Four potential Kevin Durant trade destinations (if the Nets blow things up)
The Kyrie Irving trade saga came to a swift conclusion when the Nets agreed to trade him and Markieff Morris to the Mavericks for Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, and a 2029 first-round pick. It might be safe to assume that the Nets will aim to remain competitive at least for this season based on the return they got for Irving.
But with Irving officially gone, what if Kevin Durant decides to reopen his trade request again? According to Chris Haynes, the Suns are prepared to pursue Durant should he become available. With rival teams circling the Nets for this scenario, here is Brooklyn’s outlook if they continue competing versus eventually blowing it up.
To rebuild or continue competing?
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images).
The Nets season got off to a chaotic start when Irving tried to leverage the team for a maximum contract or sign-and-trade, followed by Durant’s trade demand. They still tried to make things work despite all that and even went as far as attempting to hire Ime Udoka as head coach, which ultimately did not happen after public blowback. After a rough start, they managed to swing the season around before Irving requested a trade on Friday.
While acquiring Finney-Smith and Dinwiddie suggests they will continue to remain competitive this season, they could still pivot in the future. They also got a future asset in the 2029 Mavericks first-round pick and both players could be flipped for assets later. They still owe the Rockets unprotected first-round picks in 2024 and 2026 as well as unprotected first-round pick swaps in 2023, 2025, and 2027. If they can’t be rewarded with high enough first-round picks by losing, then it doesn’t make sense to bottom out.
However, Brooklyn has managed to recoup three future first-round picks by trading Harden and Irving. Sean Marks has experience navigating a rebuilding situation when down multiple unprotected first-round picks, taking the Nets from one of the worst teams in the league to a contender and free-agency destination. The difference this time is that they can end up with a surplus of assets if they trade Durant.
One other factor to consider if the Nets decide to trade Durant is their luxury tax situation. They are set to become repeat taxpayers next season after three consecutive years in the tax. After acquiring Dinwiddie and Finney-Smith, both of whom are under contract for next season, Brooklyn projects to have a tax penalty at least in the $60 million range. That is before attempting to increase the roster via trade or free agency. Keeping player expenses controlled will likely be prioritized in a rebuild if the Nets conclude this isn’t a contending roster.
Ben Simmons doesn’t appear to have much trade value right now but it wouldn’t hurt to hold onto him in a rebuilding situation. He has two more years left on his deal after this season and is still just 26 years old. If he can turn things around, it’s possible that he could be a key part of the next iteration of the Nets.
When Durant first made his trade request in June, we looked at the current trade market and identified teams that make sense for him. The landscape has changed since then but a lot of the teams are still the same. Here are some teams that could make strong offers for him by the trade deadline or in the 2023 offseason.
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Phoenix was the odds-on favorite to acquire Durant last offseason in a deal that would’ve required sign-and-trading Deandre Ayton. Their ability to acquire Durant was extinguished as soon as they matched Ayton’s maximum offer sheet from Indiana, making him ineligible to be traded until January 15. They still could match salaries for KD without including Ayton but his inclusion makes Phoenix’s offer considerably stronger, especially since he can also be rerouted to a third team to give the Nets different assets.
The Suns have valuable wing players in Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson that the Nets might covet. They also have all their own first-round picks over the next seven drafts, allowing them to trade a maximum of four unprotected first-round picks. Phoenix will have to figure out a balance of trading starters and first-round picks if they’re going to have the strongest team possible without giving up too much.
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Boston was the big surprise team to be seriously interested in Durant given they just went to the NBA Finals. Their willingness to trade Jaylen Brown made them the leaders in the Durant sweepstakes since he was by far the best player known to be on the table. According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the Celtics offered Brown, Derrick White, and a first-round pick for Durant, but the Nets countered asking for Marcus Smart and three first-round picks as well, the maximum amount the Celtics can trade right now.
It’s unclear if the Celtics are still interested in pursuing Durant now that they have the best record in the league and great chemistry. It’s also possible the promotion of Joe Mazulla could impact things since pairing Durant with Ime Udoka could’ve been part of the equation given their time together in Brooklyn. While the goal in any Durant trade is extracting optimal value from a team, getting All-Star Brown alone would be great.
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The Raptors could probably have acquired Durant already had they made Scottie Barnes available but that is reportedly a non-starter for them. Toronto has been one of the more surprisingly disappointing teams of the season and the whole league is keeping an eye on them ahead of the trade deadline. Instead of blowing it up, the Raptors could decide to add Durant into the mix, which could make them one of the East favorites for a couple of seasons.
The challenge for the Raptors in making a deal is coming up with the outgoing salary without taking away too much talent, especially if Barnes is still a requirement for the Nets. Pascal Siakam alone can match for Durant if they want to go in that direction, or they can offer a package featuring two of OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet, or Gary Trent Jr. as the primary salary filler. The Raptors have all of their own first-round picks going forward, allowing them to trade a maximum of four first-round picks right now, just like the Suns.
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The Hawks indicated they’re all in on the present after making an aggressive trade for Dejounte Murray during the offseason. They gave up two of their own unprotected first-round picks for him, allowing them to trade another two of their own as well as the Kings’ 2024 first-round pick they acquired for Kevin Huerter. Adding Durant to a lineup that includes Murray as well as Trae Young and DeAndre Hunter is a recipe to make the Hawks one of the best offensive teams in the league.
John Collins seems like a logical candidate to be included in a deal because of his $23.5 million salary and considering how low his usage has dropped in Atlanta this season. They could also include a combination of rotation players like Clint Capela and Bogdan Bogdanovic as well recent first-round picks like AJ Griffin and Jalen Johnson to make a very strong offer.