Stephen A. Smith, the outspoken co-host of ESPN’s First Take, and someone who has rubbed Kevin Durant the wrong way in the past, believes that Kevin Durant will be signing with the Lakers this summer. Smith also feels that Westbrook could follow after his contract expires after the 2016-17 season.
Here is what Smith said to ESPN 710’s Mason and Ireland:
“Keep in mind this, one of the biggest reasons I’m told, that Kevin Durant may have the Lakers at the top of his list, is because the Lakers have been led to believe, by whom specifically I do not know, but the Lakers have been led to believe that it is a very good chance that the following year Russell Westbrook is coming.”
Smith concluded by saying “it’s a big possibility. It’s a big possibility. Make no doubt about it, Russell Westbrook doesn’t have a problem being in L.A.”
This summer is going to be a wild one for KD. In the mix alongside the Lakers are the Knicks, Warriors, Wizards, and any other team that would have the space to sign him. The Thunder are undoubtedly going to do everything in their power to retain Durant, and he could have the best shot at contending for a championship by staying in OKC.
What gives the Lakers an edge over the other teams is unknown; if anything, the Wizards have more of an edge than anyone else. Durant was born in Washington, D.C. and went to Montrose Christian in Rockville, MD. Aside from being able to go back home, Durant would team up with superstar PG John Wall and rising superstar Bradley Beal. We’ve seen Wall’s unselfishness this year, and he would gladly feed Durant as much as he wanted.
If Durant chooses to leave, Westbrook would have just as many options. It’s totally feasible that Westbrook stays in OKC and becomes the lone superstar on the team. However, the Thunder wouldn’t be a championship contender with just Westbrook, they’d most likely regress to a mid-to-low seeded playoff team; his superhuman play without Durant almost took them to the playoffs last year.
Westbrook could also return home, back to Los Angeles, regardless of what Durant does. He grew up in Long Beach — a thirty-minute ride from STAPLES Center — and went to UCLA. The LA spotlight also wouldn’t be an issue for Westbrook, and he would do everything in his power to show out as much as possible.
Both Durant & Westbrook signing in LA would be very, very intimidating for the Western Conference. The Lakers are most likely landing a top-2 pick in this year’s draft, thus will probably draft either Brandon Ingram or Ben Simmons. Add KD & Russ, while retaining Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle, the Lakers would have a very long, athletic starting lineup come 2017-18.
Mitch Kupchak & company would catapult the Lakers into championship talk with the acquistion of two of the top-five players in the league.
*Photo Credit: Mark D. Smith / USA TODAY Sports*