Exactly three years after he joined the Brooklyn Nets, Kevin Durant on Thursday asked to leave. His trade request, made directly to team governor Joe Tsai, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, and first reported by The Athletic and Stadium’s Shams Charania, upended the first day of the free-agent negotiating period and shifted attention from signings to potential trades.
With free agency basically on hold until the Nets tip over the offseason’s first domino, there’s no time to waste. We need to figure out where Durant might wind up.
With four fully guaranteed years left on his deal, the 33-year-old KD spent large chunks of last season looking very much like an MVP-caliber player. The haul for Durant will be absolutely gargantuan.
The Oklahoma City Thunder got five first-rounders, two pick swaps, Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for Paul George in 2019. That same year, Anthony Davis netted the New Orleans Pelicans Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, three first-rounders and a swap. Neither George nor Davis was at KD’s level in the league hierarchy at the time, and neither came with as many years of team control.
A lack of franchises with both the combination of assets and the desire to sacrifice their long-term draft stash for a player in his mid-30s could keep the market from spiraling completely out of control. But we’re still likely to see a trade package that, at the low end, rivals what it took to get George and Davis.
Let’s dive in.
The Miami Heat are second-to-none in their talent-acquisition ambition, so they would have belonged near the top of a Durant landing-spot list even if KD hadn’t slotted them among his preferred destinations, as B/R’s Jake Fischer reported he did.
As will be the case with every team we cover, it doesn’t make sense to burn many calories explaining how or why Durant fits on the Heat. KD has won titles and collected an MVP while working alongside a diverse cast of superstars throughout his career.
He’s arguably the purest scorer who’s ever played, and the damage he can do to a defense on or off the ball will follow him wherever he goes. He’s a transcendent talent with maximum scalability.
You cannot find a team on which his game would get in the way of someone else’s or where his contributions would be duplicative. The guy fits everywhere, and he elevates everyone. All we really need to know is whether the acquiring team, typically a contender looking to get over the hump, has what it takes to make a competitive offer.
So, back to the Heat side.
If Durant has any say, he’d probably prefer Jimmy Butler not be involved in the package. The point of going to Miami would be to team up with another superstar in pursuit of a title, which would seem to take Butler off the board.
Bam Adebayo cannot be acquired by the Nets unless Ben Simmons leaves the roster first because of a rule that prevents teams from having more than one player on a designated rookie max contract acquired via trade.
Everything should be on the table in Brooklyn, so we shouldn’t rule out a Simmons trade clearing the way for Adebayo to be the centerpiece of a Durant deal, but that construction is impossible at the moment.
The best Miami can do without expanding this into three-team territory looks something like this: Kyle Lowry, Tyler Herro, rookie Nikola Jovic, three first-round picks (2023, 2027 and 2029) and three swaps.
Few teams would be better equipped to fill in the backcourt gaps created by Lowry and Herro’s exit than the Heat, who could do so through free agency. Players would flock to Miami, already among the league’s most desirable destinations, to join a core that included Durant, Butler and Adebayo.
Miami’s need for improved half-court offense would disappear with Durant in the fold, making last year’s No. 1 seed in the East an even more serious threat to win a ring.
Trade Idea: Brooklyn Nets Receive Kyle Lowry, Tyler Herro, rookie Nikola Jovic, three first-round picks (2023, 2027 and 2029) and three first-round pick swaps for Kevin Durant.