The Golden State Warriors own arguably the NBA's most attractive free-agent destination this summer. The Warriors are coming off a record-busting 73-win regular season campaign, two consecutive trips to the finals, and a great young core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
According to longtime San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami, Warriors owner Joe Lacob and general manager Bob Myers are pursing a "very aggressive" strategy in the free-agent market following their defeat by the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 7 of the finals. With some extra cap space and plenty of promise to make another trip to the finals, Golden State will reportedly target two high-profile names from the Western Conference: Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki.
Durant, a four-time scoring champion and former MVP, is by far the biggest prize on the market. The 27-year-old's blend of youth, experience, shooting, length on defense and desire for the first title of his career are all reasons to believe Golden State is a highly appealing option.
To date, ESPN reports that only five teams have locked down face-to-face meetings with Durant: the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers, plus the Warriors. While the Oklahoma City Thunder star immediately lifts almost any team into title contention, the Spurs and Warriors can expect to be favorites in the West with or without him.
Durant could be part of one of the greatest and most lethal lineups in league history should he join Golden State, a fact Myers is sure to harp on over and over again when they meet. The Warriors played both ends of the floor very well last season, but on offense they were unparalleled. With Curry and Thompson firing away from the perimeter and Green acting as the jack-of-all-trades, Golden State finished first in points per game (114.9), fourth in rebounding (46.2), and first in assists (28.9).
Golden State will have to tinker with their salary-cap situation to sign Durant, but it can be done. Only seven Warriors have fully guaranteed contracts next season, and the possibility of signing Durant probably will make Myers feel comfortable letting restricted free agents and major contributors Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli walk.
Golden State drafted 7-foot Vanderbilt center Damian Jones with the final pick of the first round, but his rookie deal should have almost no bearing on the Warriors' cap and how they go after Durant.
Convincing Durant to leave Oklahoma City should still be a challenge. While the overtures may be flattering and enticing, Durant's short-term plan probably involves re-signing with the Thunder on a two-year contract that includes a player option for 2017. This would grant him one more season with 2017 free agent Russell Westbrook and an opportunity to make a more measured approach when the free-agent market will include superstars like LeBron James and Curry.
The situation is cleary different for Nowitzki. The 18-year veteran has already won a championship, and where he plays next season is based entirely on to his desire to win a second ring and his interest in closing out his career with the Dallas Mavericks. The overwhelming sentiment is that Nowitzki stays in Texas.
But Nowitzki might want one more run before he hangs up his high-tops. The 38-year-old is coming off another impressive season, with averages of 18.3 points and 6.5 rebounds over 75 games. The Mavericks are longshots to compete in the West, and it might seem like a wasted opportunity for the German legend to not add to his legacy by joining the Warriors. While his 14.8 shots average would almost certainly dip when playing with the Warriors' star trio, he would still be a key contributor for a team that would benefit from a veteran scorer.
Nowitzki has previously shown a willingness to take a less lucrative contract to win. In 2014, he signed a three-year, $25 million extension with Dallas, and could sign another cap-friendly deal for the Warriors.
But there is no pressure for Nowitzki to make a move and the Warriors have no clue if he's willing to leave the comforts of home, according to Kawakami. That leaves Myers with other big-man options like Bismack Biyombo of the Toronto Raptors, the Atlanta Hawks veteran Al Horford and the Chicago Bulls' Joakim Noah.