Ranking Every Realistic Kevin Durant Trade Centerpiece

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured Columnist IVAugust 3, 2022

Ranking Every Realistic Kevin Durant Trade Centerpiece

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    In what's starting to feel like an annual tradition in the NBA, the offseason gave us another wave of player movement.

    But even with the draft, the bulk of free agency and a handful of trades behind us, it still feels like the summer is incomplete, thanks to periodic updates to the Kevin Durant saga.

    The latest came on Monday, when The Athletic's Shams Charania reported on a meeting that had taken place between KD and Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai:

    Shams Charania @ShamsCharania

    In a meeting with Nets owner Joe Tsai, Kevin Durant reiterated his trade request and informed Tsai that Tsai needs to choose between Durant or the pairing of general manager Sean Marks and coach Steve Nash, sources say.<br><br>Story: <a href="https://t.co/W1voNf9MDC">https://t.co/W1voNf9MDC</a>

    It may be difficult to cobble together enough for the Nets to feel OK with moving the best and most decorated player on the trade market.

    After the Utah Jazz received multiple role players, an incoming rookie and four future first-round picks for Rudy Gobert, Brooklyn probably wants at least as much for KD, even with this ultimatum now in front of it.

    This piece won't examine exactly what such a package might look like. Instead, it will focus on potential centerpieces. Teams will have to include more salary and future draft consideration to land Durant, but the following players are probably the starting point.

    Determining the order was, of course, subjective. Even with past production and projection systems (which were consulted), judgment calls have to be made. Those were based on age, potential and how they might fit on a rebuilding Nets team.

7. Andrew Wiggins

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    Just a few days after Durant's trade request went public, ESPN's Marc J. Spears tossed reporting's equivalent of chum into NBA Twitter's waters.

    Marc J. Spears @MarcJSpears

    It’s no surprise to me that Warriors have interest in Kevin Durant, according to sources. So does more more than half the league. It’s KEVIN DURANT. You better make the call if you’re an NBA GM. It’s KEVIN DURANT.

    Despite the fact that they just won a championship with Andrew Wiggins essentially in the KD spot, the Golden State Warriors bringing the latter back shouldn't be off the table.

    Wiggins is six years younger, and Durant has an increasingly concerning injury history, but he'd certainly raise their short-term ceiling.

    This article is more about who's going to the Nets, though. And after a few years of on-the-job training in Golden State's system, Wiggins is far more believable as the centerpiece of a Durant trade.

    He just made his first All-Star game and shot a career-high 39.3 percent from deep. Perhaps more importantly, he flashed All-Defense-level upside in the Finals against one of the NBA's best wing duos in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

    Of course, Brooklyn would need a lot more than just Wiggins to pull the trigger on a deal with the Warriors. Jonathan Kuminga, Jordan Poole and draft picks would probably have to be included. And because of Wiggins' age (27), he probably doesn't fit a team heading into a rebuild, which is what the Nets should do if they trade KD.

    That shouldn't rule him out, though. If Wiggins plays well enough in Brooklyn, it could then turn around and deal him for another pick or young player down the line.

6. Tyler Herro

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    Because of what Wiggins provides defensively, Tyler Herro may not be as good right now. But Herro's not far off, and he's five years younger.

    In his third season, Herro averaged 20.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.7 threes while shooting 39.9 percent from three. A 22-year-old putting up numbers like that suggests No. 1-option potential. At the very least, he looks like he can be a high-end No. 2.

    If Brooklyn's coaching staff can get him to average-level defense—which may be a tall task, considering Erik Spoelstra's yet to pull it off—Herro has a chance to be better than Wiggins has ever been.

    A deal with Herro as the centerpiece makes more sense from the Nets' team-building perspective too. There were players drafted this summer who are older than Herro. Having him, multiple picks and salary filler isn't a terrible place to start with a reboot.

5. Deandre Ayton

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    At least until January 15 (when a trade restriction on the recently re-signed Deandre Ayton expires), the Phoenix Suns may be out of the KD sweepstakes.

    But that doesn't mean we should shut the door on the possibility forever.

    When his trade request was first reported, Phoenix was listed as one of the preferred destinations. And if Ayton comes out on fire in 2022-23, he may raise his trade value enough to catch Brooklyn's eye.

    He took a bit of a step back in terms of usage when Chris Paul arrived, but Ayton flashed top-scorer upside in his second season, when he averaged 18.2 points. In his two seasons with CP3, he's become far more efficient.

    The next step in his development may be pairing the volume of his sophomore campaign with the efficiency of Years 3 and 4.

    If Durant is set on sitting out until his request is honored (there's no indication he'll do that yet), and Ayton averages somewhere around 20 and 10 from the start of the season to mid-January, expect more rumblings on Durant heading to Phoenix.

4. Brandon Ingram

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    During his three seasons with the New Orleans Pelicans, Brandon Ingram has developed into one of the game's better all-around wings, particularly on offense.

    He's still not quite living up to the (probably unfair) KD comparisons he drew before he was drafted in 2016, but 23.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.1 threes over the course of three years is All-Star-level production.

    Getting that from a player set to turn 25 in September would allow Brooklyn to perhaps enter something of a two-track rebuild.

    Ingram is good enough to be the centerpiece of a competitive team, but he's also young enough to be on a similar timeline with players Brooklyn would select over the next several drafts.

3. Anthony Davis

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    The Los Angeles Lakers have seemingly been after Kyrie Irving since before he opted into the final year of his current deal, but one league insider suggested something bigger to Bleacher Report's Eric Pincus.

    "Kyrie is the move," the insider said. "They should offer [Anthony] Davis with [Russell] Westbrook. Try and get Kevin Durant. KD for AD and a pick is as close as [the Nets] will get to what they want."

    Davis is four years younger, but his injury history isn't much more encouraging than Durant's. And as LeBron James edges closer to retirement, the move should be surrounding him with more shooting.

    He won a title with AD, but the current Lakers' roster is a crowded mess. Davis and Westbrook can't spread the floor, and LeBron could use a little extra space inside as he loses a half-step or two in his twilight years.

    The title window for a team with LeBron and Durant wouldn't be open for too long, but it would be wide open. Assuming availability (a big assumption, for sure), an offense with LeBron operating in the middle of the floor and flanked by Durant and Irving would be a nightmare.

2. Scottie Barnes

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    Because the Toronto Raptors are reportedly "fixed" on keeping Scottie Barnes out of the Durant discussion, there was a temptation to put Pascal Siakam on the slideshow. He would've ranked pretty high on the list.

    But Toronto could probably end the sweepstakes today if it simply relented on Barnes.

    The 6'9" forward just won Rookie of the Year and averaged 15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.1 steals. There's a lot more playmaking upside than the numbers suggest, too.

    Barnes' 31.6 assist percentage as a freshman at Florida State more than doubled the 14.7 he put up as a rookie in Toronto.

    With his bona fide point-forward potential, Brooklyn should be able to talk itself into giving up a disgruntled, soon-to-be-34-year-old star.

    There may be some style and usage overlap between Barnes and Ben Simmons, but the Nets can figure that out later (Simmons could drum up his trade value early in the season).

1. Jaylen Brown

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    According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, the Boston Celtics have already offered Jaylen Brown, Derrick White and a draft pick for Durant. Brooklyn declined and reportedly insisted on Marcus Smart joining Brown in the trade package.

    Regardless of who goes with him, Brown appears likely to be the biggest prize in Brooklyn's sights. The 25-year-old is coming off a playoff run to the Finals in which he averaged 23.1 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.5 threes.

    He's made an All-Star team and he just finished 2021-22 tied for 15th in defensive win shares (a number typically dominated by big men).

    If he heads to Brooklyn along with Smart, the Nets would almost certainly remain competitive. And supplementing those two with the draft picks Brooklyn would likely have to include would give them a chance to return to the playoffs before long.

    With each passing season, the NBA seems more tailored to versatile wings that can defend all over the floor, score and create for others. Brown still has work to do on that last skill, but it's not hard to see how he fits the prototype.


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