When information broke on NBA draft evening that Kevin Durant was “monitoring the Brooklyn Nets’ scenario and contemplating choices together with his future,” the workforce’s former assistant normal supervisor turned ESPN front-office insider Bobby Marks urged a commerce “return package deal on Durant can be the most important in league historical past.”
It higher be, as a result of the Nets are already on the incorrect finish of one of many greatest trades in NBA historical past and residing in concern of it taking place once more as we converse. Durant formally requested a commerce from Brooklyn on Thursday.
The Nets traded three unprotected first-round picks and a decide swap for one middling season with past-their-prime Corridor of Famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in 2013. They bottomed out and gifted the Boston Celtics the muse of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown that reached the NBA Finals within a decade.
If they don’t maximize the return for Durant, the Nets may discover themselves on the backside of the standings once more, owing each one among their first-round picks via 2027 to the Houston Rockets on account of their failed James Harden experiment. They nonetheless have Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons to indicate for his or her dalliances with Durant and Harden (for now), however you attempt predicting what’s going to change into of them within the months to return.
The most important trades in NBA historical past
So, what’s the greatest return package deal in NBA historical past, and is Durant actually price an even bigger one?
You may decide your taste between the All-NBA blockbuster 2019 offers that paired Anthony Davis with LeBron James on the Los Angeles Lakers and Paul George with Kawhi Leonard on the LA Clippers. This isn’t recency bias, however the willingness to commerce each obtainable first-round decide without delay is a growing development.
The Lakers parted with what amounted to almost a decade’s price of top-10 draft picks to land Davis: Brandon Ingram (the No. 2 total decide in 2016), Lonzo Ball (No. 2 total in 2017), the No. 4 total decide in 2019 (De’Andre Hunter), the No. 8 total decide this 12 months (Dyson Daniels), a 2023 first-round decide swap and an unprotected first-round decide in 2024 (that may be deferred to 2025). It was arguably all price it for the Lakers, who received a title within the 2020 bubble, however the New Orleans Pelicans have been higher inside three years.
The Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder fetched Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, 5 first-round picks and a pair of decide swaps, all between 2022 and 2026, for George. Jalen Williams, the No. 12 total decide on this 12 months’s draft, which was the primary of these alternatives. The Clippers, at the very least, can cling to the hope that George and Leonard may lead them again into competition, if the 2 veterans return wholesome this coming season.
So, that’s the bar — at the very least one All-Star-caliber participant on his rookie contract, as many as 5 first-round picks, some swaps in between, and high quality wage filler. If the Nets can land the same deal, they may make the perfect of a foul scenario, particularly with Irving, Simmons, and a handful of different property nonetheless on the roster.
Legitimate considerations about Kevin Durant
Davis was 26 years outdated and a 12 months from free company when he requested a commerce. The Lakers basically knew bid towards themselves, as a result of everybody he was going there in a 12 months anyway, and the Pelicans nonetheless obtained the motherlode. George was 29 and had two years left on his deal when he requested out, however the Clippers have been over a barrel, since touchdown George additionally meant getting Leonard, so the Thunder requested for the moon.
Durant’s four-year, $194 million extension begins this summer time. The size of that contract, plus the reported absence of a no-trade clause, means Brooklyn holds extra playing cards than both the Pelicans or Thunder did. Durant can be one of many 15 biggest gamers within the historical past of the league, whereas Davis and George aren’t.
That elevated leverage is mitigated by the truth that Durant will probably be 34 years outdated initially of the subsequent season. He’s two years faraway from lacking a complete season to a ruptured proper Achilles’ tendon and has missed vital time over the previous two seasons with a hamstring pressure and MCL sprain in his left leg. He started this previous season as a severe MVP candidate and ended it with a regarding effort in a first-round sweep.
Lest we neglect Durant has additionally skipped city on three groups in six years on the first signal of hassle.
Which groups could make the perfect supply?
These info imply rising stars like Tatum, Luka Doncic, Ja Morant, Trae Younger, Anthony Edwards, Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley are all off the desk. Their groups aren’t buying and selling a decade of promise for a number of years of Durant. The most important exception to that rule may very well be Zion Williamson, whose personal harm historical past and tepid relationship with the Pelicans may make providing him and a cache of picks extra palatable.
You commerce for Durant in case you are one piece away from a title, you actually consider you can win it subsequent 12 months, and you don’t see one other path to get there within the close to future. That ought to rule out a variety of lottery groups. Oklahoma Metropolis, Orlando, Houston, Sacramento, Detroit, Indiana and San Antonio make little sense.
The Lakers, Clippers and Portland Path Blazers are absolutely thirsty for Durant, however none have the mandatory draft capital (though the Lakers may inquire about any curiosity in Davis). It’s exhausting to think about the Nets dealing Durant in New York to the Knicks for a commerce centered round RJ Barrett and picks. The Charlotte Hornets aren’t so near a championship that they need to supply LaMelo Ball. Are the Cleveland Cavaliers ready to package deal Darius Garland and picks to let one other legend lease their franchise for a number of years?
You may trim the record awfully fast. The Golden State Warriors have been there with Durant and simply received the title with out him. The additional improvement of Tatum and Brown was all that stood between Boston and a championship. Tatum is untouchable, and Brown needs to be. The Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and Dallas Mavericks shouldn’t have the ready-made rebuild package deal to supply Brooklyn a lot of actual substance.
The Phoenix Suns and Miami Warmth are reportedly on Durant’s record of most popular locations. They might respectively construct pick-heavy affords round Deandre Ayton and Tyler Herro, if both pursuits Brooklyn because the headliner in a Durant deal. Neither qualifies as the most important return in NBA historical past, though the Suns may put collectively the extra engaging supply, including both Mikal Bridges or Cameron Johnson to Ayton.
The Minnesota Timberwolves couldn’t cobble collectively a suggestion, excluding Edwards or Karl-Anthony Cities, that might promote the Sixers on buying and selling Ben Simmons, so good luck discovering one for Durant. The Chicago Bulls would want Zach LaVine to approve a sign-and-trade deal to even inquire about Durant.
The Atlanta Hawks simply spent three draft picks to get Dejounte Murray. Durant for Donovan Mitchell and picks won’t be sufficient to push the Jazz excessive, even when Durant have been joyful in Utah. The Denver Nuggets shouldn’t have the draft picks, however they do have Jamal Murray as a possible commerce centerpiece.
That leaves the Toronto Raptors and Memphis Grizzlies, each of whom are deep with expertise and picks. Toronto may supply any mixture of Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby, together with their picks, and really feel fairly good about recreating the title run they made with Leonard. Memphis has Desmond Bane, Jaren Jackson Jr., Dillon Brooks and Brandon Clarke, plus picks, as commerce choices.
None of these transactions would make Brooklyn really feel any higher than it did the day they signed Durant and Irving. If the Nets can get the Suns, Warmth, Pelicans, Raptors and Grizzlies, amongst others, to start out bidding towards one another, then they may discover themselves nearer to the most important return package deal in NBA historical past.
Whether or not Durant will make good on his finish is a matter left to his well being and willingness to remain in a single place.
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