Since joining Golden State, Kevin Durant's free agency has been as anticlimactic as the Warriors' title pursuits. Weeks ago Durant made clear that his re-signing with the Warriors was a certainty. The only relevant question was how, exactly, he would re-sign; with most every option available to him, what kind of contract structure would Durant prefer?
We found our answer Saturday night, hours before the official start of free agency. As was first reported by Marc Stein of the New York Times, Durant will inform the Warriors that he wishes to sign a two-year max deal with a player option, allowing him to re-enter free agency next season. Doing so will cost Durant nearly $6 million for the 2018-19 season after already leaving money on the table in his contract with the Warriors from last summer. It does, however, position Durant for a massive deal next summer—when the NBA's salary cap is projected to be significantly higher.
The higher cap in 2019 not only means that more teams would have the space to sign Durant, but that any max contract—which increases proportionally to the cap—would be worth more. Incidentally, Durant will save the Warriors millions in salary and millions more in luxury tax payments by signing this way. If being the most dominant, talent-rich team in the league weren't enough, the defending champs continue to benefit from a series of happy coincidences.
Durant's roughly $30 million salary for next season will make him the second-highest-paid Warrior behind Stephen Curry ($37.5 million). That he opted for a contract structure with a smaller immediate salary (Durant could have been paid $35.7 million in 2018-19 had he signed a four-year deal, per cap guru Albert Nahmad) better positions Golden State to overhaul its bench this summer. There would be no reason for the Warriors to skirt using their full mid-level exception to add even more talent after Durant yet again cut the team a financial break.
Lasting dynasties find ways to sustain themselves, and the way Durant has navigated his free agency these last two years has only added to the Warriors' staying power. Next summer could be different. Durant came to Golden State for a new challenge, and someday will leave it for another—no matter if Golden State keeps winning titles.