The Oklahoma City Thunder hope Kevin Durant stays as a free agent in 2016, but the team will have competition, as reports have the Miami Heat and Washington Wizards chasing the former MVP and this comes as the team likely will not trade Russell Westbrook no matter what happens to Durant, while Cameron Payne is a potential draft target in the first round.
Durant's future has been speculated on for some time, but things bounced back to the front of the NBA news cycle after reports about Dwyane Wade's contract issues with the Miami Heat. According to the Miami Herald and other reports, the Heat want Wade to take a below market deal moving forward, as the team wants to go hard after Durant in free agency in 2016. This comes as the Washington Wizards have been mentioned in numerous rumors about Durant, as the forward is originally from the area and could "come home" like LeBron James did in Cleveland.
The Thunder are in a bit of a transition and with Durant coming off of an injury plagued season, his future is as up in the air as ever. In the past the Thunder sacrificed wining for money, trading away James Harden in a year when they were strong enough to make the finals and moving forward the team may not pay up as much as Durant wants if his foot issues persist. Durant played in just 27 games last season and he will be recovering from surgery for a few months, although he is expected to be ready for the season.
All of that leaves many thing uncertain, although the team likely will not entertain any trade offers for Westbrook, even if they expect to lose Durant. Westbrook has two more years left on his deal and according to Justin Termine of SiriusXM, the point guard is "upset" at the organization after the latest coaching move. The team pushed out Scott Brooks and brought in Billy Donovan and the report says that Westbrook took offense that he was not consulted about the choice. The team likely will not trade Westbrook, as he is simply too good to move, but keep an eye on this development moving forward.
Fox Sports and the Sun Sentinel in Florida report that if Durant does leave the Thunder in free agency, he will sign with the Wizards over the Heat. The report says that "One of Durant's associates" has said to Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel that is he does end up signing with another team, the Wizards have the inside edge over anyone else. The Wade situation could dictate if Miami gets involved, but right now it looks like if Durant leaves, the Wiz will be the landing spot.
The Thunder also have the draft to worry about and according to Chad Ford at ESPN.com, the team has already zeroed in on a target. Ford writes that the Thunder have "promised" Cameron Payne that if he is available when they pick in the first round at number 14, the team will take him. The point guard is considered by some to be the best in the draft and adding him could help the team replace Reggie Jackson as Westbrook's backup after he was traded last season.