There's a lot of great reasons for Kevin Durant to join the Wizards in 2016. He would get to play in front of his hometown fans. He would join a young, talented roster on the upswing. He wouldn't have to worry about fighting for alpha-dog status. He would get to play with a coach who has won more playoff games than he's lost (Yes, we're making Randy Wittman a selling point here). And let's not forget, Oklahoma is a terrible place to ride a bicycle.
But perhaps the Wizards' best selling point is also the one that's been discussed the least. If Kevin Durant moved from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference, his path to the NBA Finals would be considerably easier. Just look at LeBron James. He's in the midst of one of the least efficient playoff performances of his career, his two best teammates have been hampered by injuries, and yet he's still four wins away from a title.
Players around the NBA are starting to take notice, and at least one thinks Kevin Durant is going to make the jump, according to Basketball Insiders:
"Players will consider going to the East, for sure," one Western Conference player told Basketball Insiders. "The East is down right now and the West is a dogfight. The seventh- or eighth-seeded team in the West could possibly make the Eastern Conference Finals with how things are now."
"It wouldn’t be a bad idea [to join an East team]," added another NBA player. "I’m pretty sure Kevin Durant is going to start it off and go home to [the Washington Wizards in] D.C."
A couple of things to consider with these quotes:
- NBA players say silly things all the time. That's what makes the NBA great!
- This player could have inside info on Kevin Durant's future plans, or he could just be making a wild prediction. It's anyone's guess. This also makes the NBA great.
- For all we know, this player could be J.R. Smith.
- For all we know, this player could be Russell Westbrook, trying to nudge Kevin Durant to the exit.
- For all we know, this player could be Kevin Durant. He would be more sure than most about Kevin Durant's plans.
But in all seriousness, there are some legitimate benefits that come with playing in the Eastern Conference. In addition to facing easier competition, Kevin Durant would also have the luxury of being able to take an extra week or two to recover from injuries. Last year, Durant had to deal with the stress of knowing every game he missed could potentially cost the Thunder a shot at making the playoffs. He wound up trying to rush his recovery to compensate, which caused his injuries to flare back up which wasted a prime year for Durant and the Thunder.
As Durant starts creeping toward 30, he's naturally going to start thinking more about how to preserve his health. The best way to do that is put himself in a position where he doesn't have to play as many high-intensity games, which he'd be able to do in East. LeBron James showed this season you can loaf around for the first 40 games, take a couple weeks off, and still finish with the second best record in the conference. It's a pretty sweet gig, when you think about it.
We'll be the first to admit the recruiting pitch for Kevin Durant is littered with benefits that provide little or no value to Durant. But this is arguably the most legitimate reason for Durant to consider walking away from the stability and extra money Oklahoma City can give him in 2016.