Kevin Durant Returning to the OKC Thunder Would Break the NBA, but it's Probably Not Happening

A recent social media interaction sparked the ideas of the superstar forward returning to the team he started with, and although it could be interesting for both sides, it doesn't seem likely to ever happen.
Apr 23, 2024; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant (35) walks back to the bench against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the second quarter during game two of the first round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 23, 2024; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant (35) walks back to the bench against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the second quarter during game two of the first round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports / Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

At one time, the idea of Kevin Durant ever returning to the Oklahoma City Thunder seemed completely outlandish.

The guy who left to join the Golden State Warriors team that beat him in the Western Conference Finals? Assembling arguably the most dominant force in NBA history? It'd be hard to imagine the two sides ever crossing paths in a welcoming way again, considering the bad blood that ensued after his decision.

Eight years later though, plenty of rumors and ideas have circulated around the idea of the unthinkable happening. With Oklahoma City on the rise as a championship contender once again, and Durant's Phoenix Suns in a strange predicament, there's obvious reasons as to why the idea does make some sense.

Even at the age of 35, Durant is still performing as one of the best players in the league. He just averaged 27.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and five assists on 52.3/41.3/85.6% shooting splits, so not much has changed over the years. Acquiring him would add a whole different dynamic to the Thunder lineup, giving it another deadly offensive weapon that could slide in nicely alongside Jalen Williams and Chet Holmgren.

Holmgren's relationship with Durant has been well-documented since he was drafted. Both players are constantly seen together in off-season workouts, and it's clear that the older veteran has taken the rookie under his wing. It makes all of the sense in the world, considering their unique skillsets of perimeter scoring paired with a tall and lanky build. To be together on the same team would accelerate their partnership even further, and Durant had plenty of kind things to say about the team surrounding Holmgren.

If Durant wants to go for one more championship before his career ends, Oklahoma City is one of the best places to do that. Combining forces with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would make for quite the superstar pairing, not to mention all of the young talent that will only grow and develop in the coming seasons. He may not have been able to bring the organization a championship during his first stint, but maybe a second stint could bring an even better chance at it.

Even with all of the positives, it still just doesn't seem likely.

The 14x All-Star has two years left on his contract, in which he's owed over $50 million per year. It's a contract that would fill up much of the Thunder's payroll, making it hard to have much wiggle room outside of him. It's young stars will all be gearing up for long-term extensions in the near future, and it'll need that money to keep its core around.

Trading for Durant in the first place is going to cost a ton, even with his age in consideration. It'll take at least a few key pieces on the roster — including Cason Wallace, Josh Giddey, Luguentz Dort, etc. — to make it happen, as well as a large chunk of the first-round pick stockpile Oklahoma City has accumulated since the Paul George and Russell Westbrook trades.

As special as bringing back a former great would be, it's probably not in the best interest of the Thunder to put all its chips in the basket of an aging Durant. His decline is going to start sooner rather than later, and the timeline for the trade working out would be incredibly short. While he could be a player that puts Oklahoma City over the hump, the risk might not be worth taking considering how long its timeline still is.

Could Durant join the Thunder after his contract expires? It's possible. That next contract won't be as steep as his current one, and he'd have the choice of any team he'd like to retire with. It's not going to "redeem his legacy", but it'd be a nice way to end a storybook career on.

In two years the idea can be revisited. But for now, don't expect Durant in Oklahoma City to be a reality again.


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Chase Gemes

CHASE GEMES

Chase is a sophomore at the University of Missouri - Columbia studying journalism. He is sports editor for Mizzou’s student newspaper, The Maneater.