Kevin Durant Will Start His Next Final Chapter by Joining Another Superteam in Phoenix
As the Brooklyn Nets’ historically chaotic 2021-22 season picked up steam and one hand-picked superstar teammate after another let him down, Kevin Durant began speaking surprisingly casually about his legacy. Durant is one of the greatest scorers who ever lived, and he has every conceivable achievement to his credit. One scroll through his tweets will show that he cares what you think of this career. But after James Harden begged from Brooklyn and when Kyrie Irving went to war with logic and reason, Duran preached to stay put, like someone in the midst of a multi-week launch on the Headspace app.
“If we won the title it would be amazing. It would be incredible. But that’s not the only reason I play basketball,” he said. Bell ringerLogan Murdoch last March. “I want to develop every day, and I really like this activity, you know what I mean? I like to get up knowing that I’m going to play and that’s really for me. The championship, 30 points and the level I’m aiming for is because I’m working to get there, but I just love the activity.”
That Zen’d-out approach clearly faltered in the offseason when he asked for (and was denied) a trade. But the point of no return hit last week when Irving demanded (and got) his deal from Brooklyn. After going through Irving’s many Amazon search-fuelled setbacks, Durant had to decide what would be the final chapter of his ornate but increasingly bizarre career. Will he finish what he started with the Nets and forge his own path like many thought he might with the Knicks in the summer of 2019? Or will he fall back on the old plan and join another ready-made Finals contender like he did with Golden State?
We got our answer late Wednesday night: In one of the most stunning deals of this frenetic era of stardom, the Nets traded Durant and T.J. Warren to the Phoenix Suns for the acquisition of Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jay Crowder, four undefended first-time picks. round (2023, 2025, 2027, 2029) and an exchange of elections in 2028.
Oh my god lol
— Mikal Bridges (@mikal_bridges) February 9, 2023
The addition of Durant naturally brings the previously boring Suns to the forefront of the title race. With a year and a half to go before the 2021 final, Phoenix hobbled through the first half of this season with a slew of injuries forcing him to turn to the MASH division, run by legends like Ish Wainwright and Jock Landale. That plus Mat Ishbia’s recent ratification of the franchise purchase led the Suns to reportedly offer Chris Paul in exchange for Irving a few days ago. Instead, Durant is now joining Paul, Devin Booker and Deandra Ayton in arguably the biggest brand superstar convergence since Durant moved to Golden State eight years ago.
Let’s get the fine print out of the way first: With this deal, the Nets have stripped the Suns of virtually all 3-wing and 3-wing options at a time when this type of player is one of the most valuable in the NBA. If there is no subsequent trade, Phoenix will have to defend players like Luka Doncic and Kawhi Leonard with Warren or Torrey Craig. But teams are loading up 3-rib and 3-rib fenders to try and slow down the likes of Durant and Booker, who are averaging 29.7 and 26.8 respectively this season. After two and a half years of working with young rookies like Bridges and Johnson through his (often annoying) academy, Paul is now in Point God heaven, having produced two of the best clean scorers in the game, both in the middle of monster seasons, before retiring from rails due to injury.
The last part is also remarkable. Duran, 34, has been out of action for nearly a month with a knee sprain and hasn’t played a full season since leaving the Warriors. Booker only recently returned from a groin injury and is still missing games as part of his recovery program. Paul, 37, has had to limp as well, and while he’s looked better lately, there were times this season when he looked downright emaciated — to the point where the Suns seemed to be hanging him up in a deal with Irving as a paycheck. stern. The aftermath of that failed trading attempt, and the hostility that still lingers from his own Ayton. recent clash with the commanding authorities (And previous ownership), only increases the degree of complexity. With future picks acquired in this deal, the Nets now hold one of the most potentially lucrative short positions since the Celtics scoured the Nets’ future picks ten years ago.
But if the Suns can stay healthy and active, they now have the firepower to take on the Nuggets and Grizzlies in a confusing Western Conference. That’s the difference between trading for Durant and some of the other stars that were bought for similarly huge off-season packages: he instantly propels a team into the NBA’s ruling elite. There is no worry about fit. No one is waiting to see how the players develop. Even after Irving was suspended earlier this season for lack of remorse over the spread of conspiracy bullshit, the Nets have managed 12 consecutive wins to climb to second place in the East, largely thanks to Durant’s brilliance. Despite a career-threatening injury in the 2019 finals, KD somehow enhancedperhaps becoming best middle range shooter in historyand defensive strength, which, along with Nick Claxton, saved the Nets’ pathetic defense.
Basketball player Duran is impeccable. Unfortunately, his career decisions were not so perfect. The Durant-Irving-Harden Juggernaut that never was is now gone, two years after forming, with one series win in the first round. The Nets era will go down in history as one of the greatest failures in recent history, and while Durant is not to blame, he, as chief architect, will reap the greatest blame. After struggling to fit into a ready-made superteam at Golden State, he decided to form his own, and he clearly failed.
Now the question is whether he can succeed again – true legacy-defining success – by joining another team’s already established rival. Whatever he did in Phoenix would likely be ridiculed by some as the illegal work of a mercenary, a carpenter. But to see one of the greatest players of his generation play for more than love of the game, when he clearly still has a lot to give, feels like a victory for both Durant and us.