Grading all teams involved in Suns’ blockbuster Durant trade

Kevin Durant and Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Kevin Durant and Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /
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Phoenix Suns
Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson, Phoenix Suns. Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports /

Grading the Nets on the Durant trade

The Brooklyn Nets weren’t supposed to be here. Just two years ago they had assembled one of the most offensively potent trio of stars in NBA history. It didn’t make sense how any NBA team was supposed to slow down the combination of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden.

Then everything started chipping away. Injuries to Harden and Irving in the playoffs that first year hamstrung the Nets, who were still just a literal inch away from beating the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks. Kyrie refused to get vaccinated, Durant was hurt again, Harden demanded a trade, Ben Simmons has been a shell of his former self, Kyrie was Kyrie-ing, Durant hurt again, and finally Irving demanded a trade and landed in Dallas just this week.

That set the stage for the Nets to deal Kevin Durant. It’s a tough decision, as they have spent a lot of time as the title favorites over the past few seasons and just this year won 15 out of 16 games at one point before Durant went down. They tried to salvage things by trading Irving for win-now role players in Dorian Finney-Smith and Spencer Dinwiddie, but that didn’t appear to be enough for Durant to be all-in.

If the Nets were going to take that last step to blow it all up, this is a reasonable way to do it. You’re never going to win the trade where you give up Kevin Durant, but this is about as large of a package as one could expect. They control five of the Suns’ next seven drafts, including three straight from 2027-29 when Durant and Paul could be done as high-level stars.

Mikal Bridges is a cornerstone player. He has grown as an on-ball player, and his defense and shooting make him an elite third star for a contender and co-star for a playoff team. Cam Johnson is a restricted free agent this summer and could be re-signed or flipped to another team.

Part of this grade rests on what the Nets do the rest of the day. Can they find homes for Jae Crowder, Royce O’Neale, and Seth Curry? Do the Nets move along Dinwiddie or Finney-Smith? They won’t likely bottom completely out because the Houston Rockets own so much of their draft moving forward, but there is no reason to push for wins now, and flipping veterans to hungry playoff teams could be the way to go.

Brooklyn can start building their next team with an elite young defensive pairing with Nic Claxton and Bridges, and Cam Thomas could be a blossoming young star. There is a lot to like about this deal for the Nets, but any grade will come with a bittersweet tang of what could have been.

Grade: B+