The sky is falling in Brooklyn. After a week of public posturing with Kyrie Irving, the Brooklyn Nets appear to be at risk of losing both Irving and Kevin Durant. Shams Charania tweeted today that Durant is "monitoring" the situation with the Nets and considering his options.
That is pretty vague, but part of the job we have at The Big Lead is reading between the lines of insider reports. What Shams appears to be pushing here is that everybody might be fleeing the ship. Durant and Irving are a package deal, so if the Nets won't give Kyrie what he wants, then KD is going to ask out.
Which is crazy because Durant signed a four-year extension with Brooklyn eight months ago that pays him $189 million. He'll make $42 million next year. We saw what happened last season when a guy fresh off signing an extension tries to force his way out, and he actually ended up in Brooklyn. But this is Kevin Durant we're talking about here. The Nets won't hold him hostage. If he wants out, they'll find the best package possible.
We have perhaps never seen a player of Durant's caliber traded with this many years left on his deal. So let's take a gander at figuring out where he could go and what the return would look like for Brooklyn.
New York Knicks
If Durant really wants out it is nearly impossible to imagine that the Nets would willingly trade him across town. But like I said: we live in unprecedented times here. Anything is possible, and you can bet the mortgage that the Knicks would do damn near anything to bring Durant to Madison Square Garden. In this scenario, the Nets would have to settle for a haul of draft picks instead of swapping one superstar for another. The Knicks could send out Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, and a cheap deal like Miles McBride to make the salaries match. Then add on, oh, four first-round picks over the next eight years and that should kick-start things.
The Nets get two good young players and a big salary to utilize as they please along with a bunch of picks. It's hard to call it an even return for KD. It's impossible to find an even return for someone like him. But it's a start.
Los Angeles Lakers
Nobody should ever rule out the allure of the purple and gold. How could the Lakers get Durant to Los Angeles and team him up with LeBron James? It would require trading everything that isn't nailed down and bringing in a third team to further entice the Nets, but it isn't out of the realm of possibility. The centerpiece of this trade would have to be Anthony Davis. AD is making $35 million and that's enough to trade for Durant straight-up.
The issue is that Brooklyn wouldn't do AD for Durant straight-up, and the Lakers have effectively zero other tradable salaries on the roster. Adding Talen Horton-Tucker won't move the needle. There would have to be a third team involved to send either picks or useful players to Brooklyn. It isn't likely. But with AD in the mix, a deal could be struck.
Los Angeles Clippers
Here I present one of the few superstar-for-superstar trades that actually makes some sense. What if the Clippers offered up Paul George for Durant? Their salaries are very close ($39 million for PG, $42 million for KD) so the money wouldn't be a problem. The Clippers have a handful of intriguing young players they could include in the Terrance Mann/BJ Boston/Isaiah Hartenstein vein. The Nets could reload rather than rebuild, surrounding George with a handful of quality role players and maybe using Kyrie to keep loading up. It would be a great pivot for them, even if PG isn't good enough to be the top option on a championship team.
The Clippers should be thrilled to do this, but it's an obvious risk. Kawhi Leonard and Durant have both suffered serious injuries over the last few years that makes availability a legitimate question. It's easy to see a path to this partnership falling apart swiftly and Los Angeles could be content to roll with their current duo and young talent. On the other hand, Kawhi and KD is downright unstoppable on the court.
Here's a more fun option that most people would be happy about as opposed to seeing Durant end up in another big market creating a superteam. The Grizzlies are young, fun, and freaking awesome. They're also overflowing with talent to the point that it may actually become a problem for them when it comes time to hand out extensions. Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, and Brandon Clarke will all expect contracts north of $100 million. Zaire Williams showed flashes that he'll end up there, too. And they have all of their own picks going forward. The time is now for the Grizzlies to take a big swing if they can swallow giving up a large chunk of that homegrown talent.
Realistically, Jaren Jackson Jr. would have to be included and will make $28 million next season. Throw in Desmond Bane, Brandon Clarke, and Dillon Brooks and the money works. Then add three or four first-round picks and it's a package worthy of a superstar, even if there isn't a PG-level talent in there. Then Memphis has Morant and KD for the next four years, guaranteed. That's a damn good team. It's a risk after the Grizzlies earned the second seed in the West with their current core that has a lot of room to grow, but sometimes you have to take a home run swing.