The Minnesota Timberwolves didn't do any favors for the teams that plan to aggressively pursue Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant this offseason.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Timberwolves are acquiring Rudy Gobert from the Utah Jazz for a package of players and four first-round draft picks. When news of the trade surfaced, many began to wonder whether the deal would impact the Nets' asking price for Durant.
Michael Scotto of HoopsHype reported the price "is expected to go up."
"Brooklyn is seeking a combination of the best assets from teams, including any All-Star player(s), rising young players with All-Star potential and substantial unprotected draft picks and pick swaps where applicable," per Scotto.
There's no question Durant is significantly more valuable than Gobert.
As great as Gobert is on defense, his offensive limitations inevitably become a problem in the playoffs, which is when you want somebody you surrendered four first-rounders to get stepping up.
Durant is a 12-time All-Star, a two-time NBA Finals MVP and one of the greatest scorers in NBA history. Even at 33, his presence alone can make a team a title contender. Imagine what a talent like that could cost in the current trade market.
The problem for the Nets is that any franchise acquiring Durant will have to thread a difficult needle. You'll inevitably have to lose one or two key players. Lose too much, however, and the supporting cast around Durant won't be strong enough to win a championship.
Under the general framework presented by Scotto, for instance, how many teams can realistically afford to jettison a combination of a ready-made All-Star or two and young talent with a high ceiling?
As others have pointed out, too, the collective bargaining agreement takes a lot of possible targets for the Nets off the table. Unless Brooklyn gets rid of Ben Simmons, it can't acquire another player on a designated rookie max extension.
In general, it's almost impossible to get equal value back when dealing a star player, and that's especially true when a player at Durant's level is involved.
The San Antonio Spurs received DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a 2019 first-round pick for Kawhi Leonard in 2018. Even though Leonard was coming off an injury and only had one year left on his deal, the Spurs got fleeced.
In perhaps the best parallel to Durant's situation, the Los Angeles Lakers settled on Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant and a first-rounder for Shaquille O'Neal in 2004. ESPN's Tim Bontemps wrote how the Lakers initially sought to land Dwyane Wade from Miami.
As much as the Nets should theoretically be in a position to request a king's ransom for Durant based on the Gobert trade, that might not provide much of a road map for Brooklyn.