After three seasons and two Championships, Kevin Durant left the Golden State Warriors to join Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn. It has shaken the NBA’s hierarchy, of course, but it is the circumstances of his exit that have become a bigger talking point.
In a sign and trade deal between the Warriors and Nets, the Dubs were able to acquire D’Angelo Russell — helping Brooklyn ensure they had cap space (and put Russell where he wanted to go), while also giving the Warriors something back in return for KD.
But, interestingly enough, Durant rejected the idea of a sign-and-trade swap between him and Russell straight up and forced the Warriors to give up a first-round pick in the deal.
The Brooklyn Nets had enough cap space to sign Kevin Durant outright, and there was no specific advantage for Durant to take part in a sign-and-trade deal to help the Warriors out. Nor was it that great an advantage to Nets free agent D’Angelo Russell, who had other teams, including the Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves, vying for him, knowing that the Nets would have to make him an unrestricted free agent to complete the Durant signing.
As a result, there were a series of squeezes put on the Warriors, a position with which they are not at all familiar. First, Durant initially balked at being traded for Russell straight up, multiple sources said. He didn’t think it was a fair deal, and in this case, the Warriors had to not just satisfy the Nets, but also Durant.
Leverage was applied by the player, and Golden State had to include a first-round pick before Durant would agree to sign off. The Warriors begrudgingly gave it up and did so with a heavy condition: If the pick falls within the top 20 next year, they don’t have to send it, and instead will only give Brooklyn a second-round pick … in six years. It’s one of the most unusual pick protections the NBA has seen recently.
For whatever reason, Durant apparently scoffed at the idea of being traded for D’Angelo Russell straight up. Instead, he used his leverage to force the Warriors into adding an additional pick to make the trade he saw as fair. Was this a move to help his new team? Was it his final attempt at revenge towards his former squad?
Either way, it is a quite unusual situation and one that hints at a strained relationship between Durant and the Warriors. And although he showed the Warriors grace by agreeing to a sign-and-trade (a move that served no personal benefit to him), he certainly made things more difficult than they had to be. One has to think there is a reason for it.