The Spurs received three first-round picks for Dejounte Murray and the Jazz topped that by essentially bringing back five for Rudy Gobert — setting the bar for Kevin Durant. The Nets are holding out for an Elon Musk-level fortune in return for their star, who has demanded a trade, and they could get it.
No, make that they must get it. A king’s ransom return for Durant is going to be general manager Sean Marks’ one and only chance to salvage what is a disastrous situation, to make this an on-the-fly retooling rather than a long, arduous rebuilding.
This situation has essentially frozen much of the league, including the Nets, as far as deciding what they will do with Kyrie Irving. It remains to be seen where the Nets will send Durant and how much they’ll get for him. The Jazz bear watching for the answer, both as a template for the picks the Nets may get and as a potential three-way trade partner.
The Nets are believed to be looking for a young All-Star as a centerpiece for the deal, as well as a host of picks. ESPN reported that not only have more than half the teams in the league called Marks with proposals, but also some have even circled back to increase their offers before even getting a counteroffer. That’s an unusual circumstance, but the whole situation is an unusual circumstance.
Players of Durant’s first don’t typically become available. Durant has asked out of Brooklyn not only because of the melodrama with Irving, but also reportedly because he didn’t see enough infrastructure and leadership in the franchise, Yahoo’s Chris Haynes reported on NBATV. But wanting out and getting to go where he wants are two different things.
Durant has four years left on his contract, and shockingly doesn’t have a player option or a no-trade clause. That already has cut into his leverage over picking a landing spot, and the volume of offers the Nets are getting will cut into it even more. They will likely decide on one of those offers before deciding where to trade Irving and his expiring contract.
While the Nets will clearly work with Durant and business partner Rich Kleiman in finding a suitable destination, Marks has proven to be unsentimental and will ultimately take the offer that works the best for the organization.
The simplest and cleanest moves could be to New Orleans (around Brandon Ingram and picks) or Toronto (based around Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes and picks). Raptors boss Masai Ujiri traded for Kawhi Leonard in 2018 and won a title the next season. What would he give for four years of Durant?
There are glaring issues with Durant’s preferred teams, the Suns and Heat, which could force expanding the trade to involve one or two other teams. That’s not foreign to Marks, who pulled off an NBA-record five-team megadeal.
The Nets can’t take back the Heat’s best piece, center Bam Adebayo. The collective bargaining agreement won’t allow them to trade for a player on a designated rookie extension, such as Adebayo, because they already have Ben Simmons on such a deal. (Remember that quirk in the CBA. It’ll come up again. And again.)
And Durant reportedly only wants to play for Miami if it’s alongside Adebayo, Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry, according to The Athletic.
The Nets can’t take back the Suns’ Devin Booker and aren’t believed to be enamored with taking Phoenix’s restricted free agent center, Deandre Ayton, in a sign-and-trade. But Arizona Sports 98.7 FM reported Utah is exploring a trade for Ayton to replace Gobert. Phoenix could then reroute the incoming picks, along with their own and forwards Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson.
But the Jazz could be relevant in another way, because of superstar guard Donovan Mitchell.
After Utah let go Mitchell’s lifelong pal Eric Paschall, the Nets traded for his friend Royce O’Neale and the Jazz traded away Gobert, signaling they are rebuilding. That could propt Mitchell to ask for a trade. If that happens, it could tempt the Nets into moving off Simmons to make any three-way deal for Mitchell possible.
There is a tepid market, at best, for Irving. And because any deal for Durant will likely be more complex and will certainly be more important, the Nets are intent on sorting that out first before sending Irving to the Lakers or anywhere else.