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Ranking Kevin Durant’s most likely trade destinations

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JULY 14, 2022

To say that Kevin Durant, who ranks No. 12 on ESPN’s all-time players list, is the greatest player of all time on the trade block is far from an oversell. An unstoppable scorer who can score from anywhere on the court, the former Warrior earned the praise of the great Kobe Bryant, who said that he was never able to figure him out.

Durant decided to join forces with Kyrie Irving on the Brooklyn Nets in 2019, a move that never translated into meaningful playoff success due to a plethora of complications. As a result, both Durant and Irving recently went public with their trade demand from the Nets.

While the initial report cited the Miami Heat and Phoenix Suns as Durant’s preferred destination, it appears that the Nets are in search of a king’s ransom in return for their investment in Durant.

As many as 20 teams are reported to have interest in Durant, and the trade process has been described as an “auction.” The criteria for an ideal fit for Durant is a team with at least one other star, enough trade value and recent playoff success. This is a criteria his two preferred destinations fit. With respect to this criteria, this article will rank the top seven most likely trade destinations for Durant.

The seven teams’ likelihood of acquiring Durant will be ranked by measuring win-now ability, potential trade compensation and past/current rumored interest from Durant with potential trade scenarios for each team. This leaves out the likes of the Pelicans and Blazers, who Durant and his team, explicitly or otherwise, are rumored to not be interested in, as well as the Sixers and Mavericks, who have meager trade compensation.

7) Los Angeles Clippers: The Clippers are beyond underrated in the Durant sweepstakes, and could emerge as a dark horse destination given their location in LA. The Clippers already lured in two-time finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, and are easily a contender if healthy. More importantly, they have the perfect trade piece for the Nets in Paul George. This trade could bring the Clippers a terrifying lineup of John Wall, Robert Covington, Leonard, Durant and Ivica Zubac, and is certainly worth it for the win-now Clippers. For the Nets, combining Ben Simmons with George and Norman Powell is far from a rebuild.

Clippers receive: Kevin Durant, Joe Harris

Nets receive: Paul George, Norman Powell, Terance Mann, 2027 first-round pick, 2029 first-round pick

6) Denver Nuggets

Simply put, if the Nuggets pull this off, which they are more than capable of, they would have the best offensive duo in the NBA by far. While Denver may have turned down every trade offer for Jamal Murray in the past, this may be the time to pull the trigger. It’s hard to imagine any team stopping the reigning two-time MVP in Nikola Jokic and Durant. The one barrier is Durant’s willingness to commit to playing in Denver, and whether Denver deems the price of its young stars to be worth it. Additionally, pairing Simmons with Murray is bound to continue Simmons’ stunted development.

Nuggets receive: Kevin Durant, Seth Curry

Nets receive: Jamal Murray, Aaron Gordon, two first-round picks

5) Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies took the NBA champion Warriors to six games, and have a top young player in Ja Morant. The pairing of Morant and KD is very likely to lead to a deep playoff run, and Memphis has more than enough to meet the Nets’ high demands. Much like the Nuggets, however, the Grizzlies fit every criteria and appear to be an ideal fit, with the one barrier being whether Durant is willing to commit. As for the Nets, pairing these two young players next to Simmons ensures a bright future.

Grizzlies receive: Kevin Durant

Nets receive: Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., three first-round picks

4) Toronto Raptors: After shockingly landing Leonard in 2019, the Raptors and Masai Ujiri have proven that they are more than willing to go all-in on winning. While the recent report of their reluctance to give up Scottie Barnes in a trade presents a barrier, their young core is filled with valuable trade assets that can make up for it. Granted, trading 20-year-old Barnes for a 33-year-old Durant that will make $53 million at 37 years old is risky. That said, winning championships must be the priority and a pairing of Durant with Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet feels like deja vu of their previous run with Leonard. This trade package is also ideal for Brooklyn’s future, as OG Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr. are both reaching their prime.

Raptors receive: Kevin Durant

Nets receive: OG Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr, Khem Birch, three first-round picks

3) Boston Celtics: The Celtics famously invited Tom Brady and many Boston celebrities to help recruit Durant in his 2016 free agency, and many believe that he was close to choosing them. This preexisting connection, along with the Celtics’ finals run, make them about as ideal and plausible a destination for Durant as any. The Celtics must be willing to part ways with one of Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum, more likely the former Cal standout Brown. Paired with a young core, outstanding coaching and defensive capabilities, it’s hard to imagine a 1-2 duo of Durant and Tatum not being championship favorites.

Celtics receive: Kevin Durant

Nets receive: Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Grant Williams, two first-round picks

2) Phoenix Suns: The Suns have often been cited as Durant’s preferred destination, for good reason. The duo of Devin Booker and Chris Paul is only two years off a finals appearance, and the Suns can acquire Durant without giving up either. The Suns were eliminated by Dallas in the playoffs due to offensive deficiencies, scoring a meager 27 points in a half. This makes Durant a perfect fix as a top offensive player of all time. In return, the Nets receive a package of capable young players to join forces with Simmons. That said, the reason the Suns are not first is due to the better trade package that the No. 1 team can offer.

Suns receive: Kevin Durant

Nets receive: Deandre Ayton (sign-and-trade), Landry Shamet, Mikal Bridges, four first-round picks

1) Miami Heat: One Jimmy Butler miss away from the finals, the Heat have a great roster up and down. From a young core featuring Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo to capable veterans in Butler and Kyle Lowry, the Heat have both the trade assets to acquire Durant and the preexisting winning culture and talent to make for a perfect fit. This young core recently made a championship against the Lakers, and any combination of Herro, Robinson and Adebayo is about as good of a trade package as the Nets can receive.

Heat Receive: Kevin Durant

Nets Receive: Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Nikola Jovic, Gabe Vincent, Kyle Lowry, two first-round picks.

Ultimately, this offseason has been filled with unexpected twists and turns, and the NBA will be nearly unrecognizable next season. While this list of seven teams is certainly plausible, it would be far from shocking to see a team outside this list win the bidding war for Durant. The paradigm of superstars constantly demanding trades is not one that is preferred by many, as the commissioner recently came out in disdain of Durant’s trade request. Wherever Durant winds up, it will surely shake up the league’s power rankings.

AJ Alany covers rugby. Contact him at [email protected].

JULY 14, 2022

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