It’s been nearly five weeks since Kevin Durant sent shock waves through the NBA after reportedly requesting a trade from the Brooklyn Nets. But despite an endless supply of rumors, buzz, and headlines ever since, Durant remains with the team as trade talks have seemingly stalled.
The 33-year-old forward is still one of the most coveted players in the league, but the massive bounty of players and picks the Nets are reportedly requesting is a tough bar to meet for any team. So far, no suitor has made an attractive enough offer for Brooklyn to pull off a deal. And with Durant under contract through the 2025-26 season, the Nets star doesn’t have much leverage to force his front office’s hand to send him elsewhere.
So how will the Durant saga play out? Will we be stuck in this limbo forever? The Ringer surveyed its NBA writers and asked them what would be the most interesting outcome of the KD trade talks.
Rob Mahoney: Nets
The Durant sweepstakes have gone so far around the bend that the most likely outcome at this point is that the superstar player in the superstar’s league won’t actually get what he wants. It’s pretty weird that Durant is still a Net more than a month after asking to be traded, without the slightest indication that a deal could be coming soon. It’ll be stranger still if (or when?) he reports to camp with Brooklyn this fall, possibly alongside Assumed Laker Kyrie Irving as the living embodiments of the team’s purgatory state.
Is a superteam still a superteam if its stars are desperate to be somewhere else? Who knows, but even if not, would any of the rumblings over the past month really prevent Brooklyn from shrugging into contention anyway? Durant, Irving, some version of Ben Simmons, and a host of quality role players makes for a pretty formidable group—even if it’s only held together by the grace of a complex trade market. Every team wants Durant. Yet few can actually afford the cost of trading for him, and right now, even those few don’t seem especially eager to pay the hefty price. So Durant will be a Net until something budges, in a transitory state until he’s suddenly not.
As it turns out, the most fascinating outcome of a trade request from one of the best players in the sport is to get no real resolution at all. Adding KD to any team would vault them up the competitive ranks, giving instant credibility to their championship dreams. We know more or less what it would mean for him to join the Suns or the Heat or even the Celtics. What we don’t know is whether him starting the season in Brooklyn would mean anything at all. As we kicked around potential trade packages that would send Durant to this team or that, maybe we ignored the escape hatch that could lead to some kind of appeasement. There could still be a way for KD to be content as a Net—or maybe just to appear so as he plays out his partnership with the team, with all involved waiting out the perfect return.
It can be a drag to keep up with a prolonged trade saga (cut to Simmons, whose ask to be shipped out of Philly hung in the air long enough to turn rancid), but every case can’t help but teach us things about the people involved. We learn something about Durant by whether he shows up for camp. By whether he participates, and whether Irving follows suit. By how he interacts with his teammates. In whether he ultimately suits up for regular season games, and what he’s willing to invest if he does. We’ve seen Durant work through nearly every basketball situation imaginable in his 14 seasons in the NBA. Now, thanks to all this mess, we get to watch him tackle something completely new.
Seerat Sohi: Celtics
In a team’s development process, no stage is more fragile than the attempt to go from great to greater. To tinker and evolve without losing the components that fueled its success. It looked like the Celtics threaded that needle perfectly this summer by trading for Malcolm Brogdon, a steady table-setting guard to temper their turnover-prone offense, and signing Danilo Gallinari. But with Kevin Durant on the trade block, the temptation is strong, and they’re facing this dilemma once again.
In 2018, the Raptors traded DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard and took on multiple messy iterations before ultimately winning a championship. But the season before, the Celtics crashed and burned after trying to hit the upgrade button by dealing Isaiah Thomas for Kyrie Irving. Boston knows better than most how different these trades can look on paper versus in reality.
The Celtics have reportedly offered Jaylen Brown, their de facto no. 2, who is eight years younger than Durant, but the Nets also want Marcus Smart, Boston’s best perimeter communicator, and the reigning Defensive Player of the Year who shepherds their hard-nosed identity.
Would losing Brown and/or Smart knock them down a peg defensively, or would Durant’s pairing with Ime Udoka reignite the multifaceted defensive monster that dominated with the Warriors?
The unanswerable question of how those intangibles measure up against Durant’s sheer talent is fascinating. So is the prospect of a Celtics-Warriors Finals rematch with Durant in green and white.
Kevin O’Connor: Pelicans
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said in early July that the Pelicans hoped head coach Willie Green, who was an assistant when Durant was with the Warriors, would have the opportunity to “sell the vision that they have” to KD. I’d imagine it’d go something like: “Kevin, imagine if you replace Brandon Ingram and get a chance to play next to a healthy Zion Williamson. You, Zion, and CJ McCollum would be the best scoring trio in the league. Herb Jones would defend the opponent’s best players so you can play all over the floor like you did with us in Golden State. We can go small with you three, plus Larry Nance, and we have the bigs to match up against anyone. And we would still have leftover assets to improve the team in the coming years even after getting you. We’re set up to contend now and deep into your 30s. This city is ready for a championship and you can lead us there.”
There isn’t a better pure basketball fit for KD than New Orleans. That is, as long as Williamson stays healthy. But the Pelicans think he’s coming back 100 percent next season. There are Pelicans fans who’d rather keep Ingram and sit on their picks for the next star to become available. And it makes sense to an extent considering Ingram is a 24-year-old All-Star. I once said the Lakers should be cautious about moving him for Kawhi Leonard back when he wanted out of San Antonio.
At this stage, though, Ingram would need to be the centerpiece of any trade for the Nets to consider making a deal. The Pelicans have a lot more to offer with 13 future first-round picks and four players drafted in the first round since 2019: center Jaxson Hayes, guard Kira Lewis, forward Trey Murphy, and guard/wing Dyson Daniels. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Nets wanted Jones, or Jose Alvarado, or Devonte’ Graham, as well. Bottom line, New Orleans has a ton it can offer and would still have plenty of talent and pieces left over to complement KD. Joining Williamson now could be sorta like tagging along with Joel Embiid in 2017, after he missed his first two seasons then played only 31 games as a rookie. Embiid was just about to blossom into a megastar, and while he hasn’t had perfect health since, he’s done enough to lead his team to the playoffs every single year. The worst of Zion’s injury woes could be in the past. KD and Zion would be a true force.
Zach Kram: Warriors
Let’s examine three quick questions about this scenario …
1. Can the Warriors actually trade for Durant? The answer here is a definitive yes: With Andrew Wiggins to match salaries, a host of intriguing young players—Jordan Poole, Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, James Wiseman—and all but one of their future first-round picks still around, Golden State can put together an intriguing package to entice the Nets.
2. Should the Warriors actually trade for Durant? Again, the answer in theory is a definitive yes. The reigning champs are focused on winning as many titles as they can in the Steph Curry era, and Durant would represent a sufficiently significant upgrade over Wiggins to increase the current group’s ceiling. After all, he once replaced Harrison Barnes and helped Curry and Co. win a pair of titles.
3. Will the Warriors actually trade for Durant? Here we slam into a likely no, however. The Warriors seem content with their young players and just won a title without Durant. No matter how much such a trade would be like poetry, rhyming with what came before, it’s hard to imagine Golden State actually bringing Durant back.
Dan Devine: Grizzlies
Hey, you know where it’d be fun to see Kevin Durant play basketball next season?
I pitched the Grizzlies as a potential KD trade destination last month, because it’s good to imagine fun things, and it’s awfully fun to think about Memphis filling its wing hole between youngsters Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. with one of the greatest and most versatile scorers in the game’s history.
Morant doesn’t shoot it like Kyrie Irving does, but his electric game and preternatural playmaking would fit just as neatly next to Durant. Jackson provides the last-line-of-defense shot-blocking and mistake-erasing to help minimize the impact of an aging KD losing a step in coverage. The Grizzlies ranked fourth in points scored per possession last season, fueled by their elite transition game, but they often struggled to produce when the game slowed down, finishing just 22nd in half-court offensive efficiency. Adding Durant, a virtual guarantor of elite half-court-scoring precision, would go a long way toward solving that problem, particularly in the postseason. Memphis fell to the Warriors in the second round of the playoffs thanks largely to its offense short-circuiting in Games 4 and 6; as Golden State knows all too well, there’s no “in case of bucket-getting emergency, break glass” option finer than Durant.
In theory, Memphis has the combination of projectable young talent and draft capital to construct a deal worth Sean Marks’s while. In practice, though, building a swap that keeps Brooklyn afloat as a contender and allows the Grizzlies to still have enough around Ja to contend is pretty tricky.
Could Jackson plus Dillon Brooks and a boatload of picks get it done, provided the Nets feel comfortable with JJJ’s long-term prognosis after his recent foot surgery? If Jackson’s too much of a question mark, might a larger deal headlined by rising star Desmond Bane, Brooks, picks, swaps, and the $28 million in expiring contracts of Steven Adams and Danny Green pique Marks’s interest? If Brooklyn’s dead set on getting off of the $38.6 million owed to Joe Harris over the next two seasons, would an empty-the-cupboard package—Bane, Brooks, Adams, Green, 2021 first-round pick Ziaire Williams, plus enough picks and other cheap young players to make the math work—get the Nets to yes? And, even if it did, could Memphis feel confident that what’s left around its new big three would be good enough to take another step forward in what promises to be an even more brutal Western Conference?
The answer to all of those questions is probably no. But it’s August, where dreams take flight, and the vision of a Ja-KD-JJJ trio whooping a wide variety of tricks is too enticing to let die on the vine of plausibility.
Isaac Levy-Rubinett: Thunder
Let me first lay out why Durant-to-OKC, from a purely hypothetical standpoint, makes sense. The market for Durant seems to be in somewhat of a holding pattern, and Brooklyn may not be able to net the kind of blue-chip, young All-NBA talent it seeks. So pivot to the team with endless draft capital, recoup as many picks as possible, and be on your merry way—the equivalent of a listerine rinse for the NBA’s most exhausting franchise. I know the Thunder have something good going already. Chet Holmgren, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lu Dort, and Josh Giddey make up a tantalizing and delightful core. But you know who else is good and tantalizing and delightful? Kevin Durant! Skeptics argue that trading for KD would prematurely interrupt what has so far been a promising rebuild in OKC, and that Durant’s presence wouldn’t even elevate the Thunder to immediate contention in the West. But Durant is under contract for four more years. With OKC’s rising talent and the expected graceful decline of Durant’s silky game, the Thunder can not only expect to contend before Durant hits free agency but also view him as an accelerant and mentor in their rebuild rather than an end point. The logistics of the trade would prove difficult, what with matching salaries and all, but that’s what GMs are for—and SGA is not off the table.
Durant in OKC would be a celestial blend of chaos, stability, and intrigue. KD left the Thunder in 2016 for new experiences—to learn, to grow, to win, to evolve, to find himself. I don’t know whether he accomplished the latter, but he took care of everything else, and now his former team could provide the perfect situation to play out the back nine of his career—away from saboteurs, drama, national media, and the like. Focus on basketball. Mentor the young’uns. Win, eventually. Run towering pick-and-rolls with Holmgren. Bury the hatchet with Thunder fans. Take a private jet to New York at your leisure. But most importantly, write your own career story and put your stamp on a franchise in a way you’ve always seemed to want but never been able to achieve.