Would the Bulls Have Shot at Landing $194M Former Scoring Champ?

Chicago Bulls

Getty Kyrie Irving (left) and Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets.

Could the Chicago Bulls have a legitimate shot at superstar Kevin Durant if he were to leave the Brooklyn Nets? If the latest reports out of New York are true, the answer could be a resounding “yes” following both teams’ unceremonious exits from the postseason.

Durant has not spoken with the Nets since they were swept out of the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs by the Boston Celtics, Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News reported on May 24.

Winfield wrote that he’d received a tip last summer saying that Durant would follow Kyrie Irving out the door if Irving declines his $36.5 million player option and the Nets do not offer him a contract extension.

“If Irving leaves outright as a free agent this summer, disgruntled by the Nets’ hardball stance on his availability, Brooklyn doesn’t have the cap space to replace him with a star. … It wouldn’t be a surprise if Durant becomes frustrated with the organization’s ability to put championship pieces around him,” Winfield wrote.

So what if Durant became available? Would the Bulls do due diligence in considering landing one of the game’s greatest scorers?

Affinity and Bromance

A Durant-to-Chicago move would not be as unlikely as it might seem.

Durant has been complimentary of the job Bulls Vice President of Basketball Operations Arturas Karnisovas has done to make the organization competitive again.

“I’m really a fan of this team,” he said, according to a May 12, 2021, story by NBC Sports Chicago. “Obviously, being coached by [head coach] Billy [Donovan] and his staff, a few of those guys on his staff, I know exactly how those guys are approaching every day as a unit. … And you can just see it out on the floor.”

Durant has ties to Donovan and Bulls assistants Mo Cheeks and Josh Longstaff, all of whom spent time together on the Oklahoma City Thunder, where Durant played from 2008 to 2016. He also appeared to get close with Bulls star Zach LaVine last summer as the two won Olympic gold for Team USA.

LaVine also spoke highly of his Olympic teammate, via NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C Johnson.

“He’s like nobody else,” he said in November. “Defense doesn’t really affect him. And that’s the thing that, even talking today, we’re going to play some really good defense on him. And he’s going to shoot some shots over double-teams or contested hands that he really doesn’t see. It’s just his special ability to negate the defense and not let it affect him.”

How Chicago Could Land Durant

LaVine, of course, could be leaving soon. The Bulls are currently awaiting his decision about whether he will explore free agency decision amid rumors hinting that his departure is imminent.

If LaVine enters free agency, as is expected, and signs elsewhere, the Bulls could trade for Durant, who signed a four-year, $198 million extension last August.

One scenario would see Chicago sending Nikola Vucevic, Coby White and Patrick Williams to Brooklyn in exchange for Durant. Both White and Vucevic have been mentioned in trade rumors this offseason despite Karnisovas’ stated goal of continuity. The organization has been less willing to move off of Williams, with an executive telling Heavy’s Sean Deveney in April that it would like to give him more time to develop.

Coincidentally, Durant specifically mentioned Vucevic, White and Williams by name when he praised the Bulls in 2021, so without them on the Bulls there could be some risk in diminishing his interest in playing in Chicago. Still, to pursue a player as good as Durant might be worth the risk – if he wants out of Brooklyn.

A Rift Grows in Brooklyn

Winfield, the Daily News reporter, wrote that the Nets’ “Big Three” is at risk of dissolution. Brooklyn already ridded itself of James Harden via trade in February. The next domino to fall could be Irving, who can opt out this summer in hopes of inking a five-year $245 million max deal.

On April 25, Irving indicated he’d like to stay in Brooklyn. But Nets general manager Sean Marks has indicated that he has no plans on offering such a deal.

The Nets are concerned with Irving’s availability and would be in dire straits if he walked and their future depended on Ben Simmons, who came over in the Harden trade but has not yet suited up for the Nets.

Could that lead Durant, who has left a deteriorating situation for a better one before, to want out?

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