The Toronto Raptors have the assets to put together one of the best trade packages possible for Kevin Durant, but will it be enough to get the Nets superstar north of the border?
NBA players arguably hold more individual power than any other team-sport athletes and that power is on full display as Kevin Durant seeks a trade from the Brooklyn Nets. Set to begin the first year of a four-year contract extension signed with Brooklyn last August, 33-year-old Durant could command one of the largest trade packages in NBA history. A two-time NBA champion and former MVP, Durant is a legitimate superstar under long-term team control.
Which teams can afford the staggering asking price for Durant? The short answer is, not many. The Nets are looking for a young All-Star and several draft picks, a stiff price not many teams can swing. Durant reportedly prefers to land in Phoenix or Miami, but Brooklyn isn’t about to do him any favours as they seek to get the best possible return. The Suns are the early favourites to land Durant, but there’s been quite a bit of smoke surrounding the Toronto Raptors as well.
Phoenix is coming off its best regular season in franchise history and they currently sit as early +409 second-favourites to win the NBA championship next year. The Suns are in win-now mode and will be heavy favourites if they can land Durant. They surprisingly exited the playoffs in the second-round this year, but they are just a season removed from an appearance in the NBA Finals.
Brooklyn will undoubtedly want Devin Booker as part of any trade package, but it’s tough to see that happening after Phoenix just signed Booker to a supermax contract. Keep in mind, the Suns could also bring in a third team for the salary cap structure to work. With Booker off the table, this year’s Defensive Player of the Year runner-up, Mikal Bridges, or even All-Star Chris Paul, could be worthwhile sacrifices to land Durant, not to mention Phoenix has control over their first-round draft pick for the next five years.
With Masai Ujiri at the helm, Toronto could be poised to make a major splash. Ujiri’s only a few years removed from the Kawhi Leonard deal that led to the Raptors’ first NBA championship, but landing Durant will be much harder. One thing Ujiri has made clear is he won’t mortgage the future for the present. Reading between the lines, that sounds like Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes is off limits.
If you’re Brooklyn, you’re likely focusing on some combination that has Barnes at the centre. If Barnes really is a non-starter for Toronto, talks will end quickly. The Nets are in a tough spot, however, so there is potential they’re willing to do the deal without Barnes. In that case, one of either Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, or OG Anunoby along with several draft picks could get the job done.
Brooklyn will demand a king’s ransom for Durant and they’ll get it. The Nets went all in acquiring Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden over the last few years and it’s safe to say that strategy has officially crashed and burned spectacularly. They lost a lot of draft capital and young players in those moves, so they absolutely need to hit it out of the park on this trade.
But, could Durant stay? Brooklyn has absolutely no obligation to move Durant and there’s no indication he is unhappy enough to sit out games. For all the unnecessary off-court headaches Irving poses, he and Durant do have chemistry together. Factor in the unknown of Ben Simmons and the Nets could potentially field a powerhouse top-three next season. Bottom line, Brooklyn can’t afford to move Durant without a significant return, so it’s legitimately possible he stays.
Golden State Warriors
Could a return to the team Durant won two NBA championships with make sense? If you’re Golden State, you can look at it two ways. One: They just won the NBA championship without Durant, so why fix what’s not broken? Two: The previous addition of Durant to the Warriors lineup not only led to back-to-back championships, it led to one of the most dominant dynasties in NBA history.
Obviously the untouchables on this team are Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Golden State can, however, still put a solid package together without touching those three players. Canadian Andrew Wiggins could be a significant piece of the deal, although teams can’t have two players on designated rookie extensions, so Simmons would need to be moved before the start of the season. The Warriors could also add one of James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, or Jordan Poole to sweeten the package. And with control of all but one of their future first-round picks, that could be an impressive offer while also keeping team’s three best players.