Things escalated quickly for the Brooklyn Nets (32-22) with Kyrie Irving demanding a trade over the weekend and then being shipped out to the Dallas Mavericks. But, it appears that if general manager Sean Marks gets his way, they will make at least one more move as they seek to keep Kevin Durant – sidelined for the last 14 games with a sprained MCL – happy.
Despite already dropping the potential blockbuster trade of this year’s cycle, the Nets still hold plenty of power this time around and could be working toward a deal with the only other team possessing as much juice as they are right now – the Toronto Raptors.
“Toronto in general, they kind of hold the keys to this deadline, aside from the Nets, because they hold all the top players,” reported Ian Begley on SportsNet New York’s ‘The Putback’ podcast on February 8. “And they’re talking to the Nets and I’ve heard as of last night, they have been adamant about getting Nic Claxton back in any kind of deal with Brooklyn…They’re playing hardball with Brooklyn and you’d expect them to. They don’t have to trade OG Anunoby. They don’t have to trade Pascal Siakam. So they would be looking for the best deal possible.”
Marc Stein of The Stein Line reported on the Nets’ interest in Siakam as well as teammate Fred VanVleet in a series of tweets on February 6.
Brooklyn was even among the betting favorites to land VanVleet in recent checks.
Their links to Anunoby come among interest in the 25-year-old forward from nearly every team in the league according to Zach Lowe on the ‘Lowe Post’ podcast on December 19.
But there’s a catch.
“The Nets…absolutely had interest in doing business with the Raptors after [the Irving] trade,” reported Brian Windhorst on the ‘Brian Windhorst and the Hoop Collective’ podcast on February 8. “Whether it was OG Anunoby. Whether it was Pascal Siakam. And, look, the Raptors have had an interest in some Nets’ players in the past, including Nic Claxton, who they almost traded for last year at the deadline.
“But if you’re Toronto, if Kevin Durant comes back to market in the summer, Toronto has a very compelling potential offer for him. And I’m wondering how much the Durant — and I say wondering because I don’t know — but I wonder how much Durant’s availability is affecting Toronto and how they’re doing business. And how Toronto is doing business is dramatically affecting the deadline right now.”
Teams Waiting for Kevin Durant Trade Demand
Durant’s trade request over the summer – also related to Irving’s dissatisfaction with Brooklyn brass – held up what was expected to be an active offseason for trades.
Instead, teams kept their powder dry hoping the Nets would crumble under their own weight with Irving’s flightiness and Durant’s willingness to simply move on, albeit in a way that is not as disruptive to the basketball being played, as he described his previous demands.
As it stands, however, neither Durant nor the Nets have opted for a breakup.
Nic Claxton’s Breakout Only Part of the Issue
It is no small matter that Claxton has been playing lights out all season and has the looks of a solid piece to a winning puzzle. The 23-year-old former 27th-overall pick in 2019 is averaging 13.2 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.7 assists while leading the league in blocks (2.6) and field goal percentage (73.2%).
Together with Raptors cornerstone Scottie Barnes, he would form one of the toughest young frontcourts to face defensively.
But he is providing that for the Nets right now while also being their only viable big man.
There are concerns with Claxton too who is listed at 215 pounds – an issue with the likes of Giannis Antetkounmpo leading the Milwaukee Bucks and Joel Embiid doing the same for the Philadelphia 76ers – and his poor free throw shooting (50.3% this season).
He is in the first of a two-year, $17.2 million pact that will see him hit unrestricted free agency in the 2024 offseason. Perhaps Brooklyn looks to get more of a proven or versatile playoff commodity and agrees. But nothing appears to be imminent despite all of the smoke surrounding these two teams in the wake of Irving’s sudden departure from Brooklyn.