When the Phoenix Suns are linked to an All Star’s name, you can’t help but get excited. It’s like late-2020 all over again, when Chris Paul leaked that if he was to be traded, Phoenix would be a destination that he approved of. The news that Kevin Durant desires to wear purple and orange has galvanized the Suns fan base following a heart-breaking finish to the season.
It’s not just that KD is a multi time All-Star. He is arguably a top 15 player of all time. When somebody with a resume that includes 12 All Star selections, four scoring titles, two NBA titles, 10 All-NBA Team selections, a league MVP, and membership to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team wants to play for your organization, the correct response is, “how much?”.
Kevin Durant has real interest in the Phoenix Suns, weather that happens now or later is the real question. The facts are if you can get a guy like KD you have to keep yourself in position by making smart business decisions along the way, Contracts, Assets and draft compensation.— FLEX From Jersey (@FlexFromJersey) June 30, 2022
When trades occur for superstars, the team that obtains that player generally wins the transaction. Four quarters does not equal a dollar during these acquisitions. Who won the “Charles Barkley for Jeff Horacek, Andrew Lang, and Tim Perry” deal? Case and point.
While the majority of the Phoenix fan base is sitting around and waiting for any news to populate relative to Durant, many aren’t truly concerned with what the price would be. Would it be unfortunate to lose names like Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson? Sure, but if it is in the pursuit of obtaining Durant, it is worth it.
Well, not necessarily. We are finding ourselves obsessed with the short-term success of the Phoenix Suns rather than the long-term success. And that is a valid point. If the short term success in the acquisition of Kevin Durant equates to a title for the Phoenix Suns, then it is all worth it.
It is the same justification that Los Angeles Lakers have for the acquisition of Anthony Davis, a move in which they leveraged their future and handicapped their present by trading away Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, cash, three first-round picks, and an unprotected first-round pick swap.
In the end, they won the 2020 NBA Finals. So it was well worth it.
When discussing the Durant scenario, allow me to provide a few counter-arguments. The decision not to sign Kevin Durant is controversial. That I am aware of. You must examine the problem holistically or you will be doing the discourse a disservice.
Durant’s Age and Injury History
Much akin to acquiring Chris Paul, this is the first point of emphasis and the easiest argument to make.
Paul disproved this claim by being named an All-Star in each of his first two seasons with the Phoenix Suns. In the current NBA, age has actually become just a number, as players are doing a far better job of taking care of their most valuable asset: their bodies.
However, Kevin Durant is no longer as youthful as he once was.
There is a significant difference between the haul that the Lakers gave up for Anthony Davis, since this is the most comparable scenario given that both had numerous years left on their contracts and no longer desired to play for their existing teams. Davis was 26 years old when he was moved to the Lakers, an age that many consider a player’s prime. Durant turns 34 in September.
Add to the argument the fact that Kevin Durant is starting to physically break down. Here is a list of recent injuries and time missed:
- 2016: knee injury that cost him 19 games
- 2017: ankle injury, 3 games missed
- 2018: strained calf, 3 games missed
- 2019: Missed 9 games in the NBA Playoffs due to a calf injury
- 2020: Returned for one game in the 2019 NBA Finals and tore his Achilles, which cost him the entire 2020 NBA season
- 2021: hamstring injury, 37 games missed
- 2021: thigh contusion, 3 games missed
- 2022: knee injury, 21 games missed
Yes, I can hear you all referencing the same issues that Chris Paul had entering his run with Phoenix, and how he has played in 135 of 154 regular season games since joining the team. When the team needed him most, however, he broke down and consecutive postseasons. This isn’t an opinion, this is fact.
This must be considered while adding Durant to the team. Will he be able to complete his commitment while remaining healthy enough to lead this organization to their first-ever championship?
The Brooklyn Nets, rightfully so, are seeking a pirate’s ransom for Durant. He is entering the first year of a 4-year, $194M contract he signed with the Nets last August. If they are going to give up a player that Bill Simmons believes is higher on the “greatest players of all-time pantheon” than Shaq, Hakeem, and Moses, they want to ensure that they are receiving the proper return on their asset.
This is where the long-term view of the organization needs to be considered.
You wouldn’t only be giving up players such as Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson, but you would be giving up four first-round picks and three first-round pick swaps. Essentially, you’re giving up your right to draft in the first round for nearly a decade.
Which is fine, right? If you get a player like Kevin Durant on your team, your draft picks, in theory, are in the late first-round. Who needs them? James Jones certainly doesn’t think so, as he has displayed an affinity for not caring about the NBA draft at all.
Draft capital is, however, considered a valuable asset. While the post-acquiring-Durant Suns’ draft picks would not be valued as high as lottery picks, the possibility that they might still does exist. Who knows what the Phoenix Suns roster will look like in seven years? Will they have a 41 year-old Kevin Durant out there hoisting up jumpers? Probably not.
Based on the state of that of the franchise in 2029, their picks might be more valuable than roster assets on the team. Giving up that much draft capital is long-term organizational suicide. Again, look at how handicapped the Lakers have become due to their lack of draft capital that they could utilize to sweeten any deal with any potential suitors for Russell Westbrook.
Then there is the construction of the current roster. One disadvantage of giving up current assets is what it does to the depth of the entire roster. And if anybody should know this, it’s Brooklyn. The Nets attempted to put together a super team, as they traded for Kevin Durant and signed Kyrie Irving as a free agent in 2019, and then traded for James Harden in 2021.
Their top heavy lineup, which collectively cost $116.1M for the three players, could not withstand any injuries. When the 10-4 Nets lost Joe Harris for the season due to an ankle injury, the team went 34-34 the rest of the 2021-22 season.
Yes, I know they had numerous variables working against them last season, including Kyrie’s unvaccinated issues, Durant injuries, and a James Harden who quit on the team. When Harris went down, however, it was put on display their complete lack of depth that was a vital contributing factor as well.
Due to their lack of depth, the team was swept out of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics.
The Phoenix Suns’ lack of productive depth was one of the issues that contributed to their elimination from the Conference Semifinals this season. However, it was their depth that allowed them to be as successful as they were during the regular season, winning 64 games and earning the Western Conference’s top seed.
The season consists of 82 games. There will be injuries. Depth is essential to survive those injuries and sustain success. That starting five will be sexy if the franchise brings Kevin Durant to Phoenix. But who is spelling the starting lineup? Are you putting those players through more regular-season minutes than you should because you don’t have the productive depth to back them up every night?
These are questions that must be considered if you’re sacrificing your current talent in an effort to bring KD to PHX.
Durant’s Ever-Changing Happiness
There is a major red flag that exists when you talk about Kevin Durant. There is a reason that, after committing to a team and a fan base for four years, he wants out. Durant has a history of not being satisfied.
This is a guy who was in arguably one of the best situations in the history of the NBA. A 27 year-old Durant – yes, that is “prime KD” – signed with the Warriors as a free agent in 2016. Golden State took advantage of the increased salary cap following a new media rights deal and rostered four of the best players in the NBA.
They instantly became one of the greatest teams of all time.
In three seasons in Golden State, Durant went to the NBA Finals three times. The team won two championships, and may have won a third had he had the ability to stay healthy against the Toronto Raptors in 2019. He won two NBA Finals MVP awards.
From a legacy standpoint, it doesn’t get much better than that.
In the blink of an eye, however, Durant changed his mind as to whether or not Golden State was the place he wanted to be.
During the 2018-19 season, the Warriors were 11-2 when they found themselves tied late in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers. Draymond Green made his way down the court and refused to pass to Durant, and the game went into overtime. The two teammates ended up fighting on the court and Green had to be dragged away by teammate DeMarcus Cousins. A heated Kevin Durant-Draymond Green altercation occurred, with both players yelling at one other in the huddle.
The argument prompted several questions about the Warriors’ cohesion and locker room feelings. The rumors began that Durant was unsatisfied, and he wanted out.
Kevin Durant on his decision to leave Golden State:— Chris Montano (@gswchris) September 27, 2019
"I felt like it was time for a change... I didn't really think about what I was leaving behind." pic.twitter.com/LwoqaIm2me
So he went to Brooklyn, choosing to join forces with somebody who he respected from a basketball skill set standpoint in Kyrie Irving. Very similar to how he feels reportedly about Devin Booker…
Durant has stated that happiness is something he chases, rather than, he is seeking peace, “I don’t even like to use the word happiness,” Durant said, “that’s just such a fleeting feeling. It can just go so up and down, I don’t wanna chase that feeling. It’s just not an efficient way to live for me.”
“I feel like just having peace and really just enjoying being alive every day is the best place for me to be. You know, I don’t wanna be happy or sad. Like, I don’t even wanna have to go through that.”
“I just wanna kinda just float through life, I experienced so much. I just wanna take on every experience for what it is and enjoy it in the moment. You know, I don’t wanna chase happiness, I just try to stay even.”
His actions have stated otherwise.
He signed a four-year deal with Brooklyn and they put everything and everyone around him to be successful. His response? He wants to be traded.
Brooklyn Nets GM Sean Marks is working with Kevin Durant and his business manager Rich Kleiman on finding a trade for the franchise star, Kleiman tells ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 30, 2022
Despite his extraordinary talent, this player is unpredictable between the ears. Bringing him to Phoenix appears to be the most logical thing a general manager can do. But all it takes is one encounter, one pass that doesn’t go your way, and Kevin Durant’s vision of the scenario shifts.
This too needs to be considered when you are attempting to acquire Durant.
The possibility of acquiring a talent like Kevin Durant is exciting. It is more than just bringing in a player that could quite possibly be the most talented player to ever wear a Phoenix Suns jersey. It shows the NBA that Phoenix truly has become a desired destination for players who want to be coached by Monty Williams, managed by James Jones, and play with Devin Booker.
We’re all quite enthused about the prospect of having KD in the Valley. Yet as I stated above, we wouldn’t be doing our due diligence if we didn’t consider all the factors, both positive and negative, of bringing him to Phoenix.
Am I saying that I don’t want Kevin Durant as a member of the Phoenix Suns? No. But I do think that his acquisition could be detrimental to the Phoenix Suns if they don’t garner a championship. I’m sure James Jones is thinking the same thing. He is unwilling to pay the ransom that the Brooklyn Nets have set, at least as of yet.
This conversation will continue for days – perhaps months – to come. All factors must be considered. You don’t get a top 15 player of all time on your team without sacrifice. But you have to ensure that the sacrifice is worth the reward. If we are guaranteed a championship, I’m 100% in. But nothing is guaranteed.
Except that contract that Durant just signed with Brooklyn and then quit on.