National Basketball Association

As Kevin Durant's trade market cools, can Boston pull off a deal?

July 27

By Martin Rogers
FOX Sports Columnist

The Kevin Durant trade market hasn't heated up into the kind of frenzy some expected, largely because the Brooklyn Nets have willingly chilled it by making it clear they want nothing short of a record-breaking haul in return. 

Reports that followed Durant's trade request four weeks ago claimed that well over half of the league's 30 teams had made some sort of inquiry, yet here we sit at the end of July with none of them having given the Nets any genuine impetus for transactional movement. 

The more things move on, the more it seems there is one potential suitor, and probably only one, left in the running: The Boston Celtics.

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Durant is not talking much right now. On Tuesday, he resisted all interview attempts at the premiere of the hoops documentary "NYC Point Gods," which he produced in his latest foray into film and sports media. However, Durant has made his feelings so publicly clear on many topics over the years that we can probably make a reasonable assumption about his views right now.

The prospect of pairing with Jayson Tatum – as it would almost certainly need to be Jaylen Brown as the central corresponding piece to a Brooklyn/Boston arrangement – would surely be met with positive vibes. The pair have shown admiration for each other’s game, and you don’t need to be much of a tactical connoisseur to see how the offensive skills of each could create opportunistic space for the other.

"Obviously he’s a great player," Tatum told reporters at the "NYC Point Gods" event. "But that’s not my decision. I love our team. I love the guys we’ve got."

Moving to Boston would put Durant in the middle of a team that appears certain to be a contender, the Celtics having come within two wins of landing the franchise’s 18th title before falling short against the Golden State Warriors. A legitimate shot at a third ring would have inherent appeal.

Yet Durant is also as aware as anyone of the optics. He lives on social media and isn’t afraid to comment and criticize media reports that don’t fit with his viewpoint. 

Six years on, he still bristles at criticism or humor that points towards his choice to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder and pair up with the Warriors, which were then coming off a 73-9 campaign that was spoiled by an NBA Finals defeat.

He didn’t find it funny when the basketball public – or Peyton Manning at the 2017 ESPYs – made fun of him for joining a team that was already so dominant. Durant could scarcely have done more, winning NBA Finals MVP twice in the Bay Area, but the barbs still sting.

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Now, the 2022 Celtics are not the 2016 Warriors, but there are a couple of similarities that simply can’t be avoided. Boston, just like Golden State back then, lost in the NBA Finals. And they are the favorite to win it all next year.

Strange though it sounds, Durant was sometimes a peripheral figure on the Warriors. Truth be told, he was usually the most important player on the court but sat well behind Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green in terms of fan adoration.

With the Celtics, he, ahead of Tatum, would surely be the primary figurehead, but it is still easy to see why the Phoenix Suns or the Miami Heat were his two preferred original destinations.

Durant wants a lot. He wants to win another title and to get full credit for it. He wants to be happy and also feel he is steering the ship on his immediate basketball future.

That’s all well and good, but it might also be moot. For the Nets want a lot too.

The length of time (four years) left on Durant’s Nets contract means that Brooklyn has that rarest of concepts when it comes to dealing with superstar players – leverage.

Nets general manager Sean Marks doesn’t need to accept the best offer out there, he only needs to go for one if it would be beneficial to his team. Here is the problem. Replacing a player of Durant’s caliber automatically means getting back a truckload of picks and players. But is there any point in another franchise going after Durant if it means giving up the pieces that could help support him to a title?

It is tricky, and it is getting trickier, which is why, even with talks continuing, there is a wide school of thought around the league that Durant will begin the season in Brooklyn.

For Marks, is it at least worth the risk of turning down middling trade packages to see if Durant stops hankering for an exit strategy and can get something going with Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons.

This probably isn’t how Durant saw all this panning out when he made his demand. Quite reasonably, he thought that his status in the game would lead some team to take an almighty swing to get him. It hasn’t happened, or not at the level that the Nets could get on board with.

He is in a weird kind of limbo right now, midsummer long since passed, and no closer to any definitive answers.

In basketball terms, Durant’s situation is the story of the NBA offseason. Though don’t be surprised if it’s a story that not only doesn’t have a happy ending, but, for now, doesn’t have any kind of ending at all.

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. You can subscribe to the daily newsletter here.

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