Trade Packages and Landing Spots for Nets Star Kevin Durant After Trade Demand

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesFeatured Columnist IVJune 30, 2022

Trade Packages and Landing Spots for Nets Star Kevin Durant After Trade Demand

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Exactly three years after he joined the Brooklyn Nets, Kevin Durant on Thursday asked to leave. His trade request, made directly to team governor Joe Tsai, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, and first reported by The Athletic and Stadium's Shams Charania, upended the first day of the free-agent negotiating period and shifted attention from signings to potential trades.

    With free agency basically on hold until the Nets tip over the offseason's first domino, there's no time to waste. We need to figure out where Durant might wind up.

    With four fully guaranteed years left on his deal, the 33-year-old KD spent large chunks of last season looking very much like an MVP-caliber player. The haul for Durant will be absolutely gargantuan.

    The Oklahoma City Thunder got five first-rounders, two pick swaps, Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for Paul George in 2019. That same year, Anthony Davis netted the New Orleans Pelicans Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, three first-rounders and a swap. Neither George nor Davis was at KD's level in the league hierarchy at the time, and neither came with as many years of team control.

    A lack of franchises with both the combination of assets and the desire to sacrifice their long-term draft stash for a player in his mid-30s could keep the market from spiraling completely out of control. But we're still likely to see a trade package that, at the low end, rivals what it took to get George and Davis.

    Let's dive in.

Miami Heat

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    Jim McIsaac/2021 Jim McIsaac

    The Miami Heat are second-to-none in their talent-acquisition ambition, so they would have belonged near the top of a Durant landing-spot list even if KD hadn't slotted them among his preferred destinations, as B/R's Jake Fischer reported he did.

    As will be the case with every team we cover, it doesn't make sense to burn many calories explaining how or why Durant fits on the Heat. KD has won titles and collected an MVP while working alongside a diverse cast of superstars throughout his career.

    He's arguably the purest scorer who's ever played, and the damage he can do to a defense on or off the ball will follow him wherever he goes. He's a transcendent talent with maximum scalability.

    You cannot find a team on which his game would get in the way of someone else's or where his contributions would be duplicative. The guy fits everywhere, and he elevates everyone. All we really need to know is whether the acquiring team, typically a contender looking to get over the hump, has what it takes to make a competitive offer.

    So, back to the Heat side.

    If Durant has any say, he'd probably prefer Jimmy Butler not be involved in the package. The point of going to Miami would be to team up with another superstar in pursuit of a title, which would seem to take Butler off the board.

    Bam Adebayo cannot be acquired by the Nets unless Ben Simmons leaves the roster first because of a rule that prevents teams from having more than one player on a designated rookie max contract acquired via trade.

    Everything should be on the table in Brooklyn, so we shouldn't rule out a Simmons trade clearing the way for Adebayo to be the centerpiece of a Durant deal, but that construction is impossible at the moment.

    The best Miami can do without expanding this into three-team territory looks something like this: Kyle Lowry, Tyler Herro, rookie Nikola Jovic, three first-round picks (2023, 2027 and 2029) and three swaps.

    Few teams would be better equipped to fill in the backcourt gaps created by Lowry and Herro's exit than the Heat, who could do so through free agency. Players would flock to Miami, already among the league's most desirable destinations, to join a core that included Durant, Butler and Adebayo.

    Miami's need for improved half-court offense would disappear with Durant in the fold, making last year's No. 1 seed in the East an even more serious threat to win a ring.

    Trade Idea: Brooklyn Nets receive Kyle Lowry, Tyler Herro, rookie Nikola Jovic, three first-round picks (2023, 2027 and 2029) and three first-round pick swaps for Kevin Durant.

Phoenix Suns

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    The Phoenix Suns were the other team Durant reportedly listed among his preferred destinations, per Fischer. Phoenix, which disappointed last year by capping a 64-win regular season with a second-round playoff exit and is operating in large part on 37-year-old veteran Chris Paul's timeline, has every incentive to make a compelling offer.

    One problem: The Nets might want the one guy Phoenix can't part with.

    Per Fischer: "From Brooklyn's perspective, sources said, there's no deal to land Durant in Phoenix that doesn't start with sending back Devin Booker to Barclays Center."

    It's early in the proceedings, and you could forgive the Nets for trying to set a negotiating baseline that feels borderline unreasonable. Maybe this is just posturing in hopes that, if Booker isn't available, another team might see the asking price and decide its own comparable young All-NBA stud could be worth swapping for KD.

    Then again, we spent time outlining just how much precedent says the Nets might get in a Durant trade. So perhaps Brooklyn's stance is for real.

    If Deandre Ayton is involved as part of a sign-and-trade swap, things get complicated. Such a deal would trigger the hard cap for the Nets, preventing them from exceeding $157 million in salary at any point during the league year.

    What's more, an Ayton sign-and-trade would have to tiptoe around base-year compensation rules, which would make just half of his potential $30 million salary in 2022-23 count for matching purposes from Brooklyn's end. That means the Suns would have to attach another $20 million or so, plus massive draft equity, all while the Nets cut costs elsewhere to get under that $157 million ceiling.

    Ayton, Mikal Bridges and picks could get it done. If the Suns are operating as if they're going to lose Ayton for nothing in restricted free agency anyway, it'd help soothe the sting of trading 40 percent of a starting five that made the Finals in 2021. Bridges is an elite three-and-D weapon on a reasonable deal that will top out at $24.9 million in 2025-26, and his durability and grit would satisfy Nets GM Sean Marks' desire for players who can "play team basketball and be available."

    Paul, Booker and Durant would be a formidable core, but Phoenix would need to shore up its depth after sending out Ayton and Bridges. Like the Heat, though, the Suns should be able to get more value than most out of their exceptions and minimums.

    Trade Idea: Brooklyn Nets receive Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, three future first-round picks and two swaps for Kevin Durant

Memphis Grizzlies

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    Justin Ford/Getty Images

    Now we're getting to the fun part. The Memphis Grizzlies aren't on Durant's list, but they should be. And it doesn't hurt that Ja Morant seems to be on board.

    Ja Morant @JaMorant

    easy money

    If the Booker-level price is any indication, Brooklyn will want Jaren Jackson Jr. as the centerpiece, though the news, which Wojnarowski relayed, that he'll be out for up to six months with a stress fracture in his foot could turn the Nets off a bit. Morant is the bigger star, but you'd have to assume he's going nowhere unless the Nets figure out how to clone Durant and send two of them back to the Grizzlies.

    Jackson would still be a great get, and Memphis could sweeten the deal with a trove of picks. It controls all of its own future firsts and owns the Golden State Warriors' top-four-protected 2024 selection.

    Small-market franchises don't tend to sacrifice several years' worth of picks for a win-now move, but the Grizzlies are already knocking on the door of contention and might view giving up as many as five or six first-rounders as worth the risk.

    Including Ziaire Williams as part of the additional salary Memphis would need to include to make the deal work could help keep one or two of those picks in hand. A package of Jackson, Williams and, say, four future firsts isn't all that far off from what it took for the Thunder to move George or the Pelicans to move Davis.

    If the Grizzlies want to skip some developmental steps, vault to no-questions-asked contention and giggle about the rotation upgrade from free agent Kyle Anderson to Durant, they have the ammo to take the lead in this race.

    Morant's ability to collapse the defense would mirror what Durant saw from a young Russell Westbrook, with the bonus of Morant actually passing with a purpose instead of as a last resort.

    The Grizzlies would also have former Durant teammate Steven Adams patrolling the middle, and his lack of spacing would probably go unnoticed with KD spending significant time at the 4 and Desmond Bane drilling threes from everywhere.

    Trade Idea: Brooklyn Nets receive Jaren Jackson Jr., Ziaire Williams and four future first-round picks for Kevin Durant.

Toronto Raptors

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    David L. Nemec/NBAE via Getty Images

    The Toronto Raptors seem committed to experimenting with lineups composed entirely of players between 6'7" and 6'9", but they'd probably make an exception for the right (allegedly) 6'10" addition.

    Toronto's half-court offense was among its weak points last season. The Raptors ranked 26th in points per possession against a set defense, per Cleaning the Glass, so Durant's presence would address a clear shortcoming.

    The list of more dangerous "get me a bucket when everything breaks down and the shot clock is at four seconds" players in NBA history is, well...who even cares how long it is?

    Durant is probably at the top.

    Scottie Barnes would surely be the first name mentioned by Sean Marks on any trade call with Toronto, and the ask wouldn't stop there. Gary Trent Jr. seems like a logical addition to any package, though we shouldn't rule out the greed-is-good approach of Brooklyn asking for both Barnes and OG Anunoby.

    Pascal Siakam could also headline a package, one that would certainly become more palatable with the addition of multiple first-rounders. Toronto's future selections are almost totally unencumbered, with a 2024 second-rounder to Memphis as its only outgoing obligation.

    Four firsts and two swaps is doable for the Raptors, assuming they want Durant badly enough to punt on the draft for the foreseeable future. That would be a bitter pill to swallow for a franchise that has had so many hits all over the draft in the past, but it might be preferable to losing two of Barnes, Anunoby and Siakam.

    Head coach Nick Nurse is as tactically creative as they come, and it'd be fascinating to see what he could concoct with Durant's scoring prowess supported by a fully switchable defense. The Raptors don't have the same five-guys-in-a-blender system as the Warriors teams for which KD played, but they could approximate the defensive switchability, and we know they love positionless looks.

    Toronto may not be the likeliest destination, but it's as fun as any.

    Trade Idea: Brooklyn Nets receive OG Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr., four future first-round picks and three swaps for Kevin Durant.

Portland Trail Blazers

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    Damian Lillard took down the image of him and Durant in Portland Trail Blazers jerseys, but we all saw it.

    sam @TheOnlyNetsFan

    Tony Durant. Based. <a href="https://t.co/GFDbfRCMuS">https://t.co/GFDbfRCMuS</a> <a href="https://t.co/vXP4SSLBbs">pic.twitter.com/vXP4SSLBbs</a>

    Even if Durant's brother shot it down, the idea of adding Durant would make all the sense in the world for a Blazers team that is operating on a win-immediately timeline around Lillard.

    Think of the potential Dame, Anfernee Simons, Jerami Grant, KD and Jusuf Nurkic would have. The Western Conference is gearing up to be tougher than it was last season, with the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets getting healthier, but that Portland group could compete with anyone. Of course, we're presuming the Blazers could cobble together enough assets to pull off a Durant deal without sacrificing the other four players in that core.

    That might be tough to execute.

    Building something around a Simons sign-and-trade would raise all the same complexities of the Ayton situation with Phoenix, but the rising young guard would almost have to be included.

    Ditto for No. 7 pick Shaedon Sharpe, though we're still nowhere close to enough salary. Josh Hart's $12.9 million would help, and the Blazers might really be in business if they could work out a way to move Eric Bledsoe's non-guaranteed deal, though Brooklyn may not see enough to be impressed relative to some of the other packages we've covered.

    Portland could adjust protections on the first-rounder it owes to the Chicago Bulls, a pick with top-14 protection through 2028. That could free up additional firsts to add into a KD trade, and if there's a franchise willing to punt on nearly a decade's worth of picks, it's probably the one that seems likely to give Lillard another $100 million in an extension that'll lock him up through 2027, as Fischer reported it's expected to do.

    The Blazers are committed to this relatively short window, and with Durant's own prime unlikely to stretch into the latter part of this decade, the timing works here.

    Trade Idea: Brooklyn Nets receive Anfernee Simons, Shaedon Sharpe, Josh Hart, three future first-round picks and three swaps.

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