Durant, Hayes key dominoes in NBA offseason

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Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

Days after the NBA Finals concluded and days leading into the NBA Draft, Longhorns are serving as focal points in the NBA’s landscape for the present and
the future.

Jaxson Hayes

For the second straight year, Texas is expected to have a player drafted in the lottery of the NBA Draft. Jaxson Hayes, one of the several one-and-done prospects, averaged 10.0 points and five rebounds per game in his lone season as a Longhorn. 

Hayes isn’t going to be drafted because of his offense; his elite rim protection is what has general managers fawning over him. Hayes was one of the best shot blockers in the Big 12 during the 2018-19 season. He blocked 2.2 shots per game, putting him in the top three in the Big 12.

According to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony’s mock draft, Hayes is projected to be selected with the No. 10 overall pick by the Atlanta Hawks. If that prediction rings true, Hayes will be playing alongside fellow Big 12 alumnus Trae Young. The Hawks won a mere 29 games, but with a core centered around Young, John Collins and Kevin Huerter, they are a team with intrigue around their future. 

When Hayes is drafted Thursday night, he will join Jarrett Allen, Mohamed Bamba and Myles Turner as big men in the last five years to be selected in the
first round.

Kevin Durant

After more than a month of being sidelined due to a calf injury, Durant was in the hallway watching his team go down 3-1 to the Toronto Raptors. With the NBA championship on the line, Durant played in Game 5, trying to keep the Golden State Warriors’ hopes of a three-peat alive. 

The way Durant was playing, it appeared as if he was going to be the deciding factor. Then, in his 12th minute of action, it happened. Durant pushed off, trying to explode to the rim, and tore his Achilles. His injury not only effectively ended the series but also changed his plan for free agency — one that could shift the balance of the entire league.

Throughout the year, Durant has been linked to the New York Knicks. While the cross-country move is still in play, it is not as much of a foregone conclusion as it once was. If Durant decides to stay with the Warriors, he can either pick up his $31.5 million player option for next season or sign a long-term extension. If he decides to leave the team that has appeared in the finals for the previous five seasons, he will be leaving a full five year super max contract on the table, per the rules in the collective bargaining agreement.

No matter which direction he chooses to go in, Durant and his 7-foot frame will impact the dynamics of the league, as a player of his stature will raise a team to contender status when healthy.