Kevin Durant wants out of Brooklyn, according to reports

Advertisement

Durant’s interest makes restricted free agent Deandre Ayton a prime sign-and-trade candidate. Phoenix needed a lifeline this offseason. Their reluctance to sign Ayton to a five-year $177 million extension or match the four-year $131 million contract that other teams can sign him to put them in a tricky position. Given their tight championship window, Phoenix would do whatever it takes to slot Durant between Devin Booker, perimeter defensive pincer Mikal Bridges and Chris Paul as soon as possible. The Nets may demand Bridges as a sacrifice, but it’s one the Suns would make in a hot second.

The Portland Trail Blazers have been lobbying hard for Durant. Don’t be surprised if Mayor Ted Wheeler hosts a live press conference to woo KD to their title-starved hoops-obsessed city. Portland has the best formula of picks and young talent to sacrifice to the Altar of Durant while maintaining a roster deep enough to contend. They could throw multiple firsts, Anfernee Simons and Shaedon Sharpe in Brooklyn’s direction and both teams could be content. The Blazers might fight to keep Simons, but if it becomes a dealbreaker, his bags will be packed for him.

Advertisement

The Lakers makes sense on paper. Durant joining LeBron would be the ultimate mashup. For years, they duked it out as the top-2 players in the league. They’ve both stumbled from their peaks, but their apex is so high, that they’re still consistently top-five players when they’re at their worst. From the Brooklyn Nets’ angle, Anthony Davis, 29, may have enough juice left in his tank to be an All-NBA big for another five years. His porcelain bones will always be a concern but when he’s healthy, he’s an elite, two-way velociraptor.

Miami got the cold shoulder from Jalen Brunson today after he signed a four-year $110M deal with the Knicks, but re-inserted themselves into the Durant discussions.

Advertisement

However, the Heat don’t own a first-round pick until 2024 and can’t give up consecutive firsts because of The Stepien Rule, which prevents teams from being without first-round picks in consecutive drafts. For Brooklyn to surrender a player of Durant’s caliber they’d likely ask for Bam Adebayo. The Nets would be precluded from swapping Durant for Adebayo because of an obscure rule that prevents teams from having two players who were acquired via trades while they’re on Designated Rookie Extension contracts. After trading for Ben Simmons at the trade deadline, the only way Adebayo could wind up on the Nets is if Simmons were traded. That’s not outside the realm of possibilities, but unlikely because his trade stock is in the basement.

Advertisement

Yet, where there’s a will there’s a way. NBA execs have written the book on twisting through corporate loopholes, but just because they can doesn’t mean they should.

Two point-centers as the focal point of the Nets lineup for the next few years is as problematic as Embiid and Simmons plodding through the rush hour traffic in the paint. However, a three-team trade in which Durant is whisked off to Miami, Bam shipped to another team, who traded their superstar to Brooklyn would be amenable to Miami and Brooklyn. Finding that third team is easier said than done.

Advertisement

The Nets will have a pile of options to review. Ultimately, wherever Durant ends up will upend the league.