Unexpected Trade Ideas to Get Kevin Durant out of Brooklyn
As is the case with most superstars, Kevin Durant exercised significant control over the Brooklyn Nets during his soon-to-conclude three-year tenure with the team. But he gave up all that power the moment he requested a trade.
Maybe the Nets will feel compelled by sentiment to send Durant to a team he prefers, but they're under no obligation to do so. With KD inked to a contract that extends for four more years, they don't have to give any thought to what he wants. They can be as cold, calculated and self-interested as necessary. Against the backdrop of Durant and Kyrie Irving essentially making the mess in Brooklyn, it'll be hard for players and agents around the league to hold anything against the organization that has to clean it up.
We cooked up a handful of trade packages involving the likely and logical class of suitors shortly after KD made his request. But this time, we're operating as if the Nets won't consider any of Durant's preferences. That widens the range of teams to which Brooklyn can send the 2013-14 MVP.
Which clubs have we failed to consider? Which dark-horse landing spots might present trade packages that would give the Nets what they need and trigger sending Durant someplace totally unexpected?
Glad you asked.
The Trade: Brooklyn Nets acquire DeMar DeRozan, Patrick Williams, Coby White, three first-round picks (2023 via POR, 2027 and 2029) and a first-round swap (2028) for Kevin Durant.
The Chicago Bulls wouldn't include Patrick Williams in a deal for Rudy Gobert, per B/R's Jake Fischer, but maybe they'd reconsider that stance with Durant on the table. It's easier to justify losing the organization's brightest young talent for a superstar wing than a defense-first center, even if the former is slated to earn about $30 million more over the next four years than the latter.
We're still operating under the assumption that the Nets will use the 2019 Anthony Davis trade as something of a baseline, which means multiple first-round picks and swaps have to be involved. But with the Nets seeking a package that also allows them to compete for a championship, DeRozan's inclusion makes sense.
Brooklyn gets optionality here. DeRozan and Ben Simmons would be a difficult fit with poor spacing, but one or the other could easily be moved in a subsequent deal. This is all about asset accumulation for the Nets, and DeRozan, coming off a year that involved several weeks of fringe MVP consideration, very much counts as an asset. Brooklyn could also re-route Williams, White and all the picks for more win-now help if it isn't willing to wait on player development.
For the Bulls, Durant and the newly maxed-out Zach LaVine would form one of the best scoring duos in the league. Over the last three years, they were two of the nine players to log at least 3,000 minutes with a usage rate above 30.0 percent and a true shooting percentage north of 60.0 percent. Chicago's offense, 13th last year, would likely vault up toward the top five.
Nikola Vucevic isn't an ideal defensive center, but a healthy Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball proved last year that they could provide enough ball pressure to compensate for shortages of stopping power elsewhere on the floor. And for what it's worth, even a half-interested Durant is orders of magnitude better than DeRozan on D.
Denver Nuggets Receive: Kevin Durant, Eric Gordon
Brooklyn Nets Receive: Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon, three first-round picks (2023 via MIL, their own 2024 back from HOU, 2029 via DEN)
Houston Rockets Receive: Ben Simmons, Zeke Nnaji
Getting Durant to the Nuggets is tricky because sending Micheal Porter Jr. back to Brooklyn means Simmons has to go elsewhere. Teams aren't allowed to have more than one player acquired via trade on a Designated Rookie extension, status Simmons and MPJ share. Fortunately, the Rockets step in to facilitate a deal here, getting Simmons for their trouble.
In Porter Jr. and Gordon, the Nets get a ready-made combo forward tandem with complementary strengths. MPJ is the pure scorer, while Gordon guards multiple positions and generally fills in the gaps. Health is a concern for Porter, who missed most of last year due to back surgery, but the three first-rounders coming Brooklyn's way help preserve flexibility if he's not the same player post-injury.
This deal looks best from Denver's side, as it gets to pair Durant with two-time MVP Nikola Jokic. The Nuggets would have to be the favorite to lead the league in offensive efficiency even if Jamal Murray isn't all the way back following his torn ACL. Eric Gordon represents some excellent insurance on that front, and he'd likely feature in Denver's closing playoff rotations.
Houston is the wild card. Admittedly, the Rockets' interest in Simmons is difficult to justify. Then again, maybe we've all gotten too low on Simmons' value. All the concerns about how he'll perform during a deep playoff run are irrelevant for the rebuilding Rockets, and Simmons is still a three-time All-Star heading into his age-26 season with three years of team control left on his deal. If the Rockets believe Simmons' value could be rehabilitated to the point where he's worth more than the two middling first-rounders they're giving up to get him, this trade actually makes sense for them. Losing Gordon in the bargain stings, but the fact that he's still on the roster suggests nobody was offering much of consequence at last year's deadline or prior to free agency.
New Orleans Pelicans
The Trade: Brooklyn Nets receive Brandon Ingram, Trey Murphy III, Dyson Daniels and three first-round picks (2023 that has swap rights with LAL; 2024 and 2025 via NOP) for Kevin Durant.
New Orleans selected Dyson Daniels at No. 8 in the 2022 draft, so his inclusion essentially means the Pels are sending four first-rounders to Brooklyn. The main ingredient here is obviously Ingram, but we're trying to adhere to the idea that any KD trade has to include serious draft compensation.
Murphy, who shot 38.2 percent from three as a rookie last year, gives Brooklyn a thread-the-needle asset: young enough to almost count as a draft pick, but also capable of contributing meaningfully right now.
Ingram was an All-Star in 2019-20 and has sustained that level of play over the last two years (minus the official nod of a return trip) while making incremental gains as a passer and defender. Considering his age, 24, he's the best individual player we've included in any KD package so far. But even if Ingram takes a leap, he's unlikely to match Durant's productivity—and that's even pricing in some age-related decline for KD. Understand: It's not a slight to say a player, even a very good one, is not on Durant's level.
New Orleans is so loaded with picks from the Davis and Jrue Holiday deals that it probably won't even miss the three firsts it's sending to Brooklyn here. Murphy looks like a solid rotation piece, and Daniels has potential as a connector and defender. But concerns about losing picks and talent should disappear when imagining the Pelicans closing games with CJ McCollum, Herbert Jones, Durant, Zion Williamson and the center or wing of your choice.
New York Knicks
The Trade: Brooklyn Nets receive RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin, Evan Fournier and four first-round picks (2023 via DET; 2023, 2025 and 2027 via NYK) for Kevin Durant.
If the Nets were considering Durant's feelings, a swap to the other New York franchise would probably be off the table. KD spurned the Knicks in free agency three years ago, and it wouldn't be the best look for him to show up now acting as if he were suddenly cool with the idea of signing on. But Brooklyn isn't concerned with what KD wants in this hypothetical. It is focused on a package that includes two stellar young pieces and four first-rounders.
Whether the Nets, as an organization, would have reservations about crosstown trading is another story. But really, Brooklyn should be looking for the best deal out there, and who's to say this isn't it? Barrett has holes as a shooter, and he's not ready to be an alpha wing in the mold of Jayson Tatum (or Durant, for that matter), but he just turned 22 years old and has one season in which he shot 40.1 percent from three and another in which he averaged 20.0 points per game. His career-trajectory arrow is pointed up, and if it matters, he's the godson of Nets head coach Steve Nash.
If anyone deserves to be thrown a bone after the last couple of years, it's Nash, who had to deal with a three-ring circus in his first stint on the bench.
Fournier is salary filler, but he's also a capable rotation wing with a career 38.1 percent mark from distance. Toppin could thrive in a larger role than Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau was willing to give him, and more broadly, the open-floor possibilities of a 3-4-5 combo involving Barrett, Toppin and Ben Simmons are tantalizing.
With the Knicks, Durant could join Jalen Brunson, Immanuel Quickley, Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson in a quintet with size, shooting, defense and playmaking all fully accounted for. If the Knicks want to wrest control of the hearts and minds of New York NBA fans back from Brooklyn, this deal would get it done.
The Trade: Brooklyn Nets receive Tobias Harris, Tyrese Maxey, Matisse Thybulle, and three first-round pick swaps (2024, 2026, 2028) for Kevin Durant
The hurdle of reuniting Durant and Harden may seem too high to clear, but KD expressed no hard feelings when his former teammate asked for a trade last year. At the very least, Durant understands Harden's motivation now, and it also seems clear that Harden's exit had more to do with Kyrie Irving than anything else.
The Sixers' side of this needs no explanation. Durant, Harden and Embiid would be the most dangerous trio in the league, and Philly gets off Harris' deal in the process of assembling a new superteam.
Don't forget, the Sixers have sign-off from the guy whose opinion matters most.
Philadelphia is shorter on draft compensation than almost any other franchise, so the best it can do is three swaps in lieu of actual picks. Just to get there, the Sixers have to remove protections on the 2025 first-rounder they owe to the Oklahoma City Thunder to assure it conveys, which would allow for the 2026 and 2028 swaps. Combined with Harris' weighty contract that'll pay him only about $13 million less than Durant over the next two years, it's tough for the Sixers' offer to compete. A certain speedy guard could be the key to Brooklyn taking the 76ers' package seriously.
Per Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com: "Philadelphia's case to elbow into the conversation essentially rests on one player: Tyrese Maxey. Viewed as borderline untouchable by the organization, Maxey is viewed as one of Philadelphia's core players moving forward and not even under consideration for a move in the vast majority of scenarios."
Ideally, the Sixers could loop in a third team to take Harris' contract and increase the number of picks going to the Nets. But the Sixers' lack of draft assets would complicate that scenario as well; an acquiring team would want picks coming with Harris as sweeteners.
This deal would be an absolute boon for the Sixers and is probably too good to be true. But it remains to be seen what other offers the Nets will receive, and Maxey might ultimately be the most intriguing building block available.