Sorry, NETS Fans: Kevin Durant Has Requested a Trade; Targets Phoenix or Miami as Landing Spots

Holy shit. Free agency hasn’t even officially started yet (about an hour and a half still left) but things are already going crazy:

And they’re going to give it to him, too. When a player of KD’s caliber requests a trade, you have to pretty much grant his wishes. Or else you diminish your chances of ever landing a superstar player in the future. Star players are keenly aware of how teams treat their stars.

A few rapid fire thoughts:

  • While the Nets are definitely going to grant KD’s wish here, they have a lot of discretion over where they want to trade him. They can take the best offer on the table. Potential suitors don’t really have to be worried about if KD wants to play for them or not because KD still has 4 more years left on his deal. It runs through 2026. He doesn’t really have a ton of leverage here in terms of dictating where he wants to go. Whoever trades him has his contract for 4 more seasons.
  • According to CBS’s Sam Quinn, teams can “fuck over” the Suns in their ability to get a deal done:
  • This is definitely something to monitor. I would be shocked if somebody doesn’t do this–I doubt the rest of the league is just going to sit back and allow a 64-win team to trade for Kevin Durant. Plus, I think this is in Ayton’s best interest, too: if he doesn’t want to go to Brooklyn, then he should sign an offer sheet with a team he does want to play for, you know?
  • The Lakers should offer Brooklyn a package centering on Anthony Davis. I’ve been resistant to the idea of trading AD, but if it’s Kevin Durant? You absolutely do that. I love AD, but this is KD we’re talking about here. As a basketball fan, I wouldn’t love the idea of LeBron and AD on the same team–it would feel unfair, and it may or may not ruin the league. But the Lakers have to at least try this, right? I mean, AD has a long time left on his deal, and the Nets are unlikely to get a player of his quality in return for KD from anybody else. It could honestly be Brooklyn’s best option from a standpoint of value returned. What other team can offer Brooklyn a potential superstar, while still remaining an attractive destination for KD (presumably) with that superstar gone?
  • The Clippers could also get in on the action. What if they just offer Kawhi for KD? If I’m Brooklyn I would take that in a heartbeat. I would take Kawhi over AD, I think. And the Clippers might want to do this because Kawhi is injury-prone and proving to be unreliable. KD is an upgrade over Kawhi. The Clippers could be in play here.
  • The Kyrie-to-the-Lakers dream is still alive: if the Nets go in the rebuilding route, it would make sense for them to take on Westbrook’s contract because it’ll be expiring next summer. It would help the Nets free up cap space for the free agent summer of 2023. But it all really depends on what the Nets get in return for KD–if it’s a package centering on a boatload of first round picks, then it’s safe to say they’ve chosen the rebuilding route.
  • We’re assuming Kyrie is getting traded too, right? There’s no way the Nets are going to keep him around and try to build around him for the future. So if Kyrie says, “Next summer I’m signing with the Lakers, don’t anybody else try to trade for me,” then the Nets would basically have to take the Westbrook trade package I think. Because they’d be trying to move Kyrie, but no other team would want him. I think if Kyrie wants to end up as a Laker, he has the power now to make that happen.
  • I wonder why KD did this? Is he sick of Kyrie? Is he sick of the Nets after the way they treated Kyrie? There are so many questions here. The good news is, KD is not shy–he tweets and goes on podcasts all the time. We’ll get answers here for sure. It’ll all come out in the coming days and weeks I’m sure. I can’t wait. He’s going to have to go on JJ’s or Draymond’s podcast or something. That is going to be appointment television (technically YouTube).
  • This completely upends the whole free agency process. 29 other teams right now–well, maybe not Golden State, so 28–are currently frantically trying to put together a trade package for Kevin Durant. Everything else has moved to the back-burner.
  • So in the summer of 2019, LeBron and AD teamed up in LA, Kawhi and Paul George teamed up with the LA Clippers, and KD and Kyrie teamed up in Brooklyn. The KD-Kyrie experiment in Brooklyn lasted all of 3 disappointing seasons, the Clippers have been a massive disappointment as well (partially because of injuries, but also partly due to choking in the Bubble), and while the Lakers have been disappointing the past two seasons (largely due to injuries, and poor roster decisions), they did win a Championship. They’re the only duo of the three to win a title. And yet, they’re also the ones who get the most slander.
  • What if KD gets sent back to OKC? Nobody can offer more first round picks, that’s for sure…

That’s all I’ve got right now. Apparently Brian Windhorst says the deal could be happening sooner rather than later (as in, like, today). So I’ll keep updating this post as stuff rolls in.

Update: this, from Brian Windhorst.

His exact words: “We know where KD is with the Nets, that is now over. We don’t know where KD is with Kyrie–the league doesn’t know. But it has been floated to me, by executives, that–[crosstalk]–that if they were to be kept together, that the Lakers would potentially have a package that you could trade for both of them.”

Goodness GRACIOUS.

If KD and Kyrie end up on the Lakers, they might have to just fold the league. It would be be even more unfair than the KD Warriors.

I am a die-hard LeBron Stan–a Bronsexual, if you will–and even I would not applaud this move. I’d even be wary of adding Kyrie to the Lakers along with Bron and AD. I think even that is an unfair superteam.

But LeBron, KD and Kyrie? That’s just not even fair. It might be the last straw for the owners, honestly. The new CBA would go scorched-earth on the idea of superteams. They’d reconfigure the contracts and the salaries in such a way that the player empowerment era would be dealt a mortal blow, and the age of superteams would probably be dead for good.

The thing about superteams, though, is that they’re only okay–in my view–when there is a competing superteam that is able to beat them. When it’s lopsided and one team is so far ahead of everyone else, that’s bad for the sport–that drives people away. It makes the sport non-compelling when the Championship is a foregone conclusion every year.

I know superteams have been overrated over the past 10 years–the LeBron Heat weren’t as successful as people thought they’d be the night of The Decision, and the KD Warriors, while dominant, ultimately only won two titles when all was said and done.

The Bulls superteam of the 1990s–which was in the most watered-down era in league history–basically ruined the league. There was no team even close to their level.

But in the 1980s, you had the Sixers superteam, the Lakers superteam, the Celtics superteam, and then at the end of the decade, the Pistons quasi-superteam (not a concentration of superstars, but one superstar [Isiah], and then a bunch of really good players). Having multiple superteams is good–it’s compelling and people are engaged.

Only having one superteam is a bad thing, though. Unequivocally.

The best part about the Miami LeBron era was that they weren’t unbeatable. Yes, it was LeBron and Wade on the same team, but Wade really had to take a backseat and take a more diminished role to make that thing work. And Bosh was basically relegated to a role completely different from the one he was playing in Toronto. LeBron and Wade were too similar for the Heat to get 100% out of both guys–Wade had to take on a different role.

And the Spurs gave the Heat a run for their money in 2013, the Mavs beat them in 2011 (largely due to LeBron choking, though). And by 2014, Wade was past his prime and riddled with injuries, and the Spurs ate them alive.

The Finals were at least compelling when LeBron was in Miami. 2011 was compelling because Dallas won. 2012 was compelling, at least at the start, because people really thought OKC could win (they were favored going into the series). 2013 was one of the greatest series of all time. Only 2014 was really a dud.

The KD Warriors era was not compelling. You can see this by looking at the NBA Finals average TV rating broken down by year over time:

Without getting too deep into things, you can see that from 2015-2017, the Finals had their highest ratings since the Jordan years. But after 2017, once people saw how dominant and unstoppable the Warriors were, Finals ratings plummeted. 2018 and 2019 both saw massive declines in viewership, and the reason is obvious: because the Finals were a foregone conclusion. Viewership cratered in 2020 due to the bubble, the pandemic and the political messaging that alienated some fans, but viewers are coming back, as we can see.

There are other instances we can look at where an un-compelling matchup leads to low viewership: 2007, when 22-year-old LeBron led the Cavs to the Finals against the Spurs. Barely anyone watched, and it’s because it was such a lopsided matchup. Everybody knew the Spurs would dominate.

By 2002, people were disinterested in the NBA Finals because it was the Lakers’ three-peat year. Everyone knew they would dismantle the Nets, and they did: it was a sweep. Also, you can see declines in Finals viewership in that era every time the Spurs were in the Finals: 1999 (strike year), 2003, 2005 and 2007 were some of the least-watched Finals. The Spurs were just boring to a lot of people even though they were so great.

Now, even though the Bulls were a (basically unbeatable) superteam in the 90s, the NBA Finals had their highest ratings ever. I think this is largely a product of Jordan being so popular and so well-marketed. He was a cultural phenomenon. Plus, the NBA was riding the wave of a resurgence in popularity that happened in the 1980s with Magic and Bird.

My point is, if KD and Kyrie end up on the Lakers with LeBron, it will probably be bad for the league. There would have to be some other superteam out there that could contend with them to make the Finals compelling. And since Steph and Giannis aren’t joining forces any time soon, that’s probably not happening. Although you never know how free agency will shake out.

On the other hand, KD robbed LeBron of at least one ring (maybe two) by going to the Warriors. Even Draymond Green admits it. If KD joins the Lakers and they win a ring or two, a lot of Bron stans will look at it as KD making amends for his move to Golden State–at least between KD and LeBron.

Although I doubt KD–or anyone else, including LeBron himself–cares about that.

Update 2: Stephen A. and Windhorst are saying that Kyrie is “forcing” himself to the LA Lakers.

Windhorst says “Kyrie is out of town as fast as he possibly can.”

This was pretty obvious from the start, now we have it confirmed. With KD on his way out, Kyrie is the next domino to fall.

We thought it would be the other way around, though.

Just incredible how this all happened over the past few hours. The Nets are really about to lose Harden, KD and Kyrie in a span of 3 months, all via trade requests. Insane.

The NBA offseason is the greatest show in sports.

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