There’s this notion out there the Oklahoma City Thunder can offer Kevin Durant the best possible supporting cast than any of the serious teams gearing up for him in Free Agency, therefore giving him the best shot at a title.
This is a fallacy.
The impending free agent’s best shot at a title is not in Oklahoma City.
It’s not because the team isn’t immensely talented — it is — but because the road to a title in Oklahoma is leaps tougher than it would be in the Eastern Conference, signing with a team with cap space — like the Miami Heat.
The Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs have proven to be on another level than their NBA counterparts over the last two seasons and considering the roster construction of each that likely isn’t going to change. Both have young cores comprised of superstar talent. Many like to think of the resilient Spurs as prehistoric but their core has shifted, from Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobli to LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard — their two biggest pieces age 30 and 24, respectively.
In Silicon Valley, the triumvirate of Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson doesn’t appear to be breaking up any time soon. Both teams employ pure team ball, which has proven to be more potent over seven-game series, as the last three years have shown us.
In the East, you’ve got the Cleveland Cavaliers, head and shoulders above the rest of the conference but not on the same level as the Warriors, Spurs, and even Thunder.
Their biggest piece in LeBron James turns 32 next season and their next best players are elite, but only on one end of the court.
If a second-tier squad like Miami (assuming Chris Bosh remains out) — or even Toronto, Charlotte, or Boston, for that matter — ingests a Top 5 talent like Durant, a case could be made for a new No. 1 contender in the Eastern Conference. Miami also offers several young but already impactful pieces still in development in Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson, and potentially Hassan Whiteside (with some creative roster tinkering), along with proven cogs like Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade.
The Thunder may be able to offer Durant more raw talent at the top of its roster but the Heat would pave the easiest road to a title, and that’s even after considering the uncertainty surrounding Bosh. Throw Bosh into the equation and the Heat could conceivably become the title favorite.
Then again, Golden State or San Antonio could absorb Kevin Durant and unleash hell upon the NBA universe. But if he’s looking to be the man and winning a title is his top priority, Miami is a rational choice.