We’re one day away from hitting the one-month mark on the Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant trade request. Let’s reset where we are.
This initial shock wave sent through the NBA was quickly followed by a tidal wave for the Phoenix Suns. Yahoo! Sports’ Chris Haynes reported Phoenix was one of Durant’s favorite destinations. Later in the news cycle, Athleticism Shams Charania and ESPN’s Zach Lowe both cited Phoenix as not only one of their favorite destinations, but the preferred destination.
To dive headfirst into hypothetical Suns trade packages, there was a catch, with Arizona Sports John Gambadoro noting that the Nets weren’t interested in getting center Deandre Ayton in a potential deal. Still, a signing and trade to a third team could have helped Phoenix send enough out of Brooklyn to pick up Durant. That, plus Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson and required draft picks/trades, seemed to carry enough weight on it.
Then Ayton signed an offer sheet with the wisely matched Indiana Pacers and Phoenix, halting this tidal wave.
And now the sea is rather calm.
Monday gave us a shock to the Boston Celtics system joining the Durant draw with their inclusion of All-Star winger Jaylen Brown in talks with Brooklyn, by sydney. This, obviously, let the public know that Brooklyn was fine with turning down what seemed like the best trade package available, along with Charania’s note that “there’s a deal to be made” with Boston. Oh ! Be careful! They might be onto something!
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said Bickley and Marotta of Arizona Sports on Monday that he did not believe these were active talks and Lowe on his featured podcast a date about 10 days before the report for when those talks have heated up.
Semantics aside, the fact that a player of Brown’s stature – a 25-year-old who is a top 25 player in the league – is being discussed indicates what it will take for a team to acquire Durant. this summer (or fall).
This is where we come back to the beginning and to the Suns.
Ayton’s return to the Valley was a real complication. His absence from a Durant contract now, from a salary and value standpoint, means the Suns’ lack of wiggle room is enough to cause a fit of claustrophobia.
Bridges and Johnson are to be the headliners at the top of a comeback. There’s no one like Bridges, no one who plays his role. But offense starters and skilled scorers like Brown who also defend are the most valuable archetypes in basketball today. There is no debating who is the most advertised player on the Brooklyn side.
Twins cannot be separated in such an exchange. For Suns fans, this could cause chest-tightening anxiety. Without Ayton’s involvement in a notional Durant trade, including Bridges and Johnson, it’s necessary to squeeze every last ounce of juice for what Phoenix can provide.
From there, at least one of Jae Crowder, Dario Saric, or Landry Shamet needs to be involved for the salaries to work. It wouldn’t surprise me, based on reports from Charania that Brooklyn wants capable players back, that the Nets want to make two.
Then there are draft picks and trades. The Suns can thank the Atlanta Hawks and Minnesota Timberwolves for putting this part of any negotiation in an unrealistic stage because of what those two teams gave up for Dejounte Murray and Rudy Gobert, respectfully.
The maximum allocation is four unprotected first-round picks and three trades, and there’s a reason I called it a “requisite.” Based on where the standard has been set in Murray and Gobert returns, it seems like all of those picks and trades are a must for Brooklyn. How much more valuable is Durant than Gobert? Four times? Five times?
If Suns general manager James Jones pushes the big, shiny red button on a deal roughly around those parameters, it would hamper his flexibility and gut his roster in a way that would directly contradict how he won. the rapidly rising NBA Manager of the Year title. in one of the best GM’s around. More on that in a minute.
Phoenix would have more to do in our alternate timeline where the 17 total diehards who have a Dragan Bender jersey can celebrate by writing “keBENDERant” on the back.
The Suns need to add another guard this offseason to shore up their second unit and make regular-season relief for Chris Paul more realistic. But how would they get this guy? No more first-round picks to trade. As for a negotiable salary, most of them would be gonzo.
Wait a minute…who’s got Ja Morant? Luka Doncic? Paul George? Bridges would be gone, and it’s a tough ask from Torrey Craig or Josh Okogie to be the fifth guy next to Ayton, Durant, Paul and Devin Booker. But, again, how would Phoenix get this guy?
You just have to understand it. Let’s say the trade is Crowder and Saric like the two expiring contracts attached to Bridges and Johnson. The nine-man rotation would be Paul, Booker, Craig, Durant, Ayton, Cam Payne, Landry Shamet, Bismack Biyombo and Okogie or Damion Lee. I’ll add a returning Ish Wainright (sign him!) as the 10th man to make you feel a little better.
That would be all. The free agent market has all but dried up. Is it deep enough? Balance?
No. But that’s not the point of trading for someone like Durant anyway, and that’s not what would make this Suns team the favorites for a championship.
Jones and the key decision makers alongside him understand this point. I just wonder if they could accept it. I’m really not sure. That’s not how we got here, so the Suns are rightly trying to keep from ruining the aforementioned depth and flexibility entirely.
That’s why we haven’t made a deal yet, and why Gambadoro reported Burns and Gambo Monday that the Suns are still there and checking in with Brooklyn as are the other parties involved.
But at some point, the Suns are going to have to move on. Based on the reports above, we can interpret that Phoenix did not come up with a package similar to what I suggested. Otherwise, he would be out of the contest, because the Suns are in a unique position where we all know the best possible return Brooklyn can get from them.
This current Suns team is still a great basketball team. He would win at least 55 games in an absolute gauntlet of a Western Conference. But he would also run into the same problems in his final two playoff eliminations, unless properly addressed.
To repeat myself, the waiting game is the right choice for the Suns right now. Even a month later. It’s Kevin Durant who panics.
But how long are they willing to play it?