The Chicago Bulls have officially thrown their hat into the sweepstakes for superstar forward Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets, per the Chicago Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley. Durant informed Brooklyn of his desire to be traded on June 30, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that he also provided a list of teams.
None of that precluded NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson from reporting on the “best potential” trade package the Bulls could put together to land Durant. The goal, of course, is to still have enough to compete for a title.
A K.C. Masterpiece
Johnson notes that, while Durant put the Miami Heat and Phoenix Suns atop his destination wishlist, the Nets do not have to oblige. He also notes that Brooklyn would be asking for a “monumental” return and that a deal for Durant is “highly unlikely”.
Still, the Bulls have to do their due diligence.
The first package includes the Bulls’ leading scorer, DeMar DeRozan, along with Alex Caruso, and the highly-protected Patrick Williams. It also includes the first-round pick owed to the Bulls by the Portland Trail Blazers.
Johnson’s other proposal went in a more future-oriented direction.
He again offers up Williams. But he added Coby White who, in the first scenario, he offered as an alternative for Caruso. In place of DeRozan, Johnson included center Nikola Vucevic while noting that Brooklyn can flip the latter’s expiring contract at next year’s trade deadline.
Both deals are clear efforts to ensure Durant is paired with Bulls star Zach LaVine.
The two-time All-Star agreed to a max contract worth up to $215 million, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania on July 1, the first official day of free agency.
Durant and LaVine became close during their gold medal-winning tour with Team USA at the 2020 Olympics.
Not All News Is Good News
Johnson explains that the Bulls’ chances of landing Durant are slim noting that they cannot trade their own first-round pick due to the Stepien Rule until 2028, as CBS Sports’ Sam Quinn broke down.
A team must be guaranteed to own a pick every other year. As far as the Stepien Rule is concerned, if a team might not own a first-round pick in a given season, it doesn’t own a pick in that season. This matters because the overwhelming majority of first-round picks traded nowadays carry multi-year protections. Let’s use Portland as an example here. The Blazers owe only a single first-round pick to Chicago. However, that pick has protections that stretch from 2022 through 2028. That means that they cannot trade a single first-round pick between now and then because they might owe a pick in any one of those seasons.
There is also the matter of teams such as the Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans who have a mix of young players and draft picks to offer up.
Johnson notes early on that “all 29” other teams should be expected to inquire about Durant.
Seeing the Potential Bright Side
The Bulls’ chances, however dim, are not zero. They could still offer a mix of win-now pieces, though, Johnson notes including LaVine is a longshot but that he was still their best tradeable asset Durant’s fondness aside.
Likewise, Memphis and New Orleans could balk at the Nets’ asking price.
During the July 1 episode of “The Hoop Collective” podcast with Brian Windhorst, ESPN’s Tim Bontemps was adamant that the Heat’s best offer would not interest the Heat. Windhorst expressed a similar sentiment in regards to the Suns’ offer.
Bontemps said the same of the Bulls’ potential offer. But the gap between them and the top destinations on Durant’s list might not be as wide as assumed.
The Nets are an example of what can happen when teams go all-in for a super team and things go awry. But that is rightfully not enough to deter the Bulls from at least kicking the tires on a potential deal.