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The shadow of a Kevin Durant trade still looms over the NBA offseason and Adrian Wojnarowski added an extra dose of chaos last night with a report that the Utah Jazz are willing to listen to offers on Donovan Mitchell.
Time to head to the trade machine and see if we can solve all the league’s personnel problems in one NBA newsletter.
Kevin Durant goes back to the Oklahoma City Thunder
3 first-round picks
This draft package may not have quite as much depth as some other the Nets will be offered by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander may have the highest ceiling of any young player they could reasonably expect to get back in a Durant trade. Dieng is a fun project for the future and the Nets could restock their war chest with multiple picks spread out over the next few seasons.
This would be a fairly significant gamble for the Thunder, giving up their best young player and multiple future assets for a win-now star that doesn’t necessarily blend with the rest of the roster’s timeline. However, it also speaks to the depth of the Thunder’s war chest that this is at least somewhat feasible. The Thunder would retain Chet Holmgren, Josh Giddey, Lu Dort, Aleksej Pokuševski, several other key young assets and they’d still have nine first-round picks and two additional pick swaps over the next four drafts.
The Thunder would get an offensive anchor, someone who can help Giddey, Holmgren, Dort, et al. develop into the best versions of themselves and probably even battle for a playoff spot this season. Over the next few years, even as Durant declines, the development of their young core could make them a contender.
And then there is the beautiful symmetry of Durant going back to where it started, helping the Thunder build for a future that he appeared to have abandoned years ago.
Kevin Durant heads home to Washington
3 first-round picks
There was a point in 2016 when the Washington Wizards fancied themselves as a serious contender to sign Durant in free agency. Durant grew up in D.C. and the Wizards that they could play on both his nostalgia for home and entice him with the chance to play with John Wall and Bradley Beal. In the end, Durant wasn’t even intrigued enough to meet with the Wizards and we all know how things have gone for both parties in the years since.
Here is a chance for the Wizards to finally get their man, and put together a team that could be surprisingly frisky in the Eastern Conference, even if it would still be a tier below the true contenders. Washington would have to give up their three best young players — Kuzma, Avdija, this year’s first-rounder Johnny Davis and three future first-rounders. Kristaps Porzingis is in there too for salary matching, I just couldn’t fit him in the graphic.
This package lacks the star power of some other offers the Nets might see but it has some depth.
Donovan Mitchell shakes up the Central
4 first-round picks
This one is a monster and, due to the constraints of our graphics, isn’t completely detailed above. The Jazz would also receive Coby White and Caris LeVert, in addition to Sexton, Vucevic, Okoro and two future first-round picks each from the Cavaliers and the Bulls.
For the Cavaliers, they get a young player to try building around in Sexton, along with an interesting complementary piece in Okoro and a chance to audition White in a different role. LeVert and Vucevic are expiring contracts that could be held to turn into cap space or flipped during the season for additional assets. It’s a package that lacks star power but they get to concentrate the draft assets over four seasons (rather than spreading the picks out over eight seasons as they would with four picks from a single trade partner) and they get some decent value for Mike Conley. In addition, they’d be set up for lots of flexibility to pursue other deals over the next 12 months.
The Cavaliers give up a fair bit here but they also get the additional backcourt creator their offense needs so desperately and have the frontcourt to help cover for Mitchell’s defensive shortcomings (especially in an undersized backcourt with Darius Garland). The Cavaliers would also get to plug Beverley in as a defensive change-of-pace and could potentially build some suffocating defensive lineups with him at the point of attack and Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley behind him.
The Bulls are the biggest question mark here. They’d be giving up their starting center (even if he was a massive disappointment last season) and sending out two picks and White for an aging veteran point guard when they already have Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and Goran Dragic on the roster. But Conley is a veteran leader who is still an excellent secondary creator, a respectable team defender and a very good spot-up shooter. He’s more reliable than Dragic at this point and if Ball’s knee injury continues to be a problem the Bulls point guard rotation looks a lot shallower.
In addition, the Bulls would pick up Rudy Gay to plug a hole at the backup 4 and Jarred Vanderbilt who could hopefully help take some of the minutes at the 5. It’s a big win-now gamble but it could help the Bulls make a move in the East.
A wrinkle on a classic Kevin Durant trade idea
2 first-round picks
Future first-round pick
We’ve all seen the hypothetical Kevin Durant to the Suns deals but this is a hypothetical wrinkle that gives the Nets a return they may prefer. The Nets end up with Donovan Mitchell instead of Ayton and Bridges, who are routed to the Suns instead. The three first-round picks the Suns would give up are split with two going to the Nets and one to the Jazz. This might be slightly less shiny packages than the Nets or Jazz could get for Mitchell or Durant in straight-up deals but it could work if everyone prefers the specific players (since the Jazz wouldn’t be interested in trading Mitchell for Durant and the Suns wouldn’t be interested in taking Mitchell for Ayton and Bridges).
For the Suns, they get to go all-in on a title chase, pairing Durant with Chris Paul and Devin Booker, and adding Beverley and Vanderbilt for depth.
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