There is little reason to doubt that the Toronto Raptors will put themselves in the financial position to make an offer to Kevin Durant two years from now.
In all likelihood, the NBA’s 29 other teams will also inquire and show at least some level of interest in the reigning MVP.
However, when the time comes for Durant to make a decision after the 2015-16 season (assuming he doesn’t agree to a contract extension beforehand), there would appear to be a very real possibility of him choosing to continue his career north of the border.
The explanation for this line of thinking goes back a long way.
Then on Mar. 21, as reported by Cathal Kelly in the Toronto Star, Durant again made it known that he has an affinity for the Dinos.
“(I)’ve always been a big Toronto fan. I was definitely a fan (an upward tilt of the head and a small smile) but I play for Oklahoma City now.”
That just so happened to be the same night Durant dropped 51 points in a 119-118 double-0vertime defeat of the Raptors at the Air Canada Centre.
An instant classic
Durant’s performance, which I detailed in The Slim Reaper Steals The Show, was capped off by a three-pointer in the final seconds that proved to be the dagger. For Raptors fans who only get to see Durant in person once per season, it was an opportunity to see one of the game’s elite players take over when it appeared as though his team was on the ropes.
Talk of luring the 25-year-old forward to Toronto had started to heat up even before that night.
In September 2013, the Raptors announced the hiring of Drake to act as the team’s global ambassador, with his primary task being to use his celebrity status to attract top-tier free agents to Toronto. Including Durant’s name in speculation about who Drake and the Raptors might pursue has never seemed all that far-fetched.
Clearly, though, it isn’t just the Raptors organization, fans, and media who are excited by this possibility. The enthusiasm has also trickled down to the players — particularly Greivis Vasquez, who played on the same high school team as Durant at Montrose Christian School in Rockville, Md.
As reported by James Herbert of CBSSports.com, Vasquez appeared on Toronto-based radio station TSN 1050 shortly after the playoff run ended and raved about the possibility of teaming up with Durant someday, preferably with the Raptors. It’s worth noting that Vasquez, who recently agreed to a two-year extension with the Raptors, is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the same time as Durant.
Keeping options open
Looking ahead to the summer of 2016, the Raptors will have plenty of salary cap room based on their current situation. According to ShamSports.com, the Raptors could potentially have just six players under contract for 2016-17 at a total value of $29.7 million: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Patrick Patterson, Bruno Caboclo and, provided their options are picked up, Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas.
Adding Durant to that group sounds pretty darn good to me.
The recruitment pitch for Durant took another step forward last week at Drake’s concert in Toronto, where Durant was conveniently in attendance. At the end of the show, Drake invited the crowd to make some noise for the special guest.
“Before we leave, I just want to show one of my brothers something,” Drake announced to the crowd. “You know, my brother Kevin Durant was kind enough to come to the show tonight and watch us. I just want him to see what would happen if he came to play in Toronto. Let him know what would happen.”
The Raptors were fined $25,000 by the NBA as Drake’s comments were deemed to be tampering, but it was probably money well spent.
Afterwards Durant showed his appreciation for Drake and Toronto (The Six) on twitter.
I love the 6. Thanks @drake, nikko, chubs, future, P Reign and the rest of the crew. Y’all showed so much love. Back in the 405!!!
— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) August 5, 2014
Of course, this is nothing more than fun and speculation at this point. Talk of Durant signing with the Raptors in two years from now is something that will come up maybe twice per season when the Raptors face the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The missing piece?
This offseason we saw the Raptors take a step forward in their ability to retain their free agents – something that was probably made easier after the most successful regular season in franchise history. Still, Lowry, Patterson, and Vasquez wanted to re-sign with the Raptors because of the potential for even more success in the next couple years.
Drake also demonstrated the organization’s newfound confidence with his not so subtle plea for Durant to join the Raptors as if by then he might be the missing piece for a championship contender.
A lot can happen in two years, but, until then, it is worth keeping in mind that one of the Raptors biggest fans will be watching from afar in Oklahoma.
You never know what could happen if he likes what he sees.