Sometimes, it only takes one tweet to alter the entire landscape of the NBA. This was one of those tweets.
Kevin Durant‘s trade request to the Brooklyn Nets rocked the league just hours before the start of free agency. And as Nets general manager Sean Marks, Durant and his business manager Rich Kleiman work toward finding a deal that works, speculation around the league is running wild.
Well, let’s get in on the fun.
Which trades work for Brooklyn, and which superteams could be created?
ESPN’s NBA insiders are breaking down the hypothetical deals that find new homes for two of the best players in the NBA.
The massive four-teamer between the Nets, Suns, Spurs and, yes, the Lakers
2027 first-round pick (via Lakers)
2029 first-round pick (via Lakers)
With the Suns one of Durant’s preferred destinations, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, a Brooklyn-Phoenix deal would likely have to be built around a sign-and-trade sending restricted free agent center Deandre Ayton to the Nets, which presents challenges.
If Brooklyn receives Ayton in a sign-and-trade, the team would trigger the NBA’s hard cap at the apron, a little more than $7 million above the luxury-tax threshold. Since Ayton (at his max salary) and Bridges would make a combined $51 million, $7 million more than Durant’s 2022-23 cap hit, the Nets would have to shed payroll elsewhere.
Enter the Lakers as a destination for Kyrie Irving, which would require a third team to take on Russell Westbrook’s $47.1 million salary.
In this construction, the Lakers send their two tradeable first-round picks to the San Antonio Spurs to take on Westbrook in exchange for Josh Richardson and the 2023 Hornets pick the Spurs acquired in the Dejounte Murray trade, which San Antonio can do using cap space. Richardson and the pick then go to Brooklyn with Ayton, Bridges and a pair of future Suns first-rounders — timed to be far enough in the future that Phoenix is no longer likely to be contending for championships.
The Nets could use the extra picks to build around a core of Ayton, Bridges and Ben Simmons, all of them age 25 or younger at the moment.
— Kevin Pelton
KD joins Zion in New Orleans
The point of stockpiling first-round picks is to set your franchise up to swing for a superstar. Time for the Pelicans to pounce.
It doesn’t necessarily matter that New Orleans is not on Durant’s list of preferred destinations. He has four years remaining on his contract, so he doesn’t have much control over the situation.
Nets GM Sean Marks needs to make a move that can position Brooklyn — which owes two unprotected first-round picks and three swaps to the Houston Rockets from the disastrous James Harden deal — to remain competitive and replenish its draft capital. Pelicans VP of basketball operations David Griffin can offer such a package, thanks primarily to being on the other end of a superstar trade, sending Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Ingram would give the Nets a young go-to guy to build around. Nance’s reasonable contract makes the money work, and he could help a Brooklyn team that has zero incentive to tank.
The Pelicans have a lot of first-round picks to play with — all of their own, the Lakers’ 2024, the Bucks’ 2027, swap rights from the Lakers in 2023 and Milwaukee in 2024 and 2026. Put together a massive picks package for the Nets and bring Durant to the Big Easy.
— Tim MacMahon
Miami gives up nearly half its team for Durant
As ESPN’s Bobby Marks explained on this week’s edition of the Lowe Post, an obscure provision of the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement prevents Brooklyn from adding Bam Adebayo so long as Ben Simmons is on the roster. Teams can’t have two players who signed five-year rookie extensions with other teams and were acquired via trade.
The solution to that obstacle here: dealing Simmons as part of a simultaneous trade with the Indiana Pacers in exchange for Malcolm Brogdon and Buddy Hield, a move that gives the Nets a reliable point guard who could play well off Adebayo at both ends of the court. (Never mind the crowd in Brooklyn on the wing with the addition of Hield.)
Indiana becomes a low-pressure destination for Simmons to return to the court with shooting alongside him in the frontcourt (Myles Turner) and a point guard (Tyrese Haliburton) who’s both a skilled pick-and-roll operator and a good enough shooter to space the floor when Simmons initiates the offense.
From Miami’s standpoint, this is a lot to give up, especially including the two first-round picks the team currently has the ability to trade. Still, a core of Durant, Butler, Tyler Herro and Kyle Lowry would make the Heat the favorites to win the Eastern Conference if not the NBA title. And while dealing Adebayo would love a role in the middle, that’s the easiest position to fill in free agency using the taxpayer midlevel exception.
Durant joins the two-time reigning MVP
In this deal, the Nets get back a young player often mentioned as being Durant-like in Porter Jr. (NBA salary cap rules preclude them from being able to trade for MPJ while Simmons is still on the Nets roster.)
And in a post-Durant/Irving era, Simmons is less valuable because he’d be called upon to score. Gordon is another strong starter that’s only 26 years old and signed to a reasonable contract, who could either be part of the next wave or a valuable future trade asset. And they’d get (say, three?) first rounders from the Thunder’s trove to further facilitate a rebuild.
The Nuggets get Durant to pair with two-time MVP Nikola Jokic and the returning Jamal Murray, making them instant favorites to challenge the Warriors for supremacy out West. Their motivation here is the most straightforward.
The Thunder have been stockpiling picks and cap space for opportunities just like this. Simmons, for all his well-publicized foibles, is still only 25 years old and immensely talented. He’d join Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey and Chet Holmgren as another young star with great potential, and he’d enter a less pressurized environment where his game would have a chance to flourish.
Plus, even with the draft picks they gave up, the Thunder would still have an unprecedented trove of first rounders to continue to build around their now impressive young nucleus.
— André Snellings