Superstar forward Kevin Durant has officially requested a trade from the Brooklyn Nets, after a season that concluded with him and Kyrie Irving getting swept in the first round by the Boston Celtics. Two of his top destinations are the Phoenix Suns and Miami Heat, the top two teams in their respective conferences.
However, the Suns seem to be a more provocative destination for Durant. It would pair him with two All-Star guards in Devin Booker and Chris Paul, who won a league-leading 64 games last season. It would also reunite him with Suns head coach Monty Williams who was his assistant coach during his time with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
If the Suns were somehow able to land Durant, it would place them among the favorites to win the 2023 NBA title. But Phoenix would have to unload some key assets as Nets owner Joe Tsai and general manager Sean Marks have made it clear that their asking price for their franchise player won’t be cheap. This latest proposal from Dan Devine of “The Ringer” suggests a trade that sends Durant to the Suns for Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, three first-round picks, and two first-round swaps.
“As a starting point for an offer, a pair of 25-and-under two-way difference-makers who’ve already played pivotal roles on a Finals team isn’t half bad,” Devine writes.
“Add in that Phoenix is reportedly one of Durant’s preferred destinations (not that Brooklyn’s required to send him to one of them, but still), plus the fact that the Suns—not exactly the most draft-stoked franchise in the NBA, as it turns out—own all of their future first-round picks, and it seems like there might be a plausible framework here. (Provided, of course, the Nets come off their reported “just super maxed out Devin Booker or bust!” asking price.)”
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Durant to Suns Trade Could Be ‘Complicated’
However, Devine also notes that getting this particular deal done with the Suns could be complicated because of Ayton’s contract in a potential sign-and-trade. But those complications could be rectified by sending another player to Phoenix with Durant, such as Joe Harris, which would keep them under the hard cap.
“It’s awfully complicated to get this structure over the finish line, thanks partly to the fact that a signed-and-traded Ayton contract would be subject to base year compensation restrictions—meaning only half of his salary would count for trade purposes—and partly to the fact that Brooklyn would need to offload some salary to be able to take in Phoenix’s package and still stay under the “apron,” which would impose a hard cap that the Nets couldn’t exceed,” Devine continues.
“There are ways to get there: Brooklyn could move Irving or Simmons, or maybe expand the trade to send Joe Harris to Phoenix while taking back smaller fillers like ex-Net Landry Shamet or Torrey Craig. If the Nets can find a way to make the math work, though, Ayton-Bridges-Simmons looks like the core of a formidable defense that can help Brooklyn stay competitive now while replenishing the draft coffers a bit.”
Suns Prepared to Move On From Deandre Ayton
Though he has never been named an All-Star in a star-studded Western Conference that features centers such as Karl Anthony Towns and Nikola Jokic, Deandre Ayton is every bit of a star.
Per Basketball Reference, In his four seasons with the Suns, Ayton has averaged 17.2 points, and 10.2 rebounds, while shooting 63.4% from the field. He also played a key role in the Suns getting to the NBA Finals in 2021. But despite all that he has given Phoenix on the court since they picked him first overall in the 2018 draft, the franchise does not view him as a max contract player moving forward.
“Phoenix has simply decided they don’t value Deandre Ayton on a max contract. The good news for Deandre Ayton is that a number of teams around the league do, and I think as a restricted free agent, most teams are expecting right now as they jockey to get involved with Deandre Ayton is a sign-and-trade scenario,” ESPN Insider Adrian Wojnarowski said. “It’s looking increasingly likely that Ayton is elsewhere in the NBA on a sign-and-trade deal.”
Durant is one of the NBA’s most prolific players. If the Nets do end up moving him, expect it to be for a gargantuan trade package.