It’s not everyday that a generational talent in the middle of his prime is available for a trade. Any Kevin Durant trade would tip the balance of the NBA just as he did when he joined Golden State and later Brooklyn. Having a star of Durant’s talent would automatically push a team into contention, and yet according to ESPN analyst Brian Windhorst “we have a pretty gigantic gulf between what the Nets [think] the value of Kevin Durant is and what the market is willing to pay.” This signifies that teams aren’t ready to meet the prices of Brooklyn, who are reportedly looking for “young All-Stars”, and raises the question of how much teams are willing to spend for game changing talents.
When looking at the trade value of a single player, it is imperative to look at the market that has been set. In the past, players like Lebron and even Durant have set the expectation that it is possible for teams to attract superstars through free agency and not have to shell out a fortune in trades. That reality is becoming farther away as superstar trades for James Harden and Anthony Davis has reset this mentality. It is becoming more and more plausible for teams to get these top-5 or top-10 level players through trades and push themselves into contention. Many players are now “locking” themselves into these 5 year max contracts and really limiting the amount of superstars that hit the market. This year, arguably the biggest signing has been Jalen Brunson and he still hasn’t reached a single All-Star game. This is forcing teams who we might have seen make a few splashes in free agency now shell out multiple unprotected first round picks for fringe All-Stars such as Rudy Gobert and Dejounte Murray. Neither of these players are franchise changing and while they might unlock some key element in a team, trades for these players will never guarantee championship contention. Trades for these lower level stars has set the market for at least the next few seasons, and inflates the value of the megastar type players. That is why the Nets want a young All-Star and multiple first rounders, and believe it is plausible to get that kind of value. Now the ball is in the court of suitor teams, who will most definitely have to give up a Scottie Barnes type player and believe that it is fair value for Kevin Durant.
This is the assessment that every team around the NBA who has given even a look at Durant must consider. How much are you willing to tear up your squad for Durant? It has already been reported that the Raptors, among other teams, are unwilling to give up their future centerpiece in Scottie Barnes. The biggest component of this trade is which teams are legitimately in the race of Durant, and how much these teams in particular are willing to give up. Starting with some of Durant’s own preferences, it looks like the re-signing of Deandre Ayton means that the Phoenix Suns are all but out of the KD sweepstakes, and the minimal traction that the Miami Heat have had in discussions with the Nets indicate that neither side is able to find a compromise. This makes sense because both the Suns and Heat field championship level teams, and aren’t willing to blow it up for an experiment that might last two years. Neither team was willing to package the likes of Devin Booker and Jimmy Butler, but I don’t think this is indicative of the value of Durant. He has more value than anyone not named Lebron, Steph, or Giannis but has yet to find a suitor. This encapsulates two things. First, Durant offers minimal stability to any team that would trade for him. He left OKC at what could be called the beginning of their prime, and now he is running away from the Nets. For every team around the league that is giving up their future of picks/players this is not a gamble that rising contenders want to take. Secondly, the teams that would be willing and possess the assets to make a trade for Durant are not in that top level of contention. This means that Durant is running out of options, and the Nets seem willing to wait because they are set on getting the “young All-Star and picks” that seem to be equal to Durant’s value at the moment.
This last bit is a far-reaching speculation of mine. A dream that probably won’t happen. That’s Kevin Durant heading to Portland to team up with Damian Lillard. The Trail Blazers have a solid, not blow me away, package centered around Anfernee Simons and 2022 seventh overall pick Shaedon Sharpe. These two young players, multiple first rounders, and salary matchers would definitely outshine any offer of Tyler Herro or OG Anunoby. I don’t love this trade because of the pieces that Brooklyn is getting, but of the partnership between Durant and Lillard. It’s already been stated that Lillard is rooting for this deal, and it’s hard not to. Pairing Lillard, still one of the best shooters in the league, with a seven footer like Durant would pose problems for any defense. The amount of size and shooting the Trail Blazers could trot out onto the floor would be almost menacing, and with the new addition of Jerami Grant a defensive backline can be formed around the two “average” defenders. The basketball is going to be amazing and the storyline even better. Portland will finally reward the loyalty of Lillard, and KD might be able to salvage some kind reputation from bringing victory to Portland(which by the way is very close to Seattle).
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