Report: Kevin Durant requests trade from Nets, lists Suns as one of preferred teams
Corrections & Clarifications: A previous version of this article incorrectly reported where Kevin Durant ranked among NBA scorers. He was the fourth-leading scorer.
The NBA has been sent into a frenzy wondering where Kevin Durant will land next.
And it might be Phoenix because that's one of two places he wants to be.
Durant reportedly requested a trade from the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
The news broke several hours before the free agency market opens Thursday at 3 p.m. Brooklyn Nets General Manager Sean Marks is working with Durant and his business manager Rich Kleiman to find a trade for the former MVP and 12-time All-Star.
The 33-year-old Durant was the league's fourth-leading scorer last season, averaging 29.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-10 wing is still in the prime without any signs of slowing down.
Durant was drafted by Seattle Supersonics before they moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder in 2008, where he played nine seasons. Then he played three seasons for the Golden State Warriors, which he helped lead to two consecutive NBA titles in 2017 and 2018, and he earned Finals MVP honors in both those years. Durant signed with Brooklyn as a free agent in 2019, but sat out his first season with the team recuperating from a torn Achilles sustained earlier in 2019 in the finals against Toronto.
Durant's four-year, $198 million contract extension that he signed with the Nets in August 2021 kicks in next season. He will receive nearly $43 million, $46.4 million, $49.85 million, then $53.28 million over that span, all guaranteed without a no-trade clause in his contract. The Nets plan to move Durant to a team in which they can get the best possible deal for him.
This move happens two days after fellow Nets All-Star Kyrie Irving opted into his $36.5 million player option for the final year of his four-year deal.
ESPN reported that Durant neither spoke to the Nets front office for several weeks or spoke to Irving after his decision to opt in.
After Irving and Durant joined forces, former MVP James Harden strong-armed his way out of Houston for a trade to Brooklyn in January 2021 to create their Big Three. They were widely projected by the media to become one of the league's best offensive trios ever, and had the second-best odds to the Los Angeles Lakers to win Brooklyn's first league title.
But they only ended up playing 16 games together. That was largely because of injuries among them. In addition Irving played just 29 regular season games last season because of his refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, which prevented him from playing home games per New York City's former vaccination requirement in workplaces. That mandate was lifted by New York's mayor Eric Adams on March 23.
The Nets went 13-3 in their games played together (8-2 in the regular season, 5-1 in the playoffs). The Nets lost in the 2021 playoffs to the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern conference semifinals. Then the Nets took a hard nosedive in February after Durant was sidelined for more than 1½ months after he hurt the MCL in his left knee on Jan. 15 at home against the New Orleans Pelicans. The Nets were one of the East's top teams with a 27-15 record, but they went 5-17 in his absence, including an abysmal 11-game losing streak through through mid-February.
Kevin Durant trade odds:Phoenix Suns, Miami Heat, Memphis Grizzlies favorites to get star
Before that losing skid ended, Harden requested a trade to the Philadelphia 76ers, and went there in exchange for All-Star Ben Simmons as part of the deal.
That was the beginning of the end for this iteration of the Nets, led by nascent head coach and Suns legend Steve Nash.
In this past postseason, the Nets were the seventh seed swept in four games by the eventual Eastern conference champion Boston Celtics during the first round.
As Durant pursues greener pastures elsewhere, he and Suns All-Star Devin Booker have a brief history of playing together on Team USA during the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Durant has publicly and repeatedly praised Booker's skills.
“It’s a pretty game for one,” Durant said to former NBA player and ESPN NBA analyst J.J. Redick on his Old Man and Three podcast in April. “I just think he’s really mastering who he is right now. He’s figuring it out, like how to play at an elite level and still win. He’s always scoring the ball but he knows how to win."
After Team USA beat Spain in the Olympics quarterfinals, Durant said this about Booker:
“Lot of people look at him because he’s such a pretty scorer, he can do things so effortless. But he is a savant. He wants to be an all-around basketball player.”
This trade request will start the seismic domino effect among teams including the Suns, who likely would have to give up many assets to acquire Durant.
Since the Suns' crushing Game 7 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western conference semifinals on May 15, Deandre Ayton has been at the forefront of speculation for the Suns imminent roster moves this offseason.
After not offering a rookie max extension at the start of last season, the possible return or departure of Phoenix's starting center and former No. 1 overall pick will either happen in free agency or a possible sign-and-trade.
The Suns made their first of two pre-free agency moves earlier this week. That includes tendering Ayton's $16.4 million qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent on Tuesday to retain the right to match any max contracts offers he receives from other teams. Their second was the following day to not tender backup point guard Aaron Holiday's $5.8 million qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent.
That gives some the Suns some financial relief as they have nine players marked for nearly $129.2 million guaranteed money for the 2022-23 season. The salary cap is $123.65 million next year, which puts then about $21 million away from the $150.26 million luxury tax threshold set Thursday, per The Athletic's Shams Charania. That's without factoring in Phoenix's potential starting point at a $30.5 million max deal offer for Ayton for next year.
As the Suns are in the driving seat as a leading candidate to land him, it will interesting to see who will continue to ride with them and dropped off along the way to make room for him.
Suns free agency updates:Kevin Durant speculation surges
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