🚨 Kevin Durant Has Been Traded to the Nets | Thoughts on the New and Improved LA Lakers

Last night, I was up late watching some analysis of the Russell Westbrook trade and listening in on some Lakers Twitter spaces (which are the an absolute riot, by the way). I was just about to fall asleep when someone in the Twitter space said the Nets and Suns were nearing a deal for Kevin Durant. At first I thought it was trolling, because for some reason in my half-asleep mind I thought I was listening to a replay of a livestream. But then I kind of snapped into it and realized it was all happening live and up to the second.

As if things weren’t crazy enough in Phoenix with the Super Bowl coming up!

Trade details started rolling in, and we learned that the Suns were keeping both Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton in the trade, meaning the Suns will now have KD, Booker, Ayton and Chris Paul.

Immediately people began throwing around the superteam label, and of course that’s where my mind went as well, as I’m sure was the case with you. In the off-season, when KD demanded his trade and listed Phoenix as one of the destinations he wanted, people assumed Phoenix would have to give up either Ayton or CP3 in the deal. Ayton because he’s got issues with head coach Monty Williams and was trying to leave in the off-season, and only stayed because he was a restricted free agent and Phoenix matched the offer he got from Indiana. And CP3 because he’s pretty much washed at this point and still making $28 million a year. 

But Phoenix was able to keep both of them. 

So Phoenix now has Chris Paul making $28 million, Ayton making $32 million, Booker on his rookie extension making $34 million, and KD making $43 million, for a combined $137 million between those four, which puts them way over the cap. Booker’s contract is up after next season and he’s in line for a massive extension, so in two years he’ll be making $50 mil+.

They sent Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson to the Nets, along with Jae Crowder who had been trying to get out of Phoenix all season and hadn’t played a single minute for them this season. But Bridges and Johnson were obviously big time role players for Phoenix. Bridges was the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year last season, has not missed a game in his career, averages 17 points a game and shoots almost 39% from three point range. Bridges is a big loss for Phoenix. He’s 6’6″ and is basically the ideal 3&D wing in the modern NBA, although he is a bit on the smaller side. Still, incredibly valuable player.

I would guess either Chris Paul or Ayton will be out of there soon, but maybe not. Chris Paul may retire after the season to be honest, even if they don’t win a chip. Paul is shooting 43.2% from the floor, his worst mark since his rookie year in 2006. He’s averaging the fewest points per game of his career at 13.6, and he’s about to turn 38 in May. He has missed 20 games this year. I really think this might be his last season—certainly things aren’t going to get better from here.

And as for Ayton, while I’m sure he’s probably happy about playing on a loaded team like this, I don’t think this repairs his relationship with Monty Williams. It does help that the Suns have a new owner, Matt Ishiba replacing the disgraced Robert Sarver, and I think a lot of Ayton’s frustration over his contract situation last year was directed at Sarver.

But will Ayton be happy being knocked down the totem pole by Durant? This is a former #1 overall pick who is now a third option after being either a 2 or a 3 behind Booker and occasionally Chris Paul, depending on the situation. Nowadays Ayton is clearly ahead of Paul, but then again Paul as the point guard at least has the ball in his hands and distributes it. Ayton will basically be getting table scraps here. He’s very capable of scoring down low, but how many opportunities is he really going to get now with Durant and Booker on the wings?

And here’s something interesting about Deandre Ayton: he is averaging the most points of his career right now, 18.4, but he is also averaging the lowest field goal percentage of his career since 2020 at 58.6%. In 2021 and 2022, with Chris Paul playing at a reasonably high level, he was averaging 63% from the field. And the reason I bring up Chris Paul when it comes to Ayton is because we all know that it was Chris Paul that really took Ayton to the next level–the lobs, feeding him all the time, “feeding the rock to the big fella”. Ayton and Chris Paul have that classic, 1980s style symbiotic relationship between traditional back-to-the-basket big man and pure point guard. It’s really a throwback style of basketball that you don’t see a whole lot anymore.

With Chris Paul not playing at as high of a level, Ayton isn’t as efficient. I know his 58.6% field goal average is still really good, but he used to be over 63% back when Chris Paul was still playing well. Ayton relies on Chris Paul, and he’s not as effective when Chris Paul isn’t as effective, straight up.

Ayton also isn’t a great defender, and since he’ll mostly be asked now to rebound and protect the rim, how will that sit with him? And how well will he do in that role? He’s more of an offensive big man. Unless he’s willing to really sacrifice, I don’t know how much he’s going to like this situation. He might just be cool with it, like Kevin Love in Cleveland with LeBron and Kyrie, because they have a real shot at a ring, but how long will that last? A player can only play to below his potential for so long before he wants to spread his wings.

And speaking of wings, Phoenix just got rid of their best three wing players in Bridges, Johnson and Crowder, although again Crowder doesn’t play. They still have Torrey Craig and Damion Lee, but wing depth is sorely lacking in Phoenix now.

Having Durant helps of course, and he’s actually been really good defensively this season (finally!) but you can’t expect him to be enough in terms of wing defenders. They are going to give up a lot of points on a nightly basis.

Injuries are also a potential issue for this Suns team. Devin Booker missed 21 games with a groin injury and only returned to action last week. Chris Paul has missed 20 games or so this year and is still not fully healthy with a hip issue. And Kevin Durant will not be back until at least after the All Star game with his knee injury. So definitely there are some concerns here about whether this team will be able to stay healthy this year, and whether they’ll be able to be on the floor enough together to actually build up any chemistry.

So I don’t know if this Suns team is really a superteam. KD and Booker are certainly a great pairing, but Ayton is a big question mark. He won’t be able to play up to his potential I don’t think, and there’s really not much defensively here. Chris Paul is washed up at this point, so unless he magically finds the fountain of youth I don’t think he really offers a whole lot in terms of production. He is not the same Chris Paul from 2021 when he led the team to the Finals, or even last season.

Still, this is a team that won 64 games last year and was the top seed in the West. They were in the Finals the year before. It’s not out of line to bring up the narrative of Kevin Durant going to a ready made super team once again. He joined the 73-9 Warriors the year after they went to game 7 of the Finals, and now he’s joining a 64 win team.

This is not nearly as good a team as the Warriors were when he joined them, though. Booker is good but he’s no Steph Curry. They have no Klay Thompson. And while Ayton is better than Draymond offensively, defensively it’s no question. Draymond with what he brings to the table just fit so much better with that KD/Steph/Klay big three of scorers. This Suns team is not on the level of the KD Warriors. 

In fact I don’t even think it’s a guarantee they win the West this year. Injuries, for one, are a major concern. And if Chris Paul keeps deteriorating and Ayton doesn’t really settle into his role well, it’s just going to be KD and Booker trying to recreate ISO GANG. They lost most of their defense in the trade. I could totally see them losing in the playoffs this year. 

However, the other day when I said there might not be a team in the league that can match bucket for bucket down the stretch in a playoff game with the Mavs? Yeah, now that changes. Because KD and Booker can.

This is going to be a tough team to beat. From an optimist’s perspective, you could say this is the perfect situation for Kevin Durant, because even though Chris Paul isn’t what he used to be on the court, he is still that alpha leader of the team, the one who everyone looks to for direction, the tone-setter, the guy who holds people accountable and keeps everyone in line.

We know that Kevin Durant doesn’t want to be that guy. Kevin Durant is an alpha in terms of his game, but a beta in terms of his mentality and the role he plays in the locker room. I don’t think he likes to confront people and call guys out and have those tough conversations that nevertheless need to be had (which is why, I think, he’s bounced around to so many different teams: when the going gets tough, he doesn’t have those difficult conversations, he just leaves).

KD just wants to hoop. He doesn’t want to lead, he doesn’t want to assume the responsibilities of “team leader.” He wants to be one of the guys. He just wants to play basketball. Which is okay, at least in theory, because Chris Paul can remain that team leader who runs the offense on the floor and tells guys where to be, and also off the floor be the guy that everybody looks to in moments of uncertainty or adversity, while KD is just one of the guys and gets to do what he’s always wanted to do: play basketball. (And as an aside: just because you’re the best basketball player on the team doesn’t mean you have to be the leader of the team, too. Being great at basketball doesn’t automatically mean you have the type of personality that is suited for leading men into battle and being the alpha of alphas.)

But it kind of does matter, nevertheless. Oftentimes, leadership in sports is not just through words and conversations and your presence in the locker room, but your play in the games. You usually will have to lead by example. The best player on the team has that built in credibility which naturally lends itself to that guy becoming the team leader. The best player on the team has the credibility to say, “Follow me and I’ll get us where we need to go.” He inspires other players with his play. It’s kind of hard to do that if you are not the best player on the team. It’s not impossible, but it’s definitely more difficult.

Because what if there’s a disagreement between the best player on the team and the locker room leader? What then? That could be an issue. It could split the team.

And here’s the thing: Kevin Durant has historically had issues with guys like Chris Paul, those Type-A personality players who bark and get in guys’ faces and assert their dominance. Russell Westbrook and Draymond Green come to mind here. When things reached a breaking point between KD and those two guys, KD left the team.

I don’t know if KD is going to get along with Chris Paul. A lot of guys in the league don’t like Chris Paul, and I could see him and KD not really vibing.

Now, this might not be an issue because a lot of the time it takes a few years for KD to get to the point where he wants to leave a franchise over a locker room rift. The Suns are basically in a sprint over the next five months to win the Championship. They’re 30-26, with 26 games remaining in the regular season, and then the playoffs. I doubt KD and Chris Paul will develop an irreparable rift in five months. If it happens, it will take a few years, not a few months.

I think there’s a good chance Chris Paul retires after this season, no matter what happens. I know he wants to stick around until he wins a ring, but he just might not be physically able to. He might be cooked.

And we all know the Chris Paul playoff injury is coming, too. It happens every single year, pretty much without fail: his body cannot handle the grind of the regular season plus the postseason. Something always gives out on him. We know it’s coming in the playoffs this year.

Regardless, while I don’t think KD and CP3 will get along, I also don’t think CP3 will be there long enough to really reach a breaking point with KD. And KD knows he just has to make it work for a year or two at most, and then it will be his and Booker’s team. Does Ayton stick around? I doubt it, but you never know.

What I do know is that if we get a Warriors vs. Suns playoff matchup, that is going to be an unbelievable series.

Or Lakers vs. Suns? Appointment television right there.

Speaking of the Lakers…

LeGM Saves the Day!

LeBron gets credit for all these trade deadline moves the Lakers made, right? That’s how it works, right? LeBron is literally the General Manager of the Los Angeles Lakers who has final say in all personnel decisions?

Because he can’t get the blame for Westbrook and not get any of the credit for this flurry of activity at the trade deadline. We need consistency here.

In all seriousness, let’s go over all the Lakers’ deadline additions and subtractions because there are quite a few of them. We’ll include the Rui Hachimura trade from a couple of weeks ago because that’s what really kicked off this roster overhaul.


  1. Rui Hachimura (via Washington)
  2. D’Angelo Russell (via Minnesota)
  3. Malik Beasley (via Utah)
  4. Jarred Vanderbilt (via Utah)
  5. Mo Bamba (via Orlando)
  6. Davon Reed (via Denver)


  1. Russell Westbrook (to Utah)
  2. Kendrick Nunn (to Washington)
  3. Thomas Bryant (to Denver)
  4. Patrick Beverly (to Orlando)
  5. Juan Toscano-Anderson (to Utah)
  6. Damian Jones (to Utah)

Obviously there were picks included on both sides but we’re focusing on the players now.

So this is what I am assuming the Lakers’ new depth chart looks like:

The important thing here is that they got rid of their surplus of guards and turned themselves into a more coherent and balanced roster. The “Dwarf lineup” of Bev, Russell Westbrook and Schroder all on the floor at the same time is a thing of the past. Sure, Ham could still run D’Lo, Dennis and Beasley at the same time if he wanted to, but he really has no excuse to do so anymore.

The Lakers flipped short guys for size:

The Lakers got rid of JTA, but he hardly played. Same with Damion Jones.

Three short guys (Bev, Nunn and Russ) are now replaced with tall(er) guys. D’Lo is still 6’4″.

One trade Laker fans were kind of blindsided by was the Thomas Bryant trade, but it makes sense if you think about it. They acquired Bryant on a veteran minimum contract and he had clearly outplayed it. He’d been a nice player for them. But they weren’t going to be able to re-sign him, so they had to move him or else they’d lose him for nothing in the offseason.

Plus, Thomas Bryant isn’t a rim protector. He’s a good offensive big man and a tenacious rebounder, but he was letting up a lot of buckets in the paint. And when AD came back, the Lakers didn’t really need Bryant to score and rebound, so he kind of became expendable. I wish we could have seen Bryant and AD on the floor together, but Ham never did it. Mo Bamba, on the other hand, is a plus defender and he can shoot it from outside a bit as well, so he fits better.

The big acquisitions, in my view, are Rui Hachimura, who we have already seen, and Jarred Vanderbilt. I really became a big fan of Vanderbilt watching him on the T-Wolves last year in the playoffs. He’s a gritty rebounder and down-low banger who does a lot of the dirty work, and plays tenacious defense. He’s long and lanky, often deflecting passes and securing steals due to his length. He’s mobile for being 6’9″, switchable on defense, and is the type of player the Lakers have been sorely missing.

Vanderbilt and Rui give the Lakers some much needed length along the perimeter, and when you consider that they could run a lineup of LeBron, AD, Rui, Vanderbilt and whomever at point guard (probably D’Lo) that’s a big, switchable lineup. It would be tough to score on that squad.

The Lakers now have a legitimate basketball team, and if they continue to get great play out of LeBron and AD, they are going to be a scary team.

The question is, can they go at least 16-11 over their remaining 27 games to put themselves into the play-in? I am assuming they lose to the Bucks tonight, because LeBron is out and none of their new acquisitions will be available, so that means they’d have to go 16-10 over the ensuing 26 games to finish 41-41 on the year. That should be good enough to get into the play-in.

Especially because a few of the teams ahead of them–Utah, OKC and Portland–were sellers at the trade deadline, which should accelerate their decline and allow the Lakers to leapfrog them.

The Lakers really need to go on like a 7-8 game winning streak here to dig themselves out of this hole and put themselves in the thick of the playoff hunt. I think it’s possible, but the team will have to gel quickly. There’s no time to waste.

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