Kevin Durant Balked at Warriors Proposal to Trade Him for All-Star Guard: Report

Kevin Durant and Steve Nash

Getty Head Coach Steve Nash and Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets look on during the second half against the Miami Heat at FTX Arena on March 26, 2022

All-Star forward Kevin Durant departed from the Golden State Warriors in 2019 after three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals. And ironically, it was the way that Durant left that has the Warriors in this year’s NBA Finals. Durant helped execute a sign-and-trade that sent All-Star guard D’Angelo Russell to the Warriors and him to the Brooklyn Nets in 2019. But At the 2020 trade deadline, Russell was shipped to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Andrew Wiggins, whose star has shined brightly with the Warriors this season. In addition, they got the Timberwolves seventh overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft, which they used to draft Jonathan Kuminga, who has been a key for the Warriors in their playoff run.

The sign and trade for Russell is still paying dividends for the Warriors. But it almost didn’t happen. Per ESPN Insider Ramona Shelburne, Durant initially scoffed at the thought of Warriors trading him for Russell.

“[Bob] Myers’ pitch to Durant was a personal one. There was no incentive for Durant to help the Warriors recoup some assets on his way out of town. If anything, sources said, Durant wasn’t keen on the idea of being traded at all. Players of his stature rarely are,” Shelburne writes per ESPN.

“Eventually Golden State added a highly protected future first-round pick (which has become a 2025 second-rounder) to make it worth Durant and the Nets’ while. But the bedrock of this entire deal was the goodwill that had been built between Myers, Durant, and [Rich] Kleiman during their short-lived, but successful run together.”

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Nets Needed Sign & Trade Just as Much as Warriors

Durant’s generosity helped the Warriors recoup assets in a sign and trade. But the Nets needed him to agree to that deal, just as much as the Warriors did. ESPN insider Bobby Marks noted in 2019 that if Durant had decided to just sign with Brooklyn in free agency, it would have left them to make some tough financial decisions.

“Because there was not a sign-and-trade agreement in place for D’Angelo Russell when Brooklyn’s new stars committed on June 30, both Irving and Durant at first were set to have $4-5 million in unlikely bonuses in their contracts. That extra $10 million — generated because unlikely bonuses don’t count toward the salary cap — would have allowed the team to sign Irving and Durant outright and use the remaining room on free agent DeAndre Jordan and second-round pick Nicolas Claxton,” Marks wrote in 2019.

“However, both players caught a financial break when Golden State approached Brooklyn later that night about the possibility of acquiring Russell in a sign-and-trade for Durant. Because cap space was not required to sign Durant, Brooklyn only needed to structure $1 million in unlikely bonuses for Irving to still have room for Jordan and Claxton. In total, Durant and Irving could have opened the door to lose a combined $16 million had the Warriors not stepped in at the last minute.”

Durant and Warriors Found Each Other at the Perfect Time

The Warriors are four wins away from another championship, and this time they have done it without the services of Durant. While this may be true, the impact that Durant had on that Warriors squad cannot be overlooked. He was named the back-to-back Finals MVP in 2017 and 2018, and if he hadn’t ruptured his Achilles in 2019, he likely would have gone for the three-peat.

In the end, the Warriors and Durant formed a union when they needed each other the most. Both Golden State as a team, and Durant as a player, had just suffered monumental playoff meltdowns and were looking to bounce back in a major way. Ultimately, both Durant and the Warriors achieved what they were looking for during his three seasons in Oakland.

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