The Golden State Warriors may have missed out on a third consecutive NBA title because of injuries. That's largely going to be the perception among fans, and it isn't without merit.
Though the Warriors were frequently outplayed by the Toronto Raptors in the Finals, they also played the bulk of the series without Kevin Durant—and eventually lost both him and Klay Thompson to devastating injuries.
This leaves many wondering what Golden State is going to look like during the 2019-20 season. Durant is not recovering from a torn Achilles, while Thompson is returning to fitness from a torn ACL. Both are also scheduled to become free agents on June 30.
With the start of free agency rapidly approaching, there are plenty of rumors swirling about Durant, Thompson and other top-tier free agents. Here, you'll find some of the latest along with predictions about how things could unfold.
Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson
Though it doesn't feel entirely likely right now, the Warriors want to retain both Durant and Thompson for at least the immediate future, according to ESPN's Nick Friedell, who wrote:
"The injuries have not changed the feeling inside the organization regarding the pair's potential future with the team. While it's against league protocol for Warriors owner Joe Lacob to publicly say he would give each player a max extension, the feeling internally has been that the team would like to re-sign both players and continue their dynastic run."
The problem here, of course, is that the injuries suffered by Durant and Thompson do change things, even if they don't alter Golden State's desires. Neither player is likely to be available next season, and for Durant, his injury could have him soured on the Warriors.
According to Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher, Durant isn't exactly happy with the way his injury was handled—and he could believe that he was misled about the injury risks of playing through the calf strain.
"There's an element of, 'Was I misled as far as injuring myself coming back and playing and having a catastrophic injury like this coming off a calf strain," Bucher told Big Time Basketball (via 95.7 The Game).
If Durant believes Golden State tricked him in an attempt to save its title hopes, he may have no interest in returning.
Another wrench being thrown into Golden State's plans is the fact Durant could be interested in joining friend Kyrie Irving with a different franchise. As Bucher has pointed out, the two have at least discussed playing for the same team in the near future.
"Durant and Irving, league sources say, have met twice in recent weeks to discuss their desire to continue their careers on the same team, an idea forged while playing together on the U.S. national team," Bucher wrote.
If Durant and Irving are determined to become teammates, it isn't going to happen with the Warriors.
You can count Warriors forward Andre Iguodala among those who don't believe Durant will leave Golden State to join Irving.
"I think they'll both be back with the Golden State Warriors," Iguodala told CNBC's Tyler Mathisen of Durant and Thompson. "We all keep it real. We're like brothers. We keep in contact."
Unfortunately for Iguodala, it feels almost certain that at least one of his brothers will be leaving this offseason.
Prediction: Thompson stays in Golden State, Durant does not.
While Durant and Irving have discussed a playing future together, Durant isn't likely to include Irving in his final decision.
"One thing I'm told is he is really focused on making his decision independently of anyone else and that includes Kyrie Irving," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said during the network's NBA draft telecast (h/t Real GM).
This potentially puts Irving in a difficult situation. Though the Brooklyn Nets have long seemed like a logical landing spot for the pair, they may not be interested in adding Irving alone.
"The Post has confirmed Brooklyn might have qualms about signing the enigmatic Irving if he isn't bringing the injured Durant with him," Brian Lewis of the New York Post wrote. "Other teams had already backed off of pursuing Irving with similar concerns over the way things went awry in Boston."
This means that Irving could have little leverage in free agency if A) Durant doesn't join him in signing with a team and B) the Nets decide they don't want him. A reunion between Irving and the Boston Celtics feels extremely unlikely given the lack of chemistry he had with the rest of the roster this past season.
The Los Angeles Lakers and former teammate LeBron James could be an option for Irving, as they need a point guard after trading away Lonzo Ball. However, the Lakers' first choice at the position appears to be the Nets' D'Angelo Russell.
As is the case with Durant, Russell's decision could affect Irving's future. According to Lewis, the Nets would work to bring Russell back if they can't land Durant and decide not to sign Irving. The silver lining for Irving is that he could become the Lakers' top point-guard target if the Nets do retain Russell.
Prediction: Irving either joins the Nets with Durant or signs with the Lakers.