KD, Kyrie, Russ, Mitchell In 1 Trade? Imagining Absurd 5-Team Deal That Really Works
The 2022 NBA draft is over. The free-for-all of the first few days of free agency is behind us. Las Vegas Summer League is wrapped up, but there are still some fireworks seemingly loaded up and ready to launch.
Despite a trade request, Kevin Durant is still a member of the Brooklyn Nets. The potential swap of Kyrie Irving for Russell Westbrook (and other stuff) hasn't happened for the Los Angeles Lakers. The Utah Jazz are still perusing the Donovan Mitchell trade market.
It's possible that nothing happens with any of those players before the 2022-23 season starts, but it feels like at least one or two dominoes will fall. For today's exercise, let's imagine what it would look like if they all fell at once.
Just under a year ago, Russ was involved in a five-team trade that sent him to L.A. Other role players were involved, but he was undoubtedly the biggest name in that deal.
In 2022, there's a potential five-teamer that could make each organization happy and include him, KD, Kyrie and Mitchell (as well as plenty of role players).
You can haggle with me (or each other) about the specifics, how many draft picks are involved, where those picks should go and what kind of protections they'd carry, but this general framework (unwieldy as it may seem at first glance) accomplishes some goals for everyone involved.
A more thorough breakdown of what this would mean for each team follows, but let's just get a zoomed-out view of the deal to start with.
- Los Angeles Lakers Receive: Kyrie Irving, Patrick Beverley* and Dario Saric
- Brooklyn Nets Receive: Mikal Bridges, Talen Horton-Tucker, Cameron Payne, a 2025 first-round pick from Phoenix, a 2027 first-round pick from Phoenix, a 2027 first-round pick from Los Angeles, a 2029 first-round pick from Phoenix and a 2029 first-round pick from New York
- Utah Jazz Receive: Russell Westbrook, Quentin Grimes, Cam Reddish, Evan Fournier, Jae Crowder, Landry Shamet, a 2023 first-round pick from New York, a 2023 first-round pick from Phoenix, a 2025 first-round pick from New York, a 2027 first-round pick from New York and a 2029 first-round pick from Los Angeles
- Phoenix Suns Receive: Kevin Durant and Bojan Bogdanovic
- New York Knicks Receive: Donovan Mitchell and Cam Thomas
You can also see the trade in table format here, but that doesn't justify this behemoth. That comes as you scroll through.
*Because Patrick Beverley has already been traded this offseason, he can't be aggregated with other players in a trade for two months. The restriction ends after August 30, 2022. So, if we're going to see something like this monster deal, we'll have to be patient.
The Kyrie-LeBron Reunion Tour
Lakers Receive: Kyrie Irving, Patrick Beverley and Dario Saric
Lakers Lose: Russell Westbrook, Talen Horton-Tucker, a 2027 first-round pick and a 2029 first-round pick
At the moment, the Lakers appear unwilling to surrender multiple first-round picks to unload Westbrook, but the calculus should change if the return also includes another role player in Patrick Beverley and a flier on Dario Saric (who missed all of the 2021-22 season while recovering from a torn ACL).
Kyrie's fit in L.A. probably doesn't require much analysis. He and LeBron won a title together in 2016. He can shoot, which is the biggest differentiator between him and Westbrook. And he's almost four years younger than Westbrook, too. Even with whatever off-court concerns may come with Kyrie, replacing Russ with him feels like a no-brainer.
The other two additions make this idea especially interesting.
Beverley is a nominal point guard, but he's shown an ability and willingness to defend wings. He doesn't ask for much usage on the other end, either. He's purely a three-and-D guard, something that has proved effective alongside LeBron over the years. And his off-ball experience means he can play alongside Kyrie (even if they don't start together).
Saric's injury is a concern, but having a small-ball 5 with a 35.7 career three-point percentage and flashes of playmaking from his past could make L.A.'s bench less predictable.
Giving up two first-round picks and 21-year-old swingman Talen Horton-Tucker isn't nothing, but it's almost certainly worth it to end the Westbrook experiment, add one of the game's best offensive talents and supplement the rotation with two role players.
Brooklyn's Fresh Start
Nets Receive: Mikal Bridges, Talen Horton-Tucker, Cameron Payne, a 2025 first-round pick from Phoenix, a 2027 first-round pick from Phoenix, a 2027 first-round pick from Los Angeles, a 2029 first-round pick from Phoenix and a 2029 first-round pick from New York
Nets Lose: Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Cam Thomas
It wouldn't be surprising to see Brooklyn hold out for more. In fact, entering the season with KD and Kyrie is starting to feel like a real possibility.
But even without Deandre Ayton, whom Phoenix can't trade until Jan. 15 after matching his offer sheet with the Indiana Pacers, this would be a heck of a tipoff to a rebuild.
The Nets might also have to consider Durant's age (34 in September) and injury history (he's played only 90 regular-season games over the last three years), as well as Irving's diminishing trade value when they feel like other teams are putting the screws to them in negotiations.
If the stars really are determined to move on, five first-round picks, an interesting young talent (Horton-Tucker), a borderline All-Star nearing his prime (Bridges) and Cameron Payne's very movable salary ($6 million in 2022-23 and $6.5 million the following season) isn't a bad return.
As the trade deadline approaches in 2023, some other team could come calling with a pick or two for Bridges. This wouldn't have to be the end of the teardown.
Jazz Receive: Russell Westbrook, Quentin Grimes, Cam Reddish, Evan Fournier, Jae Crowder, Landry Shamet, a 2023 first-round pick from New York, a 2023 first-round pick from Phoenix, a 2025 first-round pick from New York, a 2027 first-round pick from New York and a 2029 first-round pick from Los Angeles
Jazz Lose: Donovan Mitchell, Bojan Bogdanovic and Patrick Beverley
As his former agent, Thad Foucher, opined in a statement to ESPN, there are potential outcomes for Westbrook that include a buyout. This would certainly be one.
Utah already signaled the start of a rebuild when it dealt three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves for a pick-laden package. If Mitchell goes as well, the Jazz will be firmly in the fray for the top odds in next year's draft lottery.
That isn't a situation Russ will want to be in (nor would the Jazz want him there).
After waiving Westbrook, Utah would be left with a reset on par with recent rebuilds like the Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans. On top of the four first-round picks the Jazz received in the Gobert trade, this package nets them five more, two intriguing wings in Quentin Grimes and Cam Reddish and the expiring contract of Jae Crowder.
Long-term money for Evan Fournier and Landry Shamet isn't ideal, but their inclusion is necessary to satisfy the league's trade rules. And neither is on a crippling contract.
This also doesn't give the Jazz as many picks as they're reportedly after for Mitchell, but seven seems like a pipe dream (or at least early-offseason posturing). He's an explosive scorer and would energize the Knicks fanbase, but he's looked dreadful on defense for at least the last two seasons and only has two top-20 finishes in box plus/minus in his career.
Emerging from the previous era with nine extra first-round picks, Walker Kessler, Grimes, Reddish and a better shot at the No. 1 overall pick in 2023 is probably a win.
Suns Go All-In
Suns Receive: Kevin Durant and Bojan Bogdanovic
Suns Lose: Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, Cameron Payne, Dario Saric, Landry Shamet, a 2023 first-round pick, a 2025 first-round pick, a 2027 first-round pick and a 2029 first-round pick
Two starters, three potential role players and four first-round picks is a massive price to pay, but this deal would give the Suns arguably the best starting five in the NBA: Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Bogdanovic, KD and Deandre Ayton.
The health of Durant and CP3 and a lack of depth around a second unit headlined by Cameron Johnson would be concerns, but the ceiling of this group is clearly championship-caliber.
And with Paul entering his age-37 season, it's now or never for a move like this.
Best-case scenario, everyone stays relatively healthy (especially during the playoffs) and Phoenix secures its first title.
Worst-case, these Suns flame out and the team still has Booker (25 years old) and Ayton (24 on Saturday) to lead the next era.
In 2019-20, the last season prior to CP3's arrival, Phoenix was plus-6.6 points per 100 possessions when Ayton and Booker were on the floor.
Knicks Bring Mitchell Home
Knicks Receive: Donovan Mitchell and Cam Thomas
Knicks Lose: Quentin Grimes, Cam Reddish, Evan Fournier, a 2023 first-round pick, a 2025 first-round pick, a 2027 first-round pick and a 2029 first-round pick
Even if it isn't quite what Jazz CEO Danny Ainge is currently asking for, this is a pretty steep price for Mitchell. There will surely be some Knicks fans who think it's too much, but Mitchell is a New York-raised star who could electrify Madison Square Garden in a way no one save Carmelo Anthony and Jeremy Lin have over the last two decades.
He's seventh in NBA history in playoff points per game, has high-flying athleticism validated by a Slam Dunk Contest win, and he carries himself with a charisma that transcended his current small market.
Under the bright lights of MSG, Mitchell could become a megastar. And this particular deal leaves plenty of supporting players to help him reach that level.
A starting backcourt with Mitchell and Jalen Brunson has the same potentially fatal flaw as the one he'd leave behind in Utah with Mike Conley, but both play bigger than their 6'1" frames, at least on offense. RJ Barrett still has star upside, and Julius Randle's lack of scoring efficiency could be much less of a problem if he's suddenly a third or fourth option. Plus, the center duo of Mitchell Robinson and Isaiah Hartenstein adds youth and versatility to the frontcourt.
This deal might not instantly take the Knicks to title contention, but it would make them better and perhaps more enticing to free agents or other disgruntled stars down the line.
Finally, you'll notice that this framework also has Cam Thomas heading to the Knicks. That might actually be the biggest peculiarity of the deal.
Brooklyn is getting one of New York's picks, mostly to put its front office at ease in knowing that it isn't getting fewer picks than Utah. The Nets should be giving something up for that pick, though.
Both fanbases might be angry with a Thomas-for-a-2029-pick standalone trade, which means there could be something to it.
Of course, this is more about Mitchell. Getting a flier on Thomas helps replace a hint of the young talent going out, but he's far from the headliner. Nor should he be a deal-breaker for anyone, and that goes for a lot of the picks and less-famous players involved.
Again, there's wiggle room around what's listed for each of the five teams. Even as currently constructed, though, each squad could talk itself into this monster trade.