Kevin Durant will remain a member of the Brooklyn Nets after the star had a meeting with the Tsais, Sean Marks, and Steve Nash and all parties involved came to the understanding that it was best for everyone to move forward and end the trade request.
This is obviously a big deal for the Nets, as they can focus on getting ready for training camp and what appears to be a plan to run it back one more time with Durant and Kyrie Irving, with a supporting cast that’s arguably the best they’ve had since those two arrived (and were healthy). Durant coming off the trade market also has a significant impact around the league, as every team that was even considering a Durant trade was holding off on making any other moves, effectively holding the trade and free agent market hostage in the process.
Here, we’ll look at the biggest national storylines that we can expect to play out in the coming weeks with the Durant situation, at least briefly, being settled.
Teams Will Finally Fill Out Their Rosters With Free Agents
There are a lot of veteran free agents that have been waiting for the chance to sign with a team but unable to because everyone wanted flexibility to get involved in a Durant trade — even if that were serving as a third or even fourth team to help facilitate it and acquire assets in the process. With Durant off the market, teams will be less concerned about holding onto that flexibility and will likely start signing those veteran free agents, which is very exciting for those players as Isaiah Thomas noted on Twitter after the Nets statement was released.
Finally lol. Can we sign now lol
— Isaiah Thomas (@isaiahthomas) August 23, 2022
Guys like Thomas, Collin Sexton, Carmelo Anthony, DeMarcus Cousins, Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard, Jeremy Lamb, Dennis Schröder, Hassan Whiteside, and nearly 100 others who had jobs last year have been waiting patiently for their chance to sign, and now they just might get that opportunity.
Donovan Mitchell Becomes The Top Trade Target In The NBA
It’s rather ironic that one of the beneficiaries of the KD saga is the team that’s in part responsible for disrupting the trade market in such a way that the Nets simply could not get enough value back for Durant to look like they weren’t getting fleeced. After Rudy Gobert netted the Jazz five first round picks, the bar was almost impossibly high for a KD trade, which only further complicated matters for Brooklyn and teams chasing him. Those Utah Jazz now are in prime position to bump up the trade value of their own star on the market, as Donovan Mitchell becomes the most available All-Star caliber player for teams that had started piecing together assets to chase KD.
New York still feels like the frontrunner here, but the Miami Heat, who were among KD’s preferred destinations, could take a more serious look at making a Mitchell offer, along with a number of other teams who were tangentially on the Durant hunt. If nothing else, having those options will allow Danny Ainge to wield even more power in negotiations with the Knicks, as there are simply more potential options for other destinations to send him if New York won’t meet their sky-high asking price.
The Playoff Race In The East Will Be Awfully Competitive
We were already expecting a heated race for the Eastern Conference title this season, but with the Nets retaining KD and Kyrie, it is going to be an incredible battle for the six guaranteed playoffs spots. The Celtics and Sixers each bolstered their roster with additional depth, the Bucks will run it back with a perennial top-4 squad, Brooklyn should get twice as many Kyrie appearances as last year along with Ben Simmons being available, Miami lost PJ Tucker but returns most of their roster from last year’s 1-seed, the Hawks added Dejounte Murray, the Raptors run it back with hopeful development of their young talent, the Bulls are back, the young Cavs hope to build on last year’s success, and the Knicks added Jalen Brunson and might bring Donovan Mitchell in as well. That’s nine teams that all have legitimate reasons to believe they can make the playoffs, which means someone’s going to be very disappointed when the season comes to an end and they’re on the outside looking in.
The Lakers Lose A Potential Russell Westbrook Destination
For months now, we’ve been wondering if a Kyrie Irving for Russell Westbrook trade could be a possibility, but the only way that would happen is if Durant got traded first. Now that Durant’s staying in town, the Nets will almost assuredly put an end to any Irving discussions, and it’s back to the drawing board for the Lakers now that the preferred addition for LeBron James is likely off the table. The Pacers now feel like the most likely destination for Westbrook if he is in fact traded, with Buddy Hield and Myles Turner as the oft-discussed potential return package — that would certainly require the Lakers to part ways with both their 2027 and 2029 first round picks. The Hornets remain a possibility, particularly as they sit in a purgatory state in the East, not bad enough to tank to a top pick but not good enough to contend, with a couple veterans in Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward that don’t seem to fit their timetable. In any case, LeBron’s dreams of a reunion with Kyrie will have to wait at least one more year, and, on the positive side, the Lakers can start making real progress on Westbrook talks with other teams without having to worry that Irving might suddenly come available afterwards.