonio among the teams looking to meet with Durant face-to-face.
The Knicks are expected to have between about $10.5-$33 million in cap space, depending on the futures of Derrick Williams and Arron Afflalo, who both have player options.
The Thunder can offer Durant a five-year contract starting at $25 million annually while other teams can only offer four years beginning at $25 million per with smaller annual increases (7.5 percent for the Thunder vs. 4.5 percent for other teams).
Or, as Stein reported he thinks is more likely, Durant could sign a two-year deal with OKC with an opt-out after one season. That would both allow Durant and Russell Westbrook and the Thunder's core to make one more run at an NBA title under head coach Billy Donovan in 2017, and allow Durant and Westbrook to hit the free agent market together in the summer of 2017.
That would give Durant at least one more seasonw with the team's young core including Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, Andre Roberson and Dion Waiters.
"I see bright things for this team," he told USA Today. "And it's great to be a part of it."
ESPN reported that under such a two-year contract scenario, Durant would stand to make $25.9 million in 2016-17 and could then sign a five-year max deal in 2017 beginning at $35.1M in 2017-18 and escalating to $45.7M by 2021-22
"To be honest with you, I haven't sat down and thought about it," Durant said in January when OKC visited the Knicks. "The season moves along so quickly. And every time I get alone, it's either on the plane or in the city thinking about the game the next day. So, of course I can't totally just say I haven't thought about it at all. But I haven't sat down and really put a lot of time into what I'm looking for. Just focusing on my teammates, focusing on the season and how I can be better as a player, as a leader. Everything else comes after that and it comes after the season."
During that trip, Durant was asked about New York and his thoughts on the city, and of course he praised it as "one of the greatest cities in the world."
"I spent some nice time up here coming up and playing basketball in New York City," he said. "One of the most memorable times in my life was coming up here and playing outside, getting the pure love of the game up here. I'm always going to remember that the rest of my life, I'm going to tell my kids about that when I get older. That's something I'll always remember."
Still, since that visit the Knicks fired former coach Derek Fisher, Durant's former OKC teammate, while the status of former Knicks and OKC assistants Brian Keefe and Joshua Longstaff remains uncertain with the Knicks poised to introduce Jeff Hornaceck as their new coach this week.
A Maryland native, Durant could also opt to return home and play for the Washington Wizards.
He could head to Los Angeles and lead the revival of the Lakers in the post-Kobe Bryant Era, which is expected to include either Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram.
He could pick an established team like San Antonio or Miami, or he could do the simplest thing and re-up in OKC for two years with an opt-out, and then we'll have the Durant Sweepstakes II a year from now.