Hours before the 2022-23 league year began, one of the greatest
players in NBA history dropped a bombshell.
Kevin Durant officially requested a trade from the Brooklyn Nets
on Thursday, signaling that massive changes are coming for the
organization. It appears that Durant is done dealing with the
sinking ship in Brooklyn, spearheaded by the melodrama consistently
surrounding his fellow superstar teammate Kyrie Irving. In the next
chapter of his career, it feels as if Durant seeks to be part of an
organization where he can settle into a situation and win, aging
gracefully in the process.
Even with Durant turning 34 years old at the start of next
season, and being just two years removed from a torn Achilles,
teams are lining up to offer a package for this transcendent,
franchise-changing player. Somehow, despite suffering what is
usually a career-altering injury for most, especially high-usage
superstars, Durant has looked like himself — and maybe better.
According to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes, Durant’s
preferred destination is in Arizona with the
Phoenix Suns. As ESPN’s Brian Windhorst alluded to, Durant
asked out hours before the start of free agency to help the Suns in potential
Deandre Ayton sign-and-trade discussions. This was a calculated
move on Durant's part, and he's had the Suns circled target as his
top landing spot. From Durant’s perspective, having Phoenix as his
No. 1 choice makes too much sense from multiple angles.
First, Durant views Devin Booker as one of the best young
players in the NBA. For years, Durant has been impressed with
Booker from afar. And as the young star continues to develop into a
bona fide top-15 player in the NBA, Durant’s praise has been heard
every step of the way.
Only a few short months ago, Durant spoke
glowingly about Booker’s game on JJ Redick’s podcast, "The Old
Man and The Three."
“He just has a pretty game for one, but I just think he’s really
mastering who he is right now," Durant said of Booker. "He’s figuring it out, like
how to play at an elite level but still win, because he was always
scoring the ball. But he knows how to win.”
Durant and Booker have long had a mutual admiration for one
another, but their bond began to blossom back in 2019 when both
were in Las Vegas with Team USA.
A few years ago, a young, star-struck Booker told me that Durant
was the one who approached him about wanting to develop their
relationship even further.
“It’s pretty well, we’re just fans of basketball,” Booker
told me in 2020 about his
relationship with Durant. “When you love the game and watch
somebody with that much skill on both ends of the floor, you just
have immediate respect for him. So, at USA [camp], he came to me
like, ‘Let’s play one-on-one. We have always been at a distance...
Keep going, you know, your game is really solid.’ And having that
chance to interact with each other then, develop the relationship
even more [was great]. One of my favorite players in the league to
watch from a skill-set standpoint. He has it all.”
Booker grew up idolizing Durant. (He even had a Fathead of the
future Hall-of-Famer on his wall growing up.) Fast-forward to now,
and this could be a full-circle moment for the 25-year-old
All-Star; one of his idols seeking him out and wanting to
play alongside him. Durant and Booker could be basketball
nirvana on the court, but this relationship is also already one
that's featured immense mutual respect for years.
Another reason Durant prefers the Suns is head coach Monty
Williams, who coached KD for a short stint with the Oklahoma City
Thunder as a lead assistant, plus he had multiple interactions with
him during Team USA activities.
And the cherry on top? Chris Paul's elite point guard skills in
setting up the offense.
Everything Durant craves is available to him in Phoenix. He'd
have the stars around him to compete and go on multiple
championship runs in the immediate future, as well as pre-existing
relationships within the organization. The Suns have a win-now
mentality, the right mix of star power and a front office willing
to pay a hefty price to compete for titles.
The price Phoenix will need to pay for Durant is going to be
astronomical. (Think about the Paul George trade to the Los Angeles
Clippers or the Anthony Davis blockbuster to the Los Angeles
With the way draft picks are being moved around at the moment,
Brooklyn should rightfully receive the maximum amount of
compensation possible in regards to draft capital. Ayton will
likely be out the door via sign-and-trade; whether he lands in
Brooklyn is the biggest question. (The Nets reportedly aren't
interested in Ayton, so the Suns may need to find a third team or
separate deal.) Mikal Bridges and/or Cameron Johnson would also
likely have to be included in a Durant blockbuster.
Is Phoenix truly willing to gut its entire young core and future
in order to chase the organization’s first NBA championship? The
easy answer on that is yes, and Suns general manager James Jones is
known to be passive in valuing the draft process anyways. Phoenix
is probably more than willing to include whatever amount of draft
picks necessary with the goal of creating the league’s next
super-team in The Valley.
One full year after returning from his Achilles tear, Durant
averaged 29.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists on a
ridiculously-efficient 63.4% True Shooting percentage. Durant is a
basketball demigod — we all already know this — but within the
Suns’ system, his own game would reach scary levels of
The ever-flowing gravity pull that Durant and Booker would have
beside one another is truly unfair. Paul would be able to slide
back into being the third or fourth option too, which is necessary
at the twilight stages of his illustrious career. Having a
foundation of Durant, Booker and Paul is already enough to be an
elite team. After that, the next steps would be to retool around
this trio, as the Suns’ roster will look completely different.
For the Nets, it will be very tough to find a realistic return
package that can net them a “win-now” offer on top of recouping
much-needed assets on the draft front. Sending out Ayton, Bridges
and Johnson, plus whatever other picks and assets are involved,
would be a monster haul for the Nets to fully reset. The Suns’
young trio paired alongside Ben Simmons would keep Brooklyn at
least competitive for the postseason, which seems to be a goal for
the Nets in trade negotiations.
It’s not often you find two situations where the stars just
align at the perfect time. That’s exactly what’s occurring between
Durant and the Suns. Both sides want this to happen, and within the
player-empowerment era, it seems very possible that this could come
Durant bet on Irving and it blew up in his face. Instead, he
wishes to pivot to an organization with newfound stability (thanks
to Jones and Williams), a dynamic backcourt of Booker and Paul, and
a sizeable championship window since the team projects to be a
juggernaut in the Western Conference. Over the last two seasons,
Phoenix has the most total wins in the NBA. Adding Durant to the
already strong core of winning pieces in place presents the Suns
with their best opportunity to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Durant’s arrival wouldn’t be like Charles Barkley in 1992. This
would be an entirely new level of relevancy coming to The Valley,
as the Suns have already become title favorites in Las Vegas before
a Durant deal has even occurred.
Phoenix wants to commit to an extended championship window
centered around two of the greatest players in the NBA’s modern
era. Alongside them would be a young star in Booker who is showing
to have real star-power pull.
Buckle up, because Durant has now singlehandedly changed the NBA
landscape in one fell swoop. Now, the Suns are looking to soon pull
off their biggest move in franchise history.