Nets star Kevin Durant sent shockwaves through the league by announcing he wanted a trade out of Brooklyn on June 30, as it was just last summer that the 12-time All-Star signed a four-year $194 million contract extension with the franchise, which was set to kick in during the 2022-23 NBA season.
But a new development on Thursday, July 14 appears to have taken Phoenix out of the Durant sweepstakes altogether, an exciting surprise considering the Heat has been gunning for the Slim Reaper since free agency in 2016
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“Suns restricted free agent center Deandre Ayton is signing a four-year, $133 million maximum contract offer sheet with the Indiana Pacers, his agents, Bill Duffy and Nima Namakian, told ESPN on Thursday,” NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski reported. “The Suns have two days to match the largest offer sheet in NBA history and keep Ayton — or let him go to the Pacers for nothing in return.”
If the Suns match the Pacers’ offer, which is the expectation according to Wojnarowski, “They can’t trade Ayton anywhere until at least Jan. 15 — and can’t trade him to Indiana for a year. Ayton will also have veto power on any trade for a year.” If Ayton, the former No. 1 overall pick from the 2018 NBA Draft goes ahead with the Pacers, “sign-and-trade deals are no longer allowed” once he signs the offer sheet with Indiana.
“So far, the Suns haven’t shown an interest in negotiating a sign-and-trade with the Pacers,” Wojnarowski reported. All of these factors benefit the Heat in their goal of bringing Durant to South Beach.
Miami Herald’s Anthony Chiang tweeted after the Ayton news broke, “This essentially takes Deandre Ayton off board as a trade chip for the Suns in the Kevin Durant sweepstakes. Now going to be tough for Phoenix to put together an offer that meets the Nets’ demands.”
Without Ayton, the Heat’s Trade Offer for Durant Becomes More Appealing for the Nets
The strongest trade proposal from the Suns to ultimately land Durant was centered around Ayton, 23, and Mikal Bridges, 25, but with the former becoming untradeable, the Heat’s best offer becomes all the more appealing for the Nets. Unless Brooklyn trades Ben Simmons, Phoenix also can’t include Devin Booker in any trade proposals, as the Designated Rookie Extension rule prohibits teams from acquiring two players via trade signed to that type of contract.
That same rule is why the Heat can’t include All-Star center Bam Adebayo in an offer for Durant unless Simmons is traded. However, they can offer the NBA’s 2022 Sixth Man of the Year award winner, Tyler Herro.
Chiang suggested the Heat offer the Nets Herro, their 2022 first round pick, Nikola Jovic, along with their unprotected 2023 and 2028 first round pics.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe suggested that the Heat utilize Jovic along with a slew of their future first-rounders to seal the deal. Lowe tweeted, “Miami can trade 3 future first-round picks (plus Jovic) *if* they amend the lottery-protected 2025 first-round pick they owe the Thunder to remove the protections. I triple-checked this with @BobbyMarks42 and a few league execs.”
If the Heat is going to pull out all the stops for a star, it’s going to be for a player like Durant, whom Miami has been interested in obtaining since 2016. Last season, the 6-foot-10 forward averaged 29.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 6.4 assists per game, while shooting 51.8% from the field and 38.3% from beyond the arc.
Time & Patience May Pay Off for the Heat
On Tuesday, July 12, Wojnarowski reported that the Heat’s pursuit of Durant remains aggressive. However, time and patience may pay off in the long run.
If other competing offers dry up and the drama in Brooklyn continues to get worse, by January, the Heat will have three more trade pieces at their disposal. Miami has yet to make an outside move in free agency but re-signed Victor Oladipo, Dewayne Dedmon, and Caleb Martin.
Based on how those deals were structured, it seems Heat president Pat Riley may be cooking up something big. Martin becomes trade eligible on December 15, while Dedmon and Oladipo can be moved beginning on January 15.
If the Suns retain Ayton, they will also be able to utilize him in a trade staring on January 15, however, the young center will have the power to veto any trade during the 2022-23 NBA season, which may seriously complicate the process.