Update on Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell’s trade talks with a month to go until camp: Shams Inside Pass
It’s been two weeks since Kevin Durant repeated his trade request to Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai in an in-person meeting, telling Tsai he had to choose between his 12-time All-Star player or head coach Steve Nash and his general manager Sean Marks. It added a new dynamic to the offseason’s biggest storyline, a restless cloud that began to linger over the franchise when Durant asked from Brooklyn on June 30. In terms of trade promotions, no deal is closer at the moment, but a new suitor has emerged from the Western Conference.
With NBA training camps scheduled to open in about a month, here’s the state of play.
The Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat remain among Durant’s most serious threats because they have the kind of figures needed to meet the Nets’ asking price in a deal for two-time NBA Finals MVP. However, no one has matched Brooklyn’s hefty price tag for an All-Star, other high-ranking players, and draft picks — and there have been no recent talks with these top three. The Celtics offered All-Star Jaylen Brown, guard Derrick White and a first-round draft pick in July, according to league sources; the Raptors have refused to provide Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes; and Miami has yet to seriously consider a package involving All-Star Bam Adebayo.
The Philadelphia 76ers recently expressed interest in Durant, while the Milwaukee Bucks and Denver Nuggets also called the Nets in late June and early July to estimate the price, sources said. The New Orleans Pelicans also made inquiries with the Nets on June 30 but held all-star Brandon Ingram untouchable, sources said. Also last month, the Atlanta Hawks offered John Collins, De’Andre Hunter and a draft pick for Durant, according to sources.
Neither of these talks gained much traction. Durant has four years and $198 million left on his Nets contract.
A major complication of including logical players in trade talks for Durant, such as Adebayo and Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, is that they cannot be acquired via Brooklyn’s trade with Ben Simmons on the roster due to the set rookie expansion rules.
Recently, a new team has expressed interest in Durant: the Memphis Grizzlies, league sources report the athlete. Fresh off a 56-win season, the Grizzlies have made fresh inquiries to the Nets about Durant, those sources added. Memphis has five first-round draft picks (four of their own unprotected selections and one protected via Golden State in 2024) that are theoretically in a trade, as well as from youngsters like Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane, Ziaire Williams and Brandon Clarke , Kennedy Chandler and David Roddy.
moments after the athlete reported that Durant had requested a trade back in June, a tweet from Grizzlies star Ja Morant drew a lot of attention for his apparent pro-Durant sentiment.
— Ja Morant (@JaMorant) June 30, 2022
Zach Kleiman, the Grizzlies’ executive vice president of basketball operations and the NBA’s current Executive of the Year, has done a masterful job of building the team’s foundation around All-NBA star Morant and a strong supporting cast while maintaining assets for the secure the present and the future. The Grizzlies won’t include Jackson or Bane in a potential bid for Durant, sources said, but rather a package built around their bevy of draft picks.
The Phoenix Suns similarly have a package dangling around all-defensive wing Mikal Bridges and a handful of first-round draft picks that haven’t gotten steam with the Nets, league sources said. With Deandre Ayton signed a contract for a maximum of four years and not reschedule until January, Phoenix has been trying to make creative proposals to Brooklyn for the past month, possibly via three- or four-team trades involving an all-star caliber player is active goes into the net. But the Suns have yet to find a deal that fits – and that’s largely why they appear to be behind Boston, Toronto and Miami in the Durant Sweepstakes.
Among interested teams, across the league, the Celtics were seen as the clear answer as the team that has the ingredients to pull off a deal with Brooklyn. For now, Boston has not included guard Marcus Smart or center Robert Williams in a proposal, sources said. The Celtics have up to three first-round picks to trade to Brooklyn. When Brooklyn turned down Boston’s offer last month, the Nets countered by requesting Brown, Smart, draft picks and possibly another rotation player, sources said.
So yes, Boston has the necessary pieces and Brooklyn has listened, but there is a gap.
For the Celtics there is a careful balance between improving the roster and maintaining their current status as championship contenders. Brad Stevens, President of Basketball Operations, patiently and skillfully continued to strengthen the Celtics’ roster after their NBA Finals berth, adding Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari this offseason.
Will Boston now address the Nets’ asking price to add a potentially missing piece that has become available in a way rarely seen in NBA history? We have to wait.
There’s just over a month left in the NBA’s offseason. The Celtics and other teams pursuing Durant have time to make their best suggestions and those deals can escalate quickly, but the clock is ticking for everyone involved.
Should neither team step up their pursuit and reach Brooklyn’s price tag, Durant will have limited options other than reporting to Nets training camp. Across the NBA, however, people are wondering if the 33-year-old future Hall of Famer, who will be 34 at the start of the season, will attend training camp if a trade doesn’t go through.
In recent NBA recollection, there have been multiple routes for stars requesting a trade. Some have returned to their respective teams and played out the season. Elsewhere, Simmons needed until the February trade deadline to be traded last season, when he did not appear in training camp and eventually did not play for the Philadelphia 76ers after the 2020-21 season ended. Jimmy Butler and James Harden, meanwhile, were traded within the first month of the season when they were upset, in an awkward environment, and reported they would play with Minnesota and Houston, respectively, in 2018 and 2020.
For their part, the Nets believe they’ve improved the roster and have a championship-level team. The Nets traded for Royce O’Neale, signed TJ Warren and brought back Patty Mills and Nic Claxton while expecting the full returns of three-time All-Stars Simmons and Joe Harris. All-Star Kyrie Irving also opted for his $37 million player option, signing for the 2022-23 season in Brooklyn, and sources with knowledge of the situation say he’s been training with teammates this offseason and engaging in constructive dialogue conducted with the organization. Brooklyn has made it clear to interested teams that they want to keep the seven-time All-Star, according to sources. The Nets were without Simmons and Harris for most of last season, including their playoff series against Boston, but both will provide a major boost to the upcoming season.
Simmons was cleared for three-on-three basketball activities after back surgery in May, and he is on track to be cleared for full five-on-five activities in the coming weeks, league sources say. The Nets and Simmons expect him to be ready for training camp by the end of September.
For now, however, the team’s standoff continues with its biggest star.
More NBA news and notes…
The latest on Donovan Mitchell’s trade talks
The Jazz and Knicks are in talks about a deal that would send Donovan Mitchell to New York, according to sources. A deal isn’t considered imminent yet, but the Knicks are motivated to acquire Mitchell and have proposed new packages to Utah’s new front office, led by CEO Danny Ainge.
New York recently made an offer from Evan Fournier, Obi Toppin, extra salary and two unprotected first-round draft picks (five total), league sources tell me and the athleteis Tony Jones. Jazz’s asking price was greater than that.
Mitchell has three guaranteed years left on his contract, allowing the Jazz to bring him into the upcoming campaign and patiently turn to trade talks. The Charlotte Hornets and Washington Wizards were also among the teams interested in Mitchell, sources said.
Celtics sign Valentine at training camp
The Celtics and free agent guard/forward Denzel Valentine have agreed to a training camp deal at Facility 10, sources said. Valentine will be competing for one of the open Celtics squad spots at training camp.
Timeline: What has happened since Kevin Durant’s trade request?
(Top Photo: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)