In case you’ve been stranded at the middle of the sea with a lack of internet connection for the past week, Kevin Durant has requested a trade from the Brooklyn Nets. According to legal betting apps in Ontario such as DraftKings, the Toronto Raptors are the second most likely team to land his services, should Brooklyn ultimately decide to deal him before the start of the 2022-2023 season.
As Durant is under contract for four more years, the package that the Nets will be commanding for arguably the greatest scorer ever should be unprecedented. That theory was only exacerbated by the fact that the Utah Jazz were able to land five first round picks for a 30-year-old Rudy Gobert.
With the former MVP set to earn just south of $43M next season, you can piece together any fair combination of assets that you’d like and dream yourself into believing KD will don the red and white of the North come autumn. Just note that it has been reported across multiple credible sources that Toronto, thus far, has been unwilling to include Scottie Barnes in any package.
We’ll leave the outgoing package creation and post-trade rotation creation to Masai Ujiri, Bobby Webster, Nick Nurse, and the NBA trade machine addicts for the sake of this article. Keeping to the details of how a trade can actualize, let’s dive into some of the intricacies of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and uncover why ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Bobby Marks believe that Toronto presents the most unencumbered opportunity for the Nets to offload Durant for a gargantuan return.
Brooklyn’s lack of picks
Brooklyn traded away four of their own first-round picks to acquire James Harden from the Houston Rockets in January of 2021. When trading away superstar players, the modus operandi may typically be to dive head-first into a rebuild, but devoid of their own draft picks and any incentive to tank, Brooklyn will certainly be aiming to contend next season – with or without Durant.
Donovan Mitchell, Bam Adebayo, and the Rookie Designation Rule
The NBA’s CBA is far too convoluted for the average fan to understand, to the extent that a rule exists stating a team can have a maximum of two players on its roster who are currently playing on five-year maximum rookie extensions, and that they can only trade for one of them. In case you’re not following, the reason why this is relevant is because the Nets already traded for Ben Simmons earlier this year, who inked a five-year, $177M contract in 2020. As a result, the Nets cannot take back either Donovan Mitchell or Bam Adebayo in a Durant trade. Essentially, this annihilates the possibility of Durant heading to South Beach, but furthermore, complicates a three-team trade with the Phoenix Suns unless the Raptors were to get involved.
It has widely been reported that the Nets are not interested in taking back DeAndre Ayton in a blockbuster trade with the Suns. Without him, Phoenix’s package isn’t close to commensurate with Durant’s value. However, a three-team trade could be worked out whereby Ayton would be re-routed elsewhere for assets that Brooklyn does prefer. One team rumoured to be interested in Ayton was the Utah Jazz, however without the ability to include Mitchell in a deal, those negotiations become increasingly complex.
The only other team with reported interest in Ayton is the Raptors, but by serving as the third team in a trade to grease the wheels of Durant’s wagon rolling into Phoenix, they would need some incentive to assist their direct competitor. Ujiri is known for playing hard ball, and if he sticks to his strategy, any trade with Phoenix could take a long time to come to fruition.
The reason why a Durant trade is less tangled for the Raptors is because even if they wanted to include Siakam in a trade, his rookie extension was only for four years, so there is nothing prohibiting the Nets from trading for both him and Simmons.
Otto Porter Jr. and the Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception
Flexibility has always been imperative to the Raptors success during the Ujiri regime, and that means Toronto will always do whatever it takes to refrain from triggering the hard cap. By signing Porter Jr. to a two-year, $12.4M contract, the Raptors remained under the Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception, which is important because it now enables them to make a trade without becoming hard capped.
Thaddeus Young’s extension
Thaddeus Young’s new deal with the Raptors was disclosed as an extension, as opposed to as a free agent signing. The importance here lies in the fact that free agents are subject to a recently-signed clause, restricting them from being traded until December or January, however given that Young was extended, his salary can be included in a trade immediately, should it be required to match ingoing and outgoing numbers.
The role of the Indiana Pacers
After unloading Malcolm Brogdon to the Boston Celtics, the Indiana Pacers cleared enough room for a maximum contract slot. There is no rule stating that they have to use that space this summer, but if they decided to, the only player remaining who is remotely close to charging that price is Ayton.
Because the Suns tendered a qualifying offer to Ayton, he remained a restricted free agent, and they will almost certainly match any contract he signs to avoid losing him for nothing.
Should any news of Ayton signing an offer sheet come out, Raptors fans who remain interested in acquiring Durant should rejoice, because upon matching his offer sheet to restrict his services to themselves, the Suns will be unable to include Ayton in a sign-and-trade, which would shatter Phoenix’s offer for KD.