Kevin Durant made himself the biggest story of the NBA offseason when he requested a trade from the Brooklyn Nets just hours before free agency opened on June 30. After nearly two months of negotiations that never went anywhere, Durant and the Nets have agreed to “move forward with our partnership,” according to a joint release from the team and Durant’s media venture The Boardroom.
No team ever came close to meeting Brooklyn’s astronomical asking price. The Nets never really seemed interested in trading Durant as he gets ready to begin a new four-year contract extension. While there was never any serious momentum building towards a deal, there were a ton of teams and players caught up in rumors and speculation as Durant’s trade request lingered. Now that it’s over, there’s bound to be some hurt feelings around the league.
The Nets are the obvious winners of KD ending his trade request. There are many more losers. Here’s who hurt the most as Durant’s trade request came and went without a deal.
4. The Celtics’ relationship with Jaylen Brown
The Boston Celtics came two wins away from an NBA championship last year. The Celtics already improved their roster this offseason by adding Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari, and were always going to start the season as one of the favorites to win the 2023 title even without a Durant trade. That why it was a little curious when it was reported that Boston had offered Jaylen Brown, Derrick White, and one first round to Brooklyn for Durant.
The idea of Boston trading Brown for Durant made sense. The only problem is that Brooklyn was never going to accept that package. As Boston’s offer dominated the news cycle one day in July, Brown acknowledged that he had heard the rumor.
Smh— Jaylen Brown (@FCHWPO) July 25, 2022
This isn’t the first time Brown has been mentioned in trade rumors, but it has only happened when the Celtics were going superstar hunting for Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, or Durant. It felt a little more real this time, though, especially after Brown was such a critical piece in the NBA Finals.
Brown is under contract for two more seasons in Boston, and can then become a free agent. We’ll see if he lost any love for the Celtics after this whole ordeal.
3. Phoenix Suns
When Durant requested a trade, he immediately listed the Suns as his preferred destination. It makes sense: the Suns had just won the most games in the NBA last season before flaming out in the second round of the playoffs, and already had a talented core in place led by Devin Booker and Chris Paul. A player of KD’s stature saying he wanted to go to Phoenix should have pushed the Suns to act with urgency to actually land him, but Phoenix reportedly never even put its best offer on the table.
The Suns have never won a championship before, and it feels like their arrow is going the wrong way after last season’s crushing playoff defeat. Yes, Booker, Mikal Bridges, and Deandre Ayton are all still ascending, but Chris Paul is another year older and closer to the end of his career. With KD in tow, the Suns would have been positioned as a legit title favorite coming into the season. I’m not quite there with them right now as currently constructed. I’d have the Warriors, Clippers, and Nuggets as the teams more likely to represent the West in the 2023 NBA Finals to start the season.
2. Kevin Durant himself
You have to wonder how Durant feels about all of this. Less than a month ago, he told Nets governor Joe Tsai he didn’t have any faith in the long-term direction of the franchise. Then KD gave Tsai an ultimatum to chose between himself and Brooklyn’s braintrust of Sean Marks and Steve Nash. Now Durant is supposed to go back to the Nets and trust everything will be fine? This really feels like a nightmare scenario for Nash in particularddddd, who certainly has better things to do with his time than coach a disgruntled superstar. Winning is of course the best medicine to mend broken relationships, but are the Nets really going to be that good?
Banking on Ben Simmons to fully returning to form after offseason back surgery and a year-long holdout seems like a bad bet. Joe Harris will continue to be an injury risk moving forward, too. Losing Bruce Brown and Andre Drummond hurts a bit, but it’s possible Royce O’Neale and TJ Warren could add some sorely needed help on the wing. Either way, I’d put the Bucks, Celtics, Raptors, 76ers, and Heat clear ahead of the Nets in the Eastern Conference.
Everything might be chill for now, but how would KD feel if his season with the Nets’ season ends in the first or second round once again? That still seems like the most likely outcome.
No team had more riding on a Durant trade than the Lakers. While LA was never a serious suitor in the KD sweepstakes, they were the obvious landing spot for Kyrie Irving if Durant was moved. With no other apparent market for his talents, the Lakers and Nets could have had a nice and easy deal in place: Russell Westbrook’s expiring contract and first round picks in 2027 and 2029 to Brooklyn, Irving to LA. With the news that Durant is staying with the Nets, that dream is over.
As sad as it is to say, it feels like the Lakers need to move Westbrook for a sizable upgrade to have any shot at winning the title this season. Irving was far and away the best option. Maybe there’s a potential deal with Indiana for Myles Turner and Buddy Hield, but even that won’t offer the same upside. LeBron James doesn’t want to end his career missing the playoffs or exiting in the first round like he has with the Lakers the last two years. Los Angeles needs a star who fits much the roster cleaner than Westbrook. With Irving off the table, it’s hard to figure out who that can realistically be.