As the Kevin Durant saga reaches its latest chapter, both sides
are digging in for what could be an even more drawn-out process.
He's already told Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai to either trade him
or fire head coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks, so
his desires to leave Brooklyn are clear.
There's a lack of trust in the organization’s direction moving
forward, but the Nets already have shown they won’t bend to every
demand the future Hall-of-Famer makes.
But unless Brooklyn eventually lowers its asking price — which
is presumably what many interested teams are betting on — there’s
no reason to believe this process won’t drag into the regular
season. If so, the next step will be Durant sitting out games away
from the team until his next destination is found.
From the beginning, Durant’s desired destination was the Phoenix
Suns to team up alongside Devin Booker and Chris Paul. Six weeks
later, we don’t know whether Durant has backed off that stance. If
not, that could be the reason why this is dragging out even longer.
Phoenix is seemingly falling off many radars, but we shouldn't rule
them out of the sweepstakes just yet. Brooklyn holds power, but so
does Durant to keep this tug of war going as long as possible.
As the Suns' noise quieted down, new suitors emerged — the Miami
Heat and, most recently, the Celtics. SNY’s Ian Begley mentioned
the Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers as new choices atop Durant’s
“Our front office and coaching staff have my support,” Tsai
wrote on Twitter in response to his meeting with Durant. “We will
make decisions in the best interest of the Brooklyn Nets.”
Our front office and coaching staff have my
support. We will make decisions in the best interest of the
With Tsai picking his side, we'll all wait to see what offers
are truly in the best interest of the Nets’ murky long-term
outlook. In the meantime, it’s hard not to let the mind wander on
what that could entail.
What if the Nets look back upon the Pacers’ situation with Paul
George in 2017, taking the best offer on the table for their
disgruntled superstar in a non-preferable destination? While it
seems far-fetched, anything at this point seems possible within
this ongoing battle at the bargaining table for who gets what in
When it was over, Indiana acquired two blossoming All-Stars in
Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, even when it felt like
leverage wasn’t on its side. George wanted to go to the Los Angeles
Lakers, but the Pacers stood firm on getting a proper return for
their star forward.
Who could come out of nowhere and surprise us all as the Nets'
possible trade partner a la the Thunder to the Pacers five years
ago? Excluding the known top contenders for now — Phoenix, Miami,
Boston and the Toronto Raptors — let's try to find a potential team
lurking in the shadows who would also check off both parties'
This all comes down to the possibility of including Tyrese
Maxey. If you’re in the position of Sixers president Daryl Morey,
with your chips already all-in on winning a championship with Joel
Embiid and James Harden, Durant certainly makes you think for a
moment. Knowing Morey’s aggressive nature, a blockbuster centered
around Maxey for Durant works well within their win-now time frame.
The allure of Maxey is there (only 21 years old and blossomed upon
Harden’s arrival midseason), but this is arguably the greatest
three-level scorer ever we’re talking about.
Forming a trio consisting of Durant, Embiid and Harden is simply
unfathomable to envision. The possibilities are endless, and
hopefully the third time would be the charm when it comes to the
former Thunder teammates reuniting less than a year removed from
Philadelphia can quickly make salaries work for Durant by adding
in Tobias Harris, who reportedly has been on the trading block
since Morey’s arrival. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic,
Brooklyn’s asking price for Boston was a young player on a star
trajectory (Jaylen Brown), a solid starter (Marcus Smart), another
role player and multiple draft picks. The Sixers check every box in
that scenario, which should automatically make them a viable
Would a package centered around Maxey, Harris, Matisse Thybulle
and Philadelphia’s 2029 first-round pick with little to no
protections be enough for the Nets to accept? For the Sixers,
there’s a real pathway to getting a top spot at the table once the
dust settles sometime on Durant.
In any superstar-type trade rumor, the Pelicans tend to pop up
one way or another because of their newly assembled war chest of
assets. Following the Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday trades, New
Orleans sits on a treasure trove of draft capital spanning the next
At any point, Pelicans executive vice president David Griffin
could decide to cash in on the last piece of the Pelicans’ puzzle
to become the next version of the Suns — acquiring an established
veteran star to take a talented young core over the top. CJ
McCollum could qualify as such following the Pelicans’ deadline
move for him, but what if Durant was intrigued enough to play
alongside Zion Williamson in the Bayou?
Boston putting a player of Brown’s caliber on the table makes
this debate even more interesting. In my opinion, Brandon Ingram
would be a better return in comparison to Brown for Durant. Both
are on the same tier, but Ingram gets the slight edge for me.
Witnessing his ascent on the postseason stage, Ingram is poised to
take another step forward in his rapidly climbing career.
If the Nets desire a player who meets or exceeds Brown in trade
talks, Ingram is the one who'll get the job done. The question in
the end, of course, would be Durant’s blessing. If Durant doesn’t
want to play the next four years in New Orleans, these thoughts
would quickly dissipate into fantasy.
However, you can’t deny the Pelicans as a legitimate
jaw-dropping destination because they have the list all checked off
for Brooklyn’s needs as well. Ingram is the young star, and Larry
Nance Jr. qualifies as the ideal veteran role player. Maybe New
Orleans would have to throw in either Herb Jones or Trey Murphy III
on top of draft picks too. It's a massive asking price, but one
that would be necessary to make something like this go down.
Until the Pelicans eventually cash in on what they've worked so
hard to build, they will always be a sneaky contender for any
eventual disgruntled superstar. And if the Pelicans rise as
expected in 2022-23, they will become a destination anyway for
Outside of Philadelphia and New Orleans, we now reach the
organization that would truly shock everyone. What about the Bulls?
Would they be willing to throw an All-NBA player into another
DeMar DeRozan is only 11 months younger than Durant, but he is
the best chip they could bring forward to Brooklyn. On top of
DeRozan — whose salary wouldn’t be enough in a straight-up swap —
Chicago would presumably include a key piece of its young core. The
obvious candidate is Patrick Williams; the former No. 4 overall
pick flashed promising two-way potential before sustaining a wrist
injury early last season, reentered the fold in late March and
became a crucial component in the postseason. Then, Chicago would
probably need to throw a solid role player into the mix. Either
Lonzo Ball or Alex Caruso fit the Smart type of role we discussed
Although Chicago gutted its draft capital in separate deals for
DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic, the organization still owns a future
pick from the Portland Trail Blazers that could convey as early as
next season. The Bulls’ next eligible draft pick that can be
included in a trade is their own 2027 first-round selection.
As I wrote earlier this offseason, the Bulls feel one big splash
away from truly taking the next jump in the Eastern Conference.
Rudy Gobert made so much sense to complete their defensive
overhaul, but Durant represents a roster upgrade of seismic
proportions — a bump that might be necessary to become a Finals
contender the next few years. Why not push the chips in and see
what happens with Durant and Zach LaVine as a 1-2 punch?
For a team that has to remain in win-now mode because of its
draft picks being sent elsewhere, Brooklyn might be intrigued
enough to listen to something centered around DeRozan, Williams and
Fresh off making their own
blockbuster trade to improve before the new league year, could the
Hawks make sense as a Durant out-of-nowhere landing spot? There are
very slim odds on that possibility, but it's a scenario worth
exploring because Atlanta's roster still feels a move or two
Trae Young and Dejounte Murray
will bring fireworks to the Hawks' backcourt on a nightly basis,
but is the core right now strong enough to take the necessary steps
forward in the reloaded East? We know at this point what John
Collins and Clint Capela bring to the table. Bogdan Bogdanovic is a
solid third guard for Atlanta, but injuries have become a problem
as of late.
Atlanta's young collection of
players is what makes this thought interesting, at least for a
moment. Would the Nets be intrigued by De'Andre Hunter, Onyeka
Okongwu, A.J. Griffin and one of Collins, Capela or Bogdanovic to
make salaries match? Compared to the other known suitors and ones
already listed, it really isn't in the same stratosphere unless
Brooklyn bets big on Hunter taking a huge leap. Based on Hunter's
postseason performance, don't rule out the 24-year-old becoming
more of a two-way focal point in Atlanta.
It might not be enough to be a
real threat to swoop in for Durant, but it'd be wise to keep an eye
on the Hawks as we get closer to February's trade deadline. If the
Young/Murray backcourt gets off to a hot start, maybe Atlanta will
go for broke and decide the time is now for a Finals
Milwaukee is not a destination market for superstars, but
Giannis Antetokounmpo brings enough pull to make it such. Giannis
is nowhere close to escaping the prime of his career, but could you
imagine him playing next to Durant? My goodness, that's basketball
heaven right there.
Before we go too deep down that rabbit hole, though, it feels
almost impossible regarding the actual odds of this happening. Not
only are the Bucks starved of draft capital because of the Holiday
trade, but Brooklyn would need to believe Middleton could replace
Durant long-term. Only a few years younger than KD and deserving of
a max contract next offseason, it might not make much sense for
either side to even explore this potential thought.
For the Bucks to even bring a respectable offer to the table
compared to everyone else, they would likely have to include
Middleton and Holiday in a massive blockbuster that sends back both
Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Yeah, that's for sure fantasy land right there, but I do
appreciate the few minutes we had talking about Durant and Giannis
playing on the same basketball team.
With no end in clear sight right, who knows how long this
standoff between Durant and the Nets lasts? As time continues to
drag on, maybe some front office executives from teams we're not
even thinking of decide to call Brooklyn to inquire about an
George wanted the Lakers, but he ended up in Oklahoma City.
Kawhi Leonard's desired destination was Los Angeles upon asking out
of the San Antonio Spurs franchise, but he was sent packing to
Toronto instead. There is a precedent where a superstar doesn't get
what he wants in the end, but a player of Durant's caliber takes it
up a whole new level.
The best interest of the Nets might not be what Durant wants,
and vice versa. The next steps are falling into place regarding how
this could all end, and a new pseudo deadline of training camp
looms around the corner.
Whether Kevin Durant remains in Brooklyn by then remains to be
seen, but one thing is for certain: The NBA has shown us time and
again that anything is possible when it comes to superstar