Kevin Durant has declined the one-year player option on his contract with the Golden State Warriors, which would have paid him $31.5 million next season. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent next week. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the news on Twitter.
This was the long-expected move, prior to Durant’s right Achilles tendon rupturing in Game 5 of the NBA Finals; several teams, the New York Knicks most conspicuously, had long planned to pursue him this summer. The injury, which necessitated immediate surgery and typically requires at least nine months of rehab, briefly introduced the possibility that Durant could opt in for the sake of getting paid $31.5 million just to recover for a year, but he’s decided to pursue a new contract immediately.
Durant will miss most or all of next season, and although an Achilles rupture isn’t the career death sentence it used to be for NBA players, it’s anybody’s guess how much of his former ability he might have lost for good by the time he returns to the court at age 31 or, if he misses the full season, 32. Nevertheless, by all available reports Durant seems likely to receive broadly the same class of contract offer—the largest possible—he’d have been in line for even without the injury. Above all, that’s a testament to what a phenomenal player he’s been: Even 75-percent of pre-injury Kevin Durant would be worth the largest amount the collective bargaining agreement allows him to receive, and then some.
Expected suitors include the Warriors, the Knicks, the Brooklyn Nets, and basically every other franchise that has room under the salary cap.