After a few relatively quiet summers, this NBA offseason was nothing short of insane. It started with Anthony Davis being traded to the Lakers, and following that were a whole host of draft night trades, massive changes to the league’s power structure by way of free agency, and the return of the sign-and-trade to our lives.
The new CBA had instituted a rule where teams that acquired players in sign-and-trade deals would be hard-capped, which effectively made them less palatable and for a few years they became a rarity. That is until this summer where a number of teams decided to take that penalty (and there are rumblings that some teams actually embraced the hard cap because it gives them an excuse to not spend any more money above the apron).
Among the numerous players that found new homes via sign-and-trade was Kevin Durant, who decided to sign with Brooklyn to join his friend Kyrie Irving with the Nets. As the opening night of free agency wore on, it became clear that Durant wouldn’t just be signing with the Nets, but that instead he would go there in a double sign-and-trade, with the Warriors acquiring D’Angelo Russell on a max deal. It was a somewhat bizarre trade, with many immediately questioning Russell’s fit in Golden State, but it also apparently took some convincing for Durant to agree to the deal.
Optics meant a lot for Durant this summer, as it was reported he didn’t want to be seen as following anyone to Brooklyn and as such his agreement needed to come first. That concern with how things looked also led him to be against a sign-and-trade initially, per ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, as he felt being traded straight up for D’Angelo Russell wasn’t “a fair deal,” and forced Golden State to toss in a first rounder.
First, Durant initially balked at being traded for Russell straight up, multiple sources said. He didn’t think it was a fair deal, and in this case, the Warriors had to not just satisfy the Nets, but also Durant.
Leverage was applied by the player, and Golden State had to include a first-round pick before Durant would agree to sign off.
That pick is heavily protected, as it only conveys from 21-30 next year before becoming a 2026 second round pick, but it’s an interesting detail into how the Warriors had to really work hard to make this sign-and-trade happen, just to avoid Durant walking for nothing. Golden State had to appease the Nets, by taking on two more players (who were shuttled off to Minnesota), but also KD, who is very aware of how things look and needs to feel like his value is on display at all times.
The collateral damage of the sign-and-trade was stripping the dynasty core down to just three players, as Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala were cut and traded (along with more money and another first rounder) respectively. The Warriors indeed got something back for Durant, but given all they had to give up, we’ll look back on this trade in a few years and wonder if it was all worth it.