Things could get messy with the Brooklyn Nets.
Most of the chatter surrounds Kyrie Irving's future. He's up for
new money — either on an opt-in-and-extend deal, or by opting out
and testing the free agent market. The Nets are reportedly willing
to play ball, but not in the way Irving wants. That ranges from a shorter-term deal,
to an opt-in-and-prove-it type scenario.
Irving, of course, wants long-term security. He's one of the
most talented guards to lace up a pair of sneakers, and balled out
in (self-imposed) limited action to the tune of 27.4 points on
59.2% True Shooting, and a shade under six assists per game. If he
and the Nets aren't able to come to agreement, he's reportedly
ready to find a new home via
That's enough to flip this summer on its head. But the domino
effect could lead to an even bigger shift: Kevin Durant wanting his
Brooklyn exit too.
The Athletic's Shams Charania has reported that Durant is
monitoring the Irving situation and mulling his own options. On the
most recent episode of The Lowe Post, ESPN's Zach Lowe said that
teams are already setting up contingency plans for a potential
We're less than a week out from Irving's opt-in decision, which
means it's more than possible he and the Nets are able to find
common ground and we laugh about all of this. But if they aren't,
and Durant actually becomes available, there isn't a team in the
league that won't inquire.
And why would any team skip over the possibility to acquire a
top-15 player of all-time? This is a player who just slapped up
30-7-6 on 63.4% True Shooting this season, and was in the thick of
the MVP race before suffering an MCL injury in mid-January.
Though Durant doesn't have the threat of free agency as leverage
— he just signed a four-year extension last August —
you have to assume he'll have some say in his next stop, if it gets
that far. The Nets will want to do right by him. And with him
heading into his age-34 season, it's fair to assume he'll want to
land somewhere he'd have an immediate chance to win.
The challenge from there will be finding teams that have enough
to offer the Nets to appease them — because you're not getting
equal value for Kevin freaking Durant — while also having enough of
a supporting cast to pursue a title with.
The first team that came to mind was the Phoenix Suns.
They have a trio of young pieces — Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson
and the oddly-wasn’t-given-a-max Deandre Ayton — they could
theoretically offer up. Between Ayton’s max in a sign-and-trade,
Bridges’ extension kicking in and Johnson’s team option, the Suns
could easily get to north of $40 mililion in salary to make it
(There could be some haggling for Johnson. The Suns do
their picks from 2023 and onward — and it's not like they're
fans of the draft anyway — so
maybe they'd be willing to sub in future firsts in an effort to
I can hear Boston Celtic fans yelling now because of the age
gap, but using Jaylen Brown as the centerpiece of a deal for Durant
is feasible. They'd love to form a Big Three with Durant, Jayson
Tatum and Brown of course, but it's hard to picture a package of
Marcus Smart, Al Horford, Grant Williams, Payton Pritchard and
picks getting it done. Starting with Brown would get them in the
room pretty quickly.
Then there are the Miami Heat, who would try to use Tyler Herro
as the blue chip piece to build a deal around. With Herro's
question marks as a lead-dog — can he get to the rim enough? — and
defensive shortcomings, on top of him being extension-eligible this
offseason, I don't know if that would be enough. Herro and Duncan
Robinson wouldn't be enough salary anyway, and it's hard to imagine
the Heat toss Kyle Lowry into a deal considering a) what it cost to
bring him in and b) his relationship with Jimmy Butler.
And to that point, a Durant pursuit could serve as a
fork-in-the-road moment for this franchise. Whose timeline is most
important: Butler's or Bam Adebayo's? Because like the Celtics with
Brown, the Heat could put themselves in the room easily by offering
up Adebayo in an effort to maximize Butler's window. I'd be shocked
if they went that route, but it's something to keep in mind.
There are funkier options that intrigue me. Lowe already touched
on it in his most recent pod, but Zion Williamson (and other stuff)
for Durant is something to think about. The New Orleans Pelicans
have enough young prospects (that may not even have room to crack
the rotation, as things currently stand) to raise Brooklyn's brow.
Even with the health concerns for Williamson, it's hard to pinpoint
a trade headliner with his kind of potential.
The other issue with a Zion-led package is his current cap
number, a little over $13 million. Him plus other young pieces
sound nice in theory, but it'd be hard to cobble up the salary to
match Durant's number from there. At best, it would cost them Jonas
Valanciunas, who Brooklyn could use or ask to be rerouted to a
third team. One way to make all of this easier would be to swap out
Zion and use Brandon Ingram as the headliner instead. New Orleans
would have to decide if they'd want to push that button following
the postseason run Ingram just had.
The Toronto Raptors could offer up Scottie Barnes as a
headliner, though I'm sure they would try to keep him (and Pascal
Siakam) out of talks. Would three of Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby,
Gary Trent Jr. or Precious Achiuwa plus pick equity get it done?
The Raptors do own their first-round picks moving forward.
The Memphis Grizzlies have enough non-Ja Morant pieces — Jaren
Jackson Jr and Desmond Bane in particular — to put something
together if they want. If the on-court potential of Morant and
Durant isn't enough, they'd easily be the most prolific Twitter duo
in the league. But the "if they want" looms large in this regard.
They may not want to give up on JJJ considering his importance to
their defense. And as good as Bane is offensively, it's at least
fair to question what his potential as a legit primary guy
Oh, hey, the Golden State Warriors could...
If there's one other team worth monitoring here, it would be the
New York Knicks. Between Julius Randle or RJ Barrett — offering up
both would defeat the "having something for Durant when he gets
there" point — they have something to build a deal around. Immanuel
Quickley would likely be involved regardless of which headliner the
Beyond that, the Knicks have the mid-tier salaries necessary to
match Durant's number, as well as an influx of future picks due to
their draft-night moves. If their cards are played right, there
exists a world where they could cobble a deal together for Durant,
have at least one young(ish) guy they like, and meaningful enough
cap space to make another splash.