Kevin Durant’s trade to Suns propels Phoenix’s title aspirations into full gear
LOS ANGELES. History takes a backseat when the NBA’s biggest earthquake in years hits the night before the trade deadline.
Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant has been traded to the Phoenix Suns, sources have confirmed to Sportzshala Sports. ESPN was the first to report it.. The Nets will get Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jay Crowder and significant draft capital, thus shaking up a Western Conference that seemed wide open to take.
And new Suns owner Mat Ishbia barely lasted 48 hours before swinging big, going and throwing a life raft at Durant after the Brooklyn Nets experiment predictably capsized. Although the Suns have bounced back from a slow start to the season, going 9-2 in their last 11 games and rehabilitating All-Star Devin Booker from injury, last spring’s failure in the conference semifinals has taken its toll on the franchise.
Depending on an aging Chris Paul didn’t seem like a wise move for the future, and acquiring a still-healthy Durant eases that burden, as well as putting Booker in a better defensive offensive position.
Durant was close to Suns coach Monty Williams when Williams was an assistant on the Oklahoma City Thunder staff as well as on Team USA — Durant played with Paul and Booker on separate gold medal runs — and returns to the West, where he was a two-time Finals MVP with the Golden State Warriors.
There is still a lot to be done before Thursday’s 3:00 p.m. trade deadline, but it’s clear the floodgates were opened when the Dallas Mavericks acquired Kyrie Irving from the Nets at Irving’s trade request.
This signaled a lot in the league and forced teams to move their chips to the center of the table. The Mavericks are certainly more dynamic, if not more explosive, with Irving on a new deal this summer.
But that didn’t scare anyone, at least not for teams that genuinely wanted a championship like the Suns. The Sacramento Kings are third in the West, but they are not expected to win any. The Memphis Grizzlies deal with their own immaturity issues and could self-destruct if they don’t come together soon. Yes, the Denver Nuggets have hired a two-time MVP, but they will be playing with significant expectations for the first time since the Orlando bubble when they took advantage of the Los Angeles Clippers’ willingness to go home early.
The Clippers are a point guard, and they may be far from being a full-fledged player, so it can be assumed that Kawhi Leonard will be healthy in the spring. The Warriors champions aren’t the same as they were last season, especially when the breaks have run their course and they haven’t had to rely heavily on their young players.
Dallas, even after acquiring Irving, is still looking for a fullback after losing Dorian Finney-Smith in the deal, league sources told Sportzshala Sports. Philadelphia swinger Matisse Tibull, who is in and out of favor with the 76ers, could be targeted, sources say.
No one is finished yet, and this overnight move could well open up a real arms race before June.
The Suns championship window used to open and close with Paul, whose Oklahoma City acquisition rescued them from a decade of lethargy and elevated them to contender status.
With Durant now stepping into the spotlight after he recovers from a recent MCL injury, it’s not hard to see them reach the NBA Finals like they did in 2021 – losing 2-0 to the Milwaukee Bucks – it will be expectation.
Not only from the NBA world, but also from Ishbia, a cocky passer-by from Michigan State who just held his opening press conference this afternoon. The presentation of the capital project to Nets general manager Sean Marks signaled the Suns’ readiness to act immediately and showed that the Nets had already done everything they had hoped for: create a substantial winner after Durant, Irving, and once James Harden.
It was drama from start to finish, an ambitious gambit by the Nets, knowing the three’s fickle reputations. Giving players fairness seemed like too much of an impact, and it exploded on everyone for a number of reasons.
“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be in Brooklyn again long term because of what was going on behind the scenes,” Irving said moments after Durant’s trade was made public and after his first game with ” Mavericks. “I just did my best to keep my head down, worked as hard as I could, there were some unfortunate circumstances that were out of my control, whether it was a vaccine mandate or missed games, a suspension. Just little things that I think only ruin our trip.”
It may have been a caveat, but Irving said he felt these steps have been in the works since his first year in Brooklyn, in 2019-2020, when Duran missed the season recovering from Achilles surgery – not specifically these steps. but parting. before things really got a chance to take off.
Both Durant and Irving endured bouts of resentment in Brooklyn — Irving was more fickle than Durant for the aforementioned reasons — and Phoenix was mentioned over the summer as a real trade target for Durant when he initially offered to leave.
“During the year, we had a lot of conversations about what our future would look like,” Irving said of Durant. “There was still a certain level of uncertainty, but we just cared about seeing each other in places where we could thrive. And whether together or apart, there was never a single moment when I felt that he was angry with me for the decisions I made or I was angry with him.
This chance to do well in the Western Conference didn’t seem to be available to the duo as teammates.
“I’ll see him more often, maybe play against Phoenix more often. This is what I’m looking forward to,” Irving said. “For everything else, I’m just glad he got out of there.”
Phoenix turned down significant but fair players in exchange for Durant, and you’d think Suns president of basketball James Jones still has some holes to fill. Although Crowder hasn’t played this season, having sat out until a trading partner was found, he, Johnson and Bridges were quite formidable defensively last season when the Suns ran away with the best record in the league.
A huge part of the Suns’ identity is changing with the arrival of Durant, but one wonders if it was a big risk because of how embarrassingly pissed they got against Dallas in Game 7 of the West’s semi-finals last season when there were rumors of a disagreement in dressing room. the next one is soon behind.
Something seismic was needed, and something even more radical was done. If Durant needed stability on the wing and at point guard, he found it in Williams and Paul.
If the Suns needed a top-tier player to take on Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo or Jason Tatum, Durant is more than willing to go head-to-head with him.
The NBA world knelt to LeBron James on Tuesday night, but it was shocked when Durant’s once-oversized Nikes were sent back to the West.