While trying to be hipster-cool this morning, drinking my fruit smoothie and listening to the soothing sounds of Queen (yes, I am that guy), something struck me in the midst of Stephen Curry’s undefeated (at the time of this writing) greatness.
We all know that Jay-Z is now the head of Roc Nation Sports. Roc Nation Sports represents two of the better-known players in the NBA in Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant and now Miami’s Justise Winslow. We know now that LeBron James and his “Familia” are all doing their best to maximize the individual branding of each of their clients up north in Cleveland.
In a world that has abandoned the “basketball-only” philosophy nearly a decade ago (in favor of player branding beyond basketball), it’s easy to say that when LeBron James talks about his decisions being “bigger than basketball,” there’s a considerable element of truth to that. With that in mind, I’ll suggest three 2016 offseason options for Durant, with a more boring fourth for each of Roc Nation’s two flagship NBA players.
Option 1: Roc Nation, no longer allowed to own the Brooklyn Nets, brings the “new” franchise its first megastar player in Kevin Durant. With the Knicks languishing in mediocrity around an aging Carmelo Anthony, the Nets rise to prominence in the NBA and Jay-Z becomes a cult hero in his native Brooklyn, New York. A new “Battle For New York” begins, and the Five Boroughs are treated to head-to-head match ups between Durant and Melo while both teams slowly rise to prominence in the league.
Option 2: Roc Nation, doing its best to secure a successful future for its star basketball client, orchestrates Kevin Durant’s Miami relocation, where he teams up with both Dwyane Wade and “label-mate” Justise Winslow. Durant, with the assistance of Chris Bosh, Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragić, and Dwyane Wade, brings Miami back to the mountaintop and Winslow becomes a bonafide All-Star, further boosting Roc Nation’s brand. The Miami HEAT becomes a dynasty and Roc Nation becomes a dynasty architect. With Wade eventually on the downside, Durant and Winslow take the league by storm and Wade eventually leaves the keys to the franchise in good hands.
Option 3: Roc Nation negotiates Kevin Durant’s triumphant homecoming, emulating LeBron James’ feat only two years prior and establishes Roc Nation for good. The Wizards welcome home their favorite son (sorry, Carmelo), and a trio of John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Kevin Durant wreak havoc on the Eastern Conference for the next five years. Do they win a championship with little else? Honestly, I’m not sure.
Option 4: Yawn. The Oklahoma City Thunder, after years of disappointing playoff runs marred by injury, bearded collapses, and poor shot selection at the worst possible time, break through the Western Conference for the second time and exact revenge on LeBron James in the NBA Finals. Durant, now an NBA Champion, triumphantly re-signs with the Thunder for the next six years and another small market continues to thrive on the back of its favorite adopted son. Russell Westbrook chooses to stay with the team that drafted him as well, and the Thunder Reign of Terror officially begins.
I think we all know which one I would like to see.
Now let’s bring it back home. Considering Pat Riley’s résumé, I’m not going to completely eliminate the Miami HEAT from the Durant Sweepstakes. Now, while I don’t believe he’ll sign here in Miami next summer, here are some potential reasons why he could. I’ll try to reduce the homerism as much as I can, I promise.
There’s no doubt that the Miami HEAT will be able to offer him an obscene amount of money, second only to the Thunder. That’s basic knowledge. From a financial standpoint, however, the advantage that Miami would have over Los Angeles, New York, or even Washington, D.C. (likely Maryland or Virginia) would be that Durant would be able to keep more of his money due to the nonexistent state income tax that Florida currently has. Financially, that’s intriguing if you’re a player looking to make as much money as you can during your profit window (15-20 years, max).
Assuming this season’s $20 million deal is enough to pacify Wade for the rest of his career, a considerable pay cut on his part will allow Riley to bring back rising center Hassan Whiteside at a hefty fee, while also having enough in the coffers to lure Durant away at the same rate another non-Oklahoma City suitor would offer. This would effectively provide Durant with a complete starting lineup of…
…and enough bench talent to create a juggernaut that might even surpass the Heatles’ rosters. Again, assuming the HEAT are able to bring back/retain the likes of Gerald Green, Justise Winslow, Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, and Amar’e Stoudemire while attracting some more free agents hungry for an NBA championship, the potential roster could be too good not to join, especially if Johnson, Richardson, and Winslow continue to mature and develop. Then there are also Miami’s D-League prospects, like Greg Whittington and whomever else they unearth in the coming weeks and months.
At first glance, I have no idea how the Wizards are going to be able to clear enough space for Durant without gutting their roster of the talent that makes them the middle-of-the-pack team that they currently are. They haven’t played up to last year’s standards this year, and I don’t know if that will happen again.
You’d think Durant would want to be on a contender moving forward. I’m not sure he makes the Wizards (as currently constructed) that contender. The same goes for the Nets and Lakers. But I don’t know everything. Bullets Forever’s Jake Whitacre is able to explain Washington’s case much better than I can.
Unlike the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Miami HEAT is an organization with championship history. It also conducts its business as such, from Mickey Arison, the team’s owner, to the janitors that keep the AAA looking pristine on game days. Riley’s championship culture pitch will certainly resonate, and, considering Durant’s personality being considerably different than LeBron’s was, it might sway him. Anything is possible in this league.
The Miami HEAT prides itself on developing a family atmosphere, and this organization has a sterling reputation. That might appeal to the more relaxed Durant going forward. In addition to that, there’s the concept of South Florida, with seasonal weather bested only by Los Angeles, and its rapidly growing economical development as a result of recent years of investments.
Get The Godfather in a room with Durant and watch him work magic. As mentioned above, I’ll take a Riley pitch over anyone else’s in this league. Only Pat Riley has managed to accomplish some of the deals that he has in his career. Few people in NBA history can compare.
The HEAT is in a special position to where they don’t necessarily need to wait on Durant before making offseason moves. They have a priority next season, and that priority is to make sure Hassan Whiteside doesn’t bolt in free agency. Dragić and Bosh are signed for the next three years at least, and Dwyane Wade isn’t going anywhere after this season (at this point, it wouldn’t make any sense whatsoever).
- Small Forwards
- Kevin Durant
- Harrison Barnes (Restricted)
- Marvin Williams
- Caron Butler
- Power Forwards
- David Lee
- Kevin Seraphin
Projected 2016 Roster
- PG: Goran Dragić – Tyler Johnson – Josh Richardson
- SG: Dwyane Wade – Gerald Green (?) – FA
- SF: FA/Justise Winslow – FA – FA
- PF: Chris Bosh – FA – Udonis Haslem (?)
- C: Hassan Whiteside – Amar’e Stoudemire (?) – (?)
Regardless of what happens in the offseason, Miami’s future looks bright.