The Athletic's Frank Isola reported the Warriors "were going to pitch Durant on signing long term, with the understanding that if he wanted to leave at any point during his contract the team would grant him that wish."
Durant is signed through the 2019-20 and will make $31.5 million next season but has the option to instead void the final year of his deal hit free agency this summer.
It seemed like Durant was obviously going to opt out and collect a max contract—be it with the Warriors or another team. That was before the 10-time All-Star exited Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals with an injury.
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Although the extent of Durant's injury is unclear, ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Warriors believe he tore his right Achilles. If that's the case, then Durant will miss almost certainly most—if not all—of the 2019-20 season.
Because of that, Durant could theoretically collect his $31.5 million and then become a free agent when he's healthy again.
Of course, plenty of teams will assuredly step up to put a max offer on the table, even knowing how much time he's bound to miss.
"League sources Tuesday made it plain: Durant's injury, whether short-term or longer, has done little to cool the ardor of his most dogged free agent pursuers," The Athletic's David Aldridge reported Tuesday. "The likelihood remains that all of the New York/L.A. teams will stay in the hunt for Durant beginning on the afternoon of June 30."
The fact the Warriors would be willing to extend Durant so much freedom is somewhat interesting given how this season played out.
Golden State suspended Draymond Green for one game earlier in the year after he got into an argument with Durant, per Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes: "But what ultimately led to Green's suspension, sources said, was a remark in which he dared Durant to bolt in free agency next summer."
Durant's future is one of the dominant storylines around the Warriors. By allowing him to essentially leave at any time—via a handshake agreement or an explicit opt-out in his contract—this would potentially be the situation every year.
Re-signing Durant is obviously the best-case scenario for Golden State. The team should be wary of creating a dilemma, though, where it has to constantly balance keeping Durant happy with maintaining a strong level of harmony with the rest of the team.