It’s weird to think there was a time when Kevin Durant played for the Oklahoma City Thunder with Russell Westbrook and James Harden — that there was a time when it looked like those three would win a ring in that city and Durant would potentially be one of the few players to spend his entire career with one franchise.
Because now we are here instead — with Harden in Philadelphia, Westbrook in Los Angeles and Durant, once again, reshaping the NBA by deciding he wants to play for a new team, this time deciding his time in Brooklyn has run its course.
It isn’t the first time something like this has happened with Durant. When he left the Thunder for the Golden State Warriors, many called him out for taking “the easy way”, for joining a super team, for abandoning a city that would have done anything for him, but at the heart of it, just wanted to see him win with the Thunder.
Durant got what he wanted and more with Golden State — it’s hard to call someone a fraud for joining said team when at the end of the day they’re the one winning the Finals MVP award, twice, and being the missing piece said “super team” needed.
After the honeymoon ended at Golden State, another opportunity to win presented itself in Brooklyn — join NBA champion Kyrie Irving, one of the most talented guards in the game who can score from quite literally anywhere on the floor, and Harden, who can be one of the league’s most elite offensive players when he wants to be.
But things went sour when they joined forces on the Nets, with Harden eventually getting a trade to Philadelphia, while Irving’s decision to be unvaccinated prevented him from playing at home until March 28 of the past season.
A first-round sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics in the playoffs was a breaking point for many in the Nets organization, including Durant, who finally requested a trade from the team on the first day of free agency.
With a top talent like Durant available, teams will be throwing trade offers left, right and centre to bring him to their team.
Here is a look at some of the likely destinations.
Of the teams Durant has been rumoured to have put on a list to be traded to, Miami seems to be at the top of the list, and for good reason. Jimmy Butler himself is enough for many NBA players to want to play alongside. The Heat also have Bam Adebayo and now Victor Oladipo has signed for another year under coach Erik Spoelstra.
The trade package that they would have to give up would likely have to include Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro. Miami doesn’t have a ton of future assets, and giving up Adebayo doesn’t work — due to Adebayo and Ben Simmons both being on Designated Rookie Extensions, where Simmons already takes up the team’s single trade acquisition allotment.
However, if the Heat did somehow make the money or trade work, they would have Durant paired with Butler, Adebayo, Oladipo, and Kyle Lowry — seeing as Herro would likely have to go in the deal — making them a top contender in the Eastern Conference.
Phoenix seemed to be another top destination for Durant. A trade package including DeAndre Ayton and Mikal Bridges could be in the mix, but with Devin Booker signing a supermax contract with the Suns while being a player that was a rumoured “must” in a trade for Brooklyn, it seems unlikely now.
Teaming up Durant with Booker and Chris Paul would be ideal for Phoenix, especially since the Suns have full control of their first rounders that they would be able to deal to Brooklyn alongside Ayton and Bridges. However, after already losing Harden and with the potential to lose both Irving and Durant, the Nets would likely want a certified star in return versus the young talent that Phoenix can provide.
New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans shocked everyone when they put up a fight against top-seeded Phoenix in the playoffs, and adding Durant alongside new acqusition C.J. McCollum and Brandon Ingram would continue to help elevate the team’s new look into a real Western Conference contender.
Giving up Zion Williamson on top of first-round draft picks and promising young players seems like a lot, but given Williamson’s injury history, the Pelicans have seen success without him, while Brooklyn may want to take the chance on a youthful rebuild. Jaxson Hayes, Larry Nance Jr. and Devonte’ Graham are all also available to send along to Brooklyn.
In Masai Ujiri we always trust, but a deal for Durant would mean giving up a lot of star potential and picks, which the team president has stocked up on in the past few years.
Giving up DeMar DeRozan was hard on the heart, but everyone can agree that the Kawhi Leonard trade was worth it in the end.
The biggest question with a Raptors deal is not that the Nets would easily take any of the likes of Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr. and OG Anunoby. And just like Phoenix, the Raptors have full control of their future first-round picks.
The issue is the Nets would need Scottie Barnes in the deal – the Rookie of the Year would be essential to a rebuilding, new-look Brooklyn team, and Durant would be part of a win-now team in Toronto. Whether Ujiri wants to win another title now, or build around Barnes for the future, is the biggest question.
What teams won’t get Durant?
It’s highly unlikely that he returns to Oklahoma City, and a Los Angeles Lakers deal seems unrealistic for many reasons, including but not limited to the Westbrook, LeBron James and Anthony Davis situation, plus the fact that Durant wants to join a playoff contender. However, the Lakers have apparently stated they have a trade package ready for both Durant and Irving if they want to continue to play together.
There also is a possibility that Durant does re-sign with the Nets after all, as Irving did opt-in to his contract, But after the results from the last three seasons in Brooklyn, it seems like the time for any potential has diminished and Durant will look elsewhere as he controls his own destiny.