Brooklyn Nets continue contact with Suns but aren't rushing Kevin Durant trade

Dana Scott
Arizona Republic
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The Suns remain in contention to land megastar Kevin Durant, but Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks and team owner Joe Tsai are not rushing and remain determined to explore all trade options to get the best deal, league sources told New York Post on Sunday. 

Nets General Manager Sean Marks is reportedly holding out for a young All-Star and several draft picks, meaning the Suns will need to include a third team as a trade partner.

The 12-time All-Star Durant has four years left on his $198 million contract, but is exploring trade packages. 

However, ESPN's Senior NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski reported the same day the Nets have been in "consistent contact" with the Suns and Miami Heat after Durant requested a trade on the first day of free agency on June 30.

He has Phoenix and Miami among his top preferred destinations, but the deal might require a suitable third or fourth trade partner to make it happen.

But the trade is not deemed imminent or at an advanced stage.

"Two of the teams that Kevin Durant would like to play with: the Phoenix Suns, the Miami Heat, they have both been in pretty consistent contact, I'm told," Wojnarowski said on SportsCenter.

"I think both teams, individually, may not have enough to do a deal with Brooklyn without being able to go out and move some pieces around in three-team, four-team trades."

Superstar players have a recent history of heft in choosing their ideal next landing spot when requesting trades:

  • James Harden was traded by the Houston Rockets to the Brooklyn Nets in January 2021, and then from the Nets to the Philadelphia 76ers  this past February. 
  • Anthony Davis forced his way out of New Orleans to be traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in July 2019.
  • Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder to Los Angeles Clippers that same month as Davis.

But the Nets seemingly have the upper hand in where Durant could go next.

Wojnarowski added the Nets are assessing what trading Durant could command in return following several trades of All-Star players since free agency began. 

The Utah Jazz traded center Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for five players and five draft picks including four first-rounders (for 2023, 2025, 2027, protected 2029) and a 2026 pick swap on Friday.

The day prior, the Atlanta Hawks acquired former San Antonio Spurs All-Star guard Dejounte Murray and center Jock Landale, and Atlanta received four draft picks including three first-rounders (protected 2023, 2025, 2027), and a 2026 pick swap.

The Nets don't have first-round draft picks over the next five years, and had none in June's draft. That's because of the Harden acquisition from Houston. When the Rockets dealt Harden, the Nets sent the Rockets their unprotected first-round picks in 2022, 2024, and 2026, as well as their unprotected first-round picks swaps in 2023, 2025 and 2027.

"I think Brooklyn is going to try to exhaust four, five first-round picks, four pick swaps in it, but also at least an All-Star level player," Wojnarowski said.

"You look at who's available, how they get those deals done, they're generally going to be complex deals and will take time putting together, but Brooklyn knows they have time on their side now not just the offseason, but Kevin Durant has four years left on his contract. Brooklyn will talk throughout the league and get what they know has to be a monumental deal if they're going to trade Kevin Durant."

The Suns won't have their All-Star Devin Booker in any trade offers because he’s still in his rookie max deal, and there's a collective bargaining agreement rule that prevents a roster from having two players on rookie max contracts from their previous team. The Nets got three-time All-Star Ben Simmons from the Harden trade, and Simmons was on a rookie max deal from the Philadelphia 76ers before he went to Brooklyn. Plus, Booker just agreed to terms for his four-year, $224 million supermax extension on Thursday, so he's staying in Phoenix.

The Suns have control over their future first-round draft picks for the next five years and further, which could be in a trade package for Durant.

There has been widespread speculation that the Nets could view Phoenix's starting wing and this year's Defensive Player of the Year runner-up Mikal Bridges in a trade package, and possibly the Suns' other All-Star Chris Paul. The Nets reportedly aren't interested in restricted free agent Deandre Ayton for a sign-and-trade from Phoenix because of the CBA bylaws, and he'd be instantly hard-capped at the luxury tax "apron."

And it's not just because of the 23-year-old big's skill set.

The CBA has a rule called "base-year compensation," which reduces a player’s outgoing salary to be worth half of their new starting salary. 

Ayton is coming off his four-year rookie deal, and a max offer for him would start at about $31 million. If he signs a max deal with a team who traded for him, his outgoing salary value from on the Suns' side would count for half that amount he’ll earn in the first season of his new contract.

As for the apron, any team who could get Ayton in a sign-and-trade can't surpass the 2022-23 season’s luxury tax threshold set at $150.26 million in salary immediately after or anytime following the trade.  

That's why there has been much speculation about a three- or four-team trade involving potential suitors with salary-cap space. The cap is $123.65 million for teams next season.

This pending Durant trade could take through the summer or thereafter, not in a matter of days as Suns or other team's fans would hope for.

Have tips for us? Reach the reporter at dana.scott@azcentral.com or at 480-486-4721. Follow his Twitter @iam_DanaScott.

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