Kevin Durant blew up the NBA’s summer with his June 30 trade demand. It became the story of the summer, dominating headlines and even holding up some trades.
But was Durant ever really close to being traded?
Not if you listen to the fallout after Durant agreed to return to the Nets this season.
When Durant made his first trade demand, two places were attached as his preferred destinations: Miami and Phoenix. When Shams Charania of The Athletic went on the Miami-based Le Batard & friends “STUpodity” podcast, he said the Heat were never close to a deal (hat tip Hoopshype).
The last time, Stugotz, the Heat called the Nets [about Kevin Durant] was right around Summer League or even maybe even before that. They never really aggressively pursued a deal because I think at the end of the day, they knew they would have had to gut multiple players.”
Translation: It would take Bam Adebayo being on the table for Miami to get a deal done. While Heat beat writer Ira Winderman has said in the past some in the organization may have been open to the idea, key voices were not. Bottom line, the Heat were never going to include their 25-year-old All-Star, All-Defensive player because they needed him with Durant and Jimmy Butler to truly contend. The offer never got above a Tyler Herro-based package, which was not of great interest to Brooklyn.
As for Phoenix, Monty Williams told Justin Termine & Eddie Johnson on NBA Radio that he didn’t talk to the Suns’ players about the rumors and didn’t necessarily want to see his team broken up (hat tip Dana Scott of the Arizona Republic).
“When I first heard about the Kevin Durant stuff, I was kind of blown away by it just because, you know, we’ve been so blessed here to have guys want to come.
“At the same time, ‘At the expense of what?’ was my thinking. And I like our team. I love our guys. But I wasn’t going to have conversations that didn’t need to be had.”
Things never got serious enough to warrant Williams talking with a player about it. The Suns were never going to put Devin Booker in an offer (and the Nets would have had to trade Ben Simmons away due to the designated rookie contract rule to get Booker anyway). That left a Deandre Ayton-based trade, which was not enough to get a deal done, then was off the table when Ayton signed an offer sheet with the Pacers that the Suns instantly matched. A Mikal Bridges-based offer was never close.
Boston may have been the closest to getting a deal done, with a reported offer of Jaylen Brown, Derrick White and one first-round pick. However, the Nets came back asking for more (reportedly Marcus Smart and more picks) and the talks quickly died. They may never have been all that serious.
Durant tried to up the pressure on Brooklyn, but the Nets kept their asking price for Durant sky-high — an under-25 All-Star level player, plus more quality rotation players and multiple picks — leading some around the league to think the Nets never really wanted to trade Durant. If so, Brooklyn got its wish and Durant returns with Kyrie Irving, Sijmons and a quality set of role players — this could be a contending team if everyone is focused and engaged.
But nobody expects a drama free season in Brooklyn, and when it gets tense expect the trade rumors to return. Maybe next time a deal will be closer.