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Re-setting the stage on (potentially) Kevin Durant Day

The Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz and Brooklyn Nets have made moves around the edges, and so have others

Phoenix Suns v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

As we wait for news on Kevin Durant, I wanted to take some time to sift through the roster changes each of the Nets, Jazz and Suns have already made so far this offseason.

Sometimes, those moves that help predict what can happen next...


Brooklyn Nets Update

Here’s what the Nets have done so far. Free agent signings cannot be traded until at least December 15, and trade acquisitions cannot be aggregated with other players in future trades for at least 60 days.

In:

  • Acquired SF Royce O’Neal in trade from Jazz for 2023 first round pick*
  • Re-signed C Nicolas Claxton to two year deal ($9.3m next year)
  • Re-signed G Patty Mills to two year deal ($7.5m this year)
  • Signed SF T.J. Warren to one year deal (minimum, likely)
  • Signed SG Edmond Sumner to one year deal (minimum)

Out:

  • 2023 first round pick. That was their only first round pick available for trade for five years

Aside from Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the Nets still have these four primary rotation players under contract who were on the roster last year:

  • F Ben Simmons
  • F Joe Harris
  • SG Seth Curry
  • SG Cam Thomas.

As it is, with their big contracts plus the O’Neal acquisition and re-signings, the Nets have currently committed $177 million to 2022-23 contracts — which is $27 million over the luxury tax threshold. Not a big deal if you’re a contender, but for the Nets that could be a huge, incredible deal. If the Nets payroll remains over the tax level into next spring, they will become one of three teams (Warriors, Clippers) paying the repeater tax, which triples the penalties on money spent over the tax level.

That’s okay if you’re Golden State, but not if you’re the team that just traded away Durant and Irving to become, at best, a nice playoff team. You simply don’t fork over an extra $50-75 million to your fellow owners if you’re not fielding a contender.

But you say ‘Dave, if they trade Durant and Irving they’ll get way under’ to which I reply — not really. No one has cap space, meaning all trades must be within 25% of each other on salaries. The Nets would have to do a lot of maneuvering and salary shaving — taking back 75 cents on every dollar — to get under the luxury tax and save on that repeater penalty.

Bottom line: I truly expect the Nets to trade Durant and Irving. How they do that will be fascinating: go for broke to somehow remain a contender justifying a bloated payroll, or shave salaries abhorrently just to get under the tax after it’s all said and done.

Bottom line #2: There’s like a <1% chance the Nets end up with Ayton in this deal, because (a) the cap rules on Ayton’s contract would make them increase their payroll even MORE as a result of the trade and (b) he would hard-cap them, forcing them to shed $25+ million salary before the trade can be completed, and stay there all season.


Utah Jazz Update

Here’s what they’ve done so far this summer. Free agent signings cannot be traded until at least December 15, and trade acquisitions cannot be aggregated with other players in future trades for at least 60 days.

In:

  • Acquired SF Malik Beasley in trade from Wolves ($15m/yr, 3 years, 3rd year team option)
  • Acquired PG Patrick Beverly in trade from Wolves ($13m/yr, 1 year)
  • Acquired PF Jarred Vanderbilt in trade from Wolves ($4.3m/yr, 2 years)
  • Acquired G Leandro Bolmaro in trade from Wolves ($2.5m this year, rookie deal)
  • Acquired C Walker Kessler (2022 FRP) from Wolves
  • Acquired 4 future first round picks (2023, 2025, 2027, 2029) from Wolves

Out:

  • Rudy Gobert traded to Wolves

HOLY TOLEDO. The Jazz got three rotational veterans that helped the Wolves make the playoffs — no established starters, though — and SIX first round picks, if you include the Bolmaro and Kessler picks of 2021 and 2022.

All for Rudy Gobert, who at best is a top-15 player in the league and will make supermax money next to fellow supermaxer in Karl-Anthony Towns.

I can’t process this. If that’s what you get for Gobert, what the heck do you have to trade for an even better player in Kevin Durant??!

The Jazz roster right now is lop-sided — lots of small shooting guards, few playmakers and fewer big men.

They have:

  • a hole at center, with Gobert gone and a pair of young bigs - Udoka Azubuike, Kessler — with low upside and no real NBA experience.
  • eight guards standing 6’6” or under (Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Jared Butler, Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, Lorenzo Bolmaro). Only one of those small guards is a floor general (Conley).
  • Three players in today’s ‘perfect size’ range of 6’7” to 6’9”: Rudy Gay, Bojan Bogdanovic and newly acquired Jarred Vanderbilt. Gay was a major disappointment last year.

Bottom line #1: The Jazz definitely need to balance their roster very soon, even to be respectable, which is why they are reportedly interested in a Deandre Ayton sign-and-trade.

Bottom line #2: Even then, their ceiling is low, which is why they might be interested in moving a Donovan Mitchell in a rebuild.


Phoenix Suns Update

Out:

  • JaVale McGee left for Dallas
  • Aaron Holiday left for Atlanta

Limbo:

  • Four more are unrestricted free agents (Frank Kaminsky, Elfrid Payton, Ish Wainright, Iffe Lundberg)
  • Deandre Ayton (restricted)

In:

  • Acquired Jock Landale from the Spurs (via Hawks)
  • Signed Bismack Biyombo, Damion Lee and Josh Okogie to one-year minimum deals

The Suns filled out the back end of the roster (spots 12-15 essentially). They already have a contending team under contract for next season, and could run it back without any other changes.

However, they do expect to sign-and-trade Ayton, while hoping they can acquire Kevin Durant at the lowest possible price.

The Nets reportedly want TWO current or probable future All-Stars back for Durant, plus picks that rival the Gobert trade.

Imagine the Jazz being a part of this trade with the Nets and Suns, and ending up with Ayton and Ben Simmons in exchange for Donovan Mitchell, Bojan Bogdanovic and a couple others. That would do a ton to balance out that roster, since Simmons is big enough to defend big wings and would be running point most of the time.

In that trade, the Nets would end up with one All-Star (Donovan Mitchell) but they have to send former All-NBA player Ben Simmons out at the same time. The Suns are probably only offering Cameron Johnson (not an All-Star) as the other headliner, plus most of the picks they can possible send the Nets.

No wonder the Nets want more than that, considering their asking price and how much better Durant is than Rudy Gobert. They are likely canvassing the rest of the league to up the ante, and will send Durant to the highest bidder that believes Durant would be happy there for four years.

The problem for the Nets is that Durant only says he’d be happy in Phoenix or Miami, but only as long as the All-Stars stay in place (Booker, Paul in Phoenix; Adabeyo, Butler in Miami).

Stay tuned, I guess.