August serves as the depth of the NBA’s offseason. But, the league never sleeps. Kevin Durant requested a trade from the Brooklyn Nets earlier in the summer. But, little more than fading rumors have come of that monumental news.
According to Ian Begley of SNY reported, two new teams have been added to Durant’s preferred destination list. One is the Boston Celtics. The other is the Philadelphia 76ers.
This comes almost exactly 48 hours after Shams Charania reported that Durant issued an ultimatum to Nets owner Joe Tsai in a meeting: It’s me, or it’s Sean Marks and Steve Nash. Hours after Charania’s report, Tsai tweeted, “Our front office and coaching staff have my support. We will make decisions in the best interest of the Brooklyn Nets.”
“Something worth noting: As of earlier this week, there were high-ranking members of the Sixers who’ve felt strongly about engaging with Brooklyn on a Durant trade. It is unknown if Brooklyn and Philadelphia have made any recent progress on a trade,” Begley wrote.
He later added: “Well, it’s worth noting that, in addition to Boston, Durant also sees Philadelphia as another welcome landing spot, per people familiar with the matter. The Sixers would certainly have to include Tyrese Maxey in a trade for Durant. Given the dynamics at play, you’d think that Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle and other players/draft picks would be included.”
Begley went on to say, “Depending on the players and picks involved, you could see either the Celtics or Sixers satisfying Brooklyn’s wishes in a Durant trade.”
Let’s start with the Celtics.
Begley notes that Durant wants to play with Marcus Smart. However, there have been various iterations of trade packages that included Smart going to Brooklyn as part of a package for Durant. If Durant has an interest in going there because of Smart, that might limit what the Celtics can offer. Obviously, any competitive offer probably starts with Jaylen Brown. If Smart isn’t included in final offers, is Brooklyn really going to hold if nothing else is close anyway?
Charania reported in late July that the Celtics offered Brown in a package for Durant. At the time, a source familiar with Durant’s thinking shot down the idea that he would want to go to Boston. Circling back after Begley’s report on Wednesday, the source indicated that Durant’s desire, at this point, is simply to depart from Brooklyn. That’s a different message than categorically denying interest in joining a certain team.
Regarding the Sixers, another league source confirmed that Durant is interested in playing for Philadelphia.
The timing of these reports is certainly curious. As Begley notes, Durant and James Harden have been seen together in Europe over the last couple of days.
The only thing that isn’t a total no-brainer on Philadelphia’s side is the opportunity cost of trading Maxey. Maxey outperformed expectations wildly in his second year. So, it’s difficult to confidently project what his next jump looks like. But, who is anyone to try to put a cap on his ceiling when all people do is rave about his work ethic? Maxey is also cost-controlled. The league’s rules give the Sixers financial advantages towards retaining him in the long-term.
Trading him in a package for Durant reasonably gives the Sixers a three-year window. They would presumably be overwhelming favorites as long as they have a core of Joel Embiid, Durant, and Harden.
But, ask the Brooklyn Nets how much being a favorite matters. Championship or not, you’re likely heading for a rebuild as soon as Durant and Harden depart. It’s not like you won’t be reminded of the deal after they depart, either. There will be some in the national media and in the fanbase who will refer to the deal in revisionist or hypocritical fashion every time Maxey scores 20 points in a game.
On the other hand, if Durant has interest in playing for your franchise, you must make an honest effort to acquire him. That is especially the case when you roster a superstar who may have a shortened tail end of his career. In their current state, a case can be made that the Sixers have no chance of winning a title. Trading the prized Maxey may be a golden ticket to get to the Finals. That’s an opportunity cost that must be overlooked if the Sixers give themselves multiple true shots at a championship.