A week after news broke that Kevin Durant had reportedly requested a trade, he is still a member of the Brooklyn Nets.
And while things have been relatively quiet on the player movement front, ESPN's Malika Andrews checked in with Adrian Wojnarowski on Wednesday for a status update.
His report gave us an idea of what Brooklyn could be after:
NBA on ESPN @ESPNNBA
.<a href="https://twitter.com/wojespn?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@wojespn</a> with the latest on Kevin Durant's trade request: <br><br>"[The Nets] think this should look like one of the biggest trade returns in league history." <a href="https://t.co/9H69Jk8FMM">pic.twitter.com/9H69Jk8FMM</a>
Durant is 33 years old. He missed all of 2019-20 while recovering from a ruptured Achilles. And he's played just 90 games over the last two seasons. Not to mention the fact that he cannot seem to outrun the discontent that has followed him from Oklahoma City to Oakland to Brooklyn.
All that may temper his value, but he's less than four years older than Rudy Gobert (whose massive trade return was mentioned by Wojnarowski). And he just averaged 29.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game with 51.8 percent shooting overall and 38.3 percent three-point shooting. Even if he's not at the level he was at his peak, he is good enough to take a non-contender to contender status (or a contender to a favorite).
Whether that is actually worth "one of the biggest trade returns in league history" is a subject for another story, though. For our purposes, we'll assume at least one team tells itself he is. And that could mean surrendering multiple stars or potential stars and a boatload of draft considerations.
For it to truly be one of the biggest hauls ever, it has to top monster packages from the past:
- On Wednesday, the Minnesota Timberwolves gave up Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Leandro Bolmaro, Walker Kessler, four first-round draft picks (three of which are unprotected) and a pick swap to the Utah Jazz for Gobert.
- In 2020, as part of a four-team trade, the Milwaukee Bucks sent out R.J. Hampton, Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, two first-round picks and two pick swaps for Jrue Holiday and Sam Merrill.
- In 2019, in a three-team trade, the New Orleans Pelicans dealt Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, De'Andre Hunter, two first-round picks, a pick swap and cash.
- In 2013, the Boston Celtics traded Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, D.J. White, a first-round pick and a second-round pick to the Nets for Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries, Kris Joseph, Gerald Wallace, three first-round picks and a pick swap.
- In 2012, the Oklahoma City Thunder swapped James Harden, Daequan Cook, Cole Aldrich and Lazar Hayward to the Houston Rockets for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks and one second-round pick.
- In 2007, Minnesota traded Garnett to Boston for Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, Theo Ratliff and two first-round picks.
- In 1993, the Orlando Magic sent Chris Webber to the Golden State Warriors for Anfernee Hardaway and three first-round picks.
With the exception of that Webber deal, three- or four-pick trades are a relatively new development. And the success of those deals was varied. The 2007-08 Celtics, 2019-20 Lakers and 2020-21 Bucks won titles. Giving up so many assets was certainly worth it in those cases. Others, such as Brooklyn's taking on post-prime versions of Garnett and Pierce, were disasters.
No one has a crystal ball, but a Durant deal could go either way. If he's healthy and heads to a contender, a championship wouldn't be remotely surprising. If he can't stay on the floor, the team that lands him might be pining for those picks within a year or two.
Which teams might take that risk? Oddsmakers have their sights on 10, and plenty can put together intriguing packages.
The Toronto Raptors could get real serious by including Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes, but adding him to a deal with draft consideration on par with the Gobert deal seems ludicrous. Would the New Orleans Pelicans part with Brandon Ingram? Would Brooklyn really have a shred of interest in the Philadelphia 76ers' Tobias Harris-anchored package?
The two teams that seem best able to put together the kind of historic package Brooklyn is after while remaining contenders (or favorites) after the deal are the bookends on that list of suitors: the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors.
Let's take a look at both.
The Suns Sign-and-Trade: Durant for Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, unprotected first-round picks in 2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029 and multiple second-round picks
Right now, the Phoenix Suns are the favorites, and they can put together a package that would be right at home in the bulleted list above.
Ayton is 23 years old, averages a double-double for his career and was the No. 1 pick just four years ago. There's your star. Bridges is 25 and already one of the game's premier three-and-D options. A little more offensive responsibility, and he could grow into a star. Johnson is a switchable wing who can space the floor opposite Bridges. And making all four first-round picks unprotected (plus throwing in a handful of seconds) would give this deal better draft assets than the Gobert deal.
Would it be worth it for the Suns?
They'd obviously have a lot of work to do to fill out their supporting cast, but a starting five of Durant, Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Jae Crowder and Jock Landale would form an obvious title contender. The window may not be open for long, but it'd be open.
The Warriors Trade: Durant for Andrew Wiggins, Jonathan Kuminga, Jordan Poole, Moses Moody and unprotected first-round picks in 2023, 2025 (if an earlier trade doesn't convey it to the Memphis Grizzlies), 2027 and 2029
One team that's registering as a long shot is the one with which Durant won two titles.
The fact that Golden State just won another championship makes this feel unlikely, but ESPN's Marc J. Spears reported Sunday that the "Warriors have interest in Kevin Durant."
And the players have apparently talked about the possibility.
And it's another team that can put together "one of the biggest trade returns in league history."
Like the Suns deal, this one would give the Nets a trove of first-round picks. Seconds might be justifiable too, but this package includes more young talent. Poole is only 23 years old. Kuminga and Moody are 19 and 20. All three have varying levels of upside. Poole has, at times, already looked like a star.
This deal also has the added benefit of an expiring contract. Wiggins is only 27. If the post-Durant Nets were better than expected, Brooklyn could re-sign him. If not, it could let him walk and mostly escape the financial burden that Durant's contract would've placed it under. KD's deal runs through 2025-26, when he'll be paid a whopping $53.3 million.
Multiple potential stars and picks from Phoenix or Golden State should entice Brooklyn. The financial flexibility the Warriors could offer is also worth considering. Like Wojnarowski mentioned, the Nets might even try to get another team involved to up the compensation.
If a Gobert-like package is the baseline, these two deals would beat it. It remains to be seen whether that will be what it takes or if the Nets are posturing.