NBA

Could the Trail Blazers have engineered a Kevin Durant trade?

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A potential Kevin Durant trade is currently at the epicenter of the NBA news/rumor cycle. The Brooklyn Nets superstar may not be back with his team next year. The Boston Celtics currently have the inside lane, but the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors have also been mentioned as potential destinations for the future Hall-of-Famer.

Here in Portland, a reader wants to know if the Blazers could have entered the bidding war for Durant, if some bad-season moves hadn’t been made last year. That’s the subject of today’s Mailbag Edge from Blazer.

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David,

With the recent news of Durant requesting an ET Dame & Nurkic trade creating buzz by posting the image of Durant in a Blazers uniform, I can’t help but think of Durant joining the Blazers.

As things stand, it seems painfully obvious that the Blazers don’t have the aces to acquire Durant in a trade. My question isn’t a naive question of how the Blazers are doing it now, but rather a hypothetical question, and if it was different. What I can’t help but wonder is, IF the Blazers didn’t blow up the roster built by Olshey last year, would they have the trump cards right now to create a Durant trade? If they hadn’t traded CJ, Norman Powell, Robert Covington and Larry Nance Jr etc. last year, would there be some sort of deal they could make with last year’s pre-trade deadline slate to now acquire Durant? I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on the Nets’ interest in one of these main players, knowing that it would be a hypothetical trade?

As additional context, I had long believed that Olshey would be the GM to consolidate several assets to acquire a 2nd/3rd star to play alongside Dame (and possibly CJ). He did it with the Clippers, although you could say the league helped him by canceling the trade that would have sent CP3 to the Lakers instead, so I naively hoped it would happen again in Portland. When the Blazers trades took place last year, it seemed like the approach of bundling multiple assets and picking another star went off the table, so I guess a side issue implicit in my question below above is that the Blazers are better off with recent roster changes? Not if this team could have won it all, but would it have been better to wait until a disgruntled star had the potential to acquire a Durant-like player rather than make the trades he did?

Thanks for sharing your reviews,

Corey

Let me reassure you. No.

If the Nets drop Durant and Kyrie Irving, they must do one of two things:

  • Get a young player or star level players to give them a boost in rebuilding.
  • Get a bushel full of draft picks to reset and restock for a longer rebuild.

I don’t dispute the skill level of the Trail Blazers players you mentioned. CJ McCollum was an offensive maestro. Tribute of respect to Norman Powell, Robert Covington and Larry Nance, Jr. for their skill and play.

Note, however, that they’re all mid-to-late-stage veterans, closer to 30 than 23. You could say McCollum was a “star,” but what kind of performance boost could the Nets get? to expect when acquiring it, or all of those old Blazers together? How far has this collection of players advanced alone, or with Damian Lillard at his side? They didn’t put the Blazers in the running. You wouldn’t expect them to carry the Nets there either.

Every player you mentioned has been or will be paid at an appropriate veteran level. McCollum’s contract is more than that. The Nets wouldn’t get much cap relief in that type of deal, certainly not enough to add a difference maker to the talent pool.

That was the problem with the Olshey-era roster building you mentioned. The cost of players acquired by Portland has gone up over the years, but their value has gone down. Their usefulness remained stable, but it was not enough.

Once upon a time, the Blazers acquired Moe Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu on the cheap. They didn’t turn things around, but the cost was low. They served for a few years and Portland traded them in for a modest gain or let them go. But you can trace the cost of acquisitions which become more and more expensive over the years. Nance, Jr. cost a first-round pick. Powell cost Gary Trent, Jr. These deals left Portland with fewer assets to use and/or trade. They also left less room for the Blazers, as many of those players had to be re-signed to be retained.

This would have been acceptable if the total wins had increased, but it is not. Portland ended up doing the same at an increasingly higher price, mortgaging more of its future assets in order to keep the wheels turning.

If the Blazers had wanted to fulfill the second criteria for the Nets trade — bombarding them with a package of draft picks — they couldn’t have done it very easily. Had they succeeded, they would have left themselves starved of future picks, completely vulnerable if Durant or Lillard got injured and failed to perform.

Under Olshey, the closet was emptying at an alarming rate. Letting go of their former veterans was Portland’s way out of this carousel.

The players involved were all at the peak of their careers or beyond, with little additional value to the team and costing a fortune. They couldn’t have drawn a superstar in the trade because, by definition, any team wanting to succeed at a higher high-paying level would simply keep the superstar they already had instead of trading for a lesser group of players. in exchange for their best. a.

The Blazers got a cut on those mid-season deals, but if they wanted to make them then, they probably had to. They may have gone through the summer with all those players, but there’s no guarantee the offers would have been better. Their wage bills reportedly skyrocketed when they re-signed Jusuf Nurkic and Anfernee Simons. They would have been forced to make every possible deal to mitigate it. Moreover, they would not have had the flexibility or the assets to pursue Jerami Grant.

Portland will be banking on Grant and Simons being better for them than the collection of veterans they traded. And if a Durant deal somehow remains in sight, chances are a package centered on Grant and Simons would be more appealing to the Nets than one centered on McCollum and all those mid-level veterans.

Thanks for the question, Corey! You can all send yours to blazersub@gmail.com!

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