Why Kevin Durant for Jaylen Brown trade is the most realistic deal on the market

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Why Kevin Durant for Jaylen Brown trade is the most realistic deal on the market

Kevin Durant’s trade request from the Brooklyn Nets hours before free agency opened on June 30 became the biggest story of the NBA offseason from the moment it happened, but there has been very little momentum building towards a deal. Just when it seemed like Durant returning to Brooklyn might be the likely scenario, reports from ESPN and The Athletic showed a mystery team emerging with a serious bid.

The Boston Celtics reportedly offered Jaylen Brown, Derrick White, and a draft pick for Durant, according to insider Shams Charania. Brooklyn turned down the offer, and reportedly asked Boston to include Marcus Smart and likely additional draft compensation.

ESPN initially reported Boston’s interest in the superstar scorer, and added “there are no deals believed to have traction for Durant.” Adrian Wojnarowski notes the Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, and Toronto Raptors are also serious suitors for KD. Training camps around the league open on Sept. 26, and Durant reportedly still wants to be traded from Brooklyn.

Building a Durant deal was always going to be difficult for several reasons, including his age (he’ll be 34 years old to start the season), his contract situation (he’s under contract for four more years), and an obscure league rule that limits the type of veteran star the Nets can get in return for him.

While the Nets and Celtics might not be close to a deal yet, here’s why a framework centered on swapping Durant for Brown feels more realistic than any other proposed deal.

Jaylen Brown isn’t on a Designated Rookie Extension — which helps a deal

There’s been added difficulty in constructing a Durant trade because of a little known league rule about acquiring players in a trade. The NBA’s Designated Rookie Rule states that each team is allowed to have two players on a five-year extension following the end of their rookie contracts, but only one of them is allowed to be acquired via a trade.

This rule applies to Ben Simmons for the Nets. Simmons is on a five-year rookie extension, and was acquired via trade as the headliner in Brooklyn’s James Harden deal in February. Players like Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, Devin Booker, and Bam Adebayo are currently on five-year rookie extensions, which means Brooklyn would have to trade Simmons before acquiring any of them in a Durant trade.

Jaylen Brown is not on a five-year extension after signing a four-year, $115 million contract extension with Boston in 2019. The Nets’ ability to keep both Brown and Simmons on the roster presents an easier pathway to do a deal than most competitors can find.

Jaylen Brown may be the best player on the table in a Durant deal

We know that Brooklyn wants a young All-Star caliber player plus serious draft capital for Durant. If we assume the top-four Durant suitors are the Celtics, Heat, Suns, and Raptors, there may not be a better player available in any potential deal than Brown. Let’s go through what each package could look like:

  • The Heat can’t offer Adebayo because of the Designated Rookie Rule. Their best offer likely revolves around Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, and rookie Nikola Jovic.
  • The Suns can’t trade Deandre Ayton this offseason after locking him into an extension earlier this summer. A deal with Phoenix would revolve around Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson.
  • The Raptors are the big question mark in negotiations. Will Toronto offer reigning Rookie fo the Year Scottie Barnes for Durant? If not, the Raptors can still offer a package around OG Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr.

If the Raptors offer Barnes, he’s likely considered more valuable than Brown because of his age for next season (21 for Barnes, 26 for Brown), contract status, and perceived upside. To this point, the reports are that Toronto has been hesitant and perhaps unwilling to include Barnes in a KD trade. Without Barnes on the table, Brown is a better player than Toronto, Phoenix, or Miami can offer for Durant.

The Celtics may have more motivation to get a Durant trade done now that this offer is public

The Celtics came two wins away from a championship last season. Boston got even better this offseason with the acquisition of Malcolm Brogdon. Even without a Durant trade, the Celtics should be considered one of the favorites to win the title next season, along with the Warriors, Bucks, Clippers, and Nuggets.

Boston has been dedicated to building around Brown and Tatum since drafting them (with picks from the Nets via the Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce trade) in 2016 and 2017, respectively. This may not be the first time Boston has offered one of their young stars in a trade, but it’s certainly the most public example of it yet. While all professional athletes inherently understand that getting traded is part of the business, it’s easy to wonder if there will be some hurt feelings for Brown after seeing that his team offered to trade him for Durant.

Can Brown return to Boston next season like nothing happened if the Celtics don’t land Durant? Probably. But it would also be hard to blame Brown if he’s feeling salty about this report. Now that this offer is out there, Boston may as well get serious about landing Durant. Maybe the Celtics still won’t include Smart in the deal, but you can expect the franchise to offer every available draft pick along with Brown to Brooklyn for Durant as training camp gets closer.

The Celtics really might have the most realistic Kevin Durant trade offer

There are two big questions currently hanging over the Durant negotiations:

  • Will Toronto offer Scottie Barnes?
  • Will Boston include Marcus Smart with Jaylen Brown?

If the Raptors offer Barnes, they most likely have the best offer for Durant. If they don’t, the Celtics feel like they have the best Durant offer even without including Smart.

Why would the Celtics offer Brown up in a trade after coming two wins away from the title last season? Because Boston wants to win the championship, and upgrading from Brown to Durant gives them a better shot at a title. The Celtics’ championship window would be shorter, but it would also be far wider with Durant in tow.

The Durant derby is starting to get serious once again. At this point, don’t be surprised by anything.

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