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The Blockbuster Trade That Never Happened This Summer: The Warriors Didn't Want To Land Kevin Durant

The Blockbuster Trade That Never Happened This Summer: The Warriors Didn't Want To Land Kevin Durant

The 2015-16 season was an absolute roller coaster of joy to watch from start to finish. It featured Stephen Curry winning the MVP Award with a unanimous vote, which was the first time in league history. On top of that, the Warriors won an NBA record 73 games, only to fall to the Cleveland Cavaliers in seven games. On their way to the Finals, the Warriors nearly lost to the Thunder in the Conference Finals but fought back to win in seven games.

The Thunder held a 3-1 series lead on the Warriors before losing three straight. The team’s loss in the playoffs is a pivotal point in league history. It was when Kevin Durant talked to Draymond Green and Curry after the game and was recruited to Golden State. Durant joined the Warriors in the offseason and helped the team win the 2017 and 2018 NBA championships, where he was the Finals MVP both times.

Durant played one more season with the Warriors before leaving in 2019. There were rumors of team chemistry issues. It was clear that Durant wanted out, which is why he joined the Brooklyn Nets. With the Nets, he has not made it past the second round of the playoffs in three seasons. This offseason, Durant made it known that he wanted out of Brooklyn. The trade request has since died out, but it was confirmed that the Warriors were considering bringing Durant back this summer.


An Internal Conversation

Bringing Durant back would need to be approved by the team. That was the vibe that was felt when Curry opened up about the idea of bringing back Durant. When Durant left, there were reports about how Durant and Draymond Green got into a heated argument, which affected the team’s overall chemistry. Despite the idea that it would have been a locker room issue, Curry told Rolling Stone “hell yeah.” Curry said that the idea was brought to him, and he never wavered when it came to playing with Durant again.

“I was never hesitant. The idea of playing with KD and knowing who he is as a person, from our history in those three years, I think KD’s a really good dude. I think he is misunderstood. I think he has had certain things happen in his life that hurt his ability to trust people around him, in a sense of making him feel safe at all times. So all of those things, I understand, having played with him and gotten to know him. I love that dude.”

Curry would further discuss that bringing Durant would blow up the team a little bit. He brought up the idea of some of the prospects listed in the projected trade package as well. However, Curry said that he would also be completely fine with running it back with the Warriors and their current roster. In the end, Curry said he believes in this team but also said you have to think about the talent that Durant brings at the same time.

“And if you said, ‘Oh, KD’s coming back, and we’re gonna play with him,’ I had so much fun playing with him those three years, I’d be like, ‘Hell, yeah!’ Then you have to think: What does that actually mean? What does it look like? You tell me I’m playing with [current Warriors teammates Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole, and Draymond Green], I’m like, ‘Hell, yeah!’ There are all types of emotions and things that happen to the league. And if anybody’s saying that you wouldn’t entertain that conversation — no disrespect to anybody on our team — but you don’t know how things work. But you also understand, like, if we run this thing back, I’ve got complete confidence in my team that we can win it again, as constructed.”

It sounds like Curry was ready to roll with either decision. He would love the idea of playing with Durant. But, he backtracked because that would sound wrong with the current members of his team. Curry was not saying he would rather have Durant than anyone on his team. What he was saying was that if you had that opportunity, who wouldn’t want to take it?


The Warriors Trade Package For Kevin Durant

The Warriors Trade Package For Kevin Durant

The specific details of the trade were never known, but it was speculated that Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole, and “others” would be included in the package. Based on packages centered around Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, this is a speculated trade package for Durant. The contract of Wiggins ($33 million) was speculated to be included. Poole would likely be dealt as well and then extended by the Nets as he enters the final year of his contract. Kuminga would be likely added because he would be the second young prospect with a high ceiling to help the Nets accelerate their rebuild.

However, the trade would never be able to go through..., and no one knows the real reason. The Golden State Warriors may not have wanted to trade Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole for Kevin Durant. Or they may have offered Wiggins and Poole to Brooklyn, but the Nets rejected, which is less likely because that would have been a good offer for Kevin Durant.

If the Nets did, in fact, offer Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole, Jonathan Kuminga, and probably two or three first-round picks, if the Nets had accepted the deal, they would have had to immediately trade Ben Simmons. The reason they would have had to trade Simmons is because of the designated rookie rule.

According to the designated rookie rule, teams can extend players with one year left on their rookie-scale contracts for five additional years. The starting salary has to be at least the 25% maximum salary for players with 0-6 years of service. That means that two players under that umbrella can’t play together.

Among the 14 names listed, Wiggins and Simmons are there. That means that the Nets would have to find a way to either ask for a different player or trade Simmons, which are both unlikely. The Warriors would not be able to afford both Durant and Simmons. The Nets would not be likely to find a trade partner for Simmons, given his lack of playing time in the last year. The Warriors would not trade someone like Curry, Thompson, or Green to trade salary. In the end, the inability to trade Wiggins and pair him with Simmons would end this deal.

For the Warriors, it would be all-in for the next three to four years. With large contracts to Durant and Curry, the Warriors would not be able to fill out the bench. With that said, they would have two of the top-5 players in the league for next season. The team would contend for that fifth and sixth championship to elevate their dynasty status as high as the 90s Chicago Bulls. With championship aspirations, multiple players would likely join the team through veteran minimum contracts.

If this trade happened, the Nets would have to immediately trade Simmons to another team because he and Wiggins cannot play together due to the rookie designation rule. In this article, we will focus mainly on Durant’s trade, so we have to exclude Simmons from the roster and players the Nets would potentially get for him in order to trade him because of Wiggins.


Warriors Projected Lineup If Trade Happened

Kevin Durant Warriors 2022

PG: Stephen Curry

SG: Klay Thompson

SF: Kevin Durant

PF: Draymond Green

C: Kevon Looney

We have seen this group win a championship before. The perception would be that the team is good enough to win again. You would be looking at three of the last six Finals MVP winners on the same team. Durant won in 2017 and 2018, while Curry was the Finals MVP in 2022. Klay Thompson is going to start the regular season healthy for the first time in years. That triple-threat of shooting would be the most lethal in the league.

As for the worries about Durant and Green, it appears that both are content with moving on from their past conflicts. As for Looney, he was recently brought back and would be the team’s starting center. When Looney played with this group years ago, he came off of the bench, which is still something that could happen with James Wiseman returning back to full health.


Nets Projected Lineup If Trade Happened

Nets Projected Lineup If Trade Happened

PG: Kyrie Irving

SG: Jordan Poole

SF: Joe Harris

PF: Andrew Wiggins

C: Nicolas Claxton

Because of the rookie rule, the team would have to immediately trade Ben Simmons. Where Simmons would go would be unclear, but the team would have to find a way or agree to some form of a buyout, which is extremely unlikely. Assuming that the Nets could find a taker, this lineup has the potential to compete in the Eastern Conference. Irving is a top talent in the league and could pair well with Poole. This backcourt could average a combined 55 points a night.

Joe Harris once led the league in three-point shooting. If Harris can stay healthy, he would have two guards that would draw attention and could find him for open shots. Wiggins was an All-Star last season. That would give the Nets two All-Star players in Irving and Wiggins. Poole should have been the Most Improved Player of the Year. This would be a sleeper team in the East and one we should not count out.


The Future

Ultimately, Durant is going to start the season with the Nets. After an offseason full of rumors, the relationship was deemed professional enough to allow Durant to move forward with Brooklyn. The combination of Durant, Irving, Simmons, and the rest of the Nets are still viewed as a title contender. When on the floor, Durant is an MVP candidate. Assuming Irving will play the full season, the world should not sleep on the Nets.

As for the Warriors, the team will look to win their fifth championship with the core of Curry, Thompson, and Green. Having Durant a part of that would have helped their odds, but it might have messed up the chemistry they have already built. With Kuminga developing, Poole standing out, Wiggins as an All-Star, and the return of Wiseman, the Warriors should be favorites to repeat as champions in 2023.

Durant not joining the Warriors is probably the best thing for his legacy. If he can lead the Nets to a title, it would do wonders for him. Despite winning two Finals MVP Awards, Durant is labeled as a follower by many around the league. When Durant joined the Warriors at the time, the team set the NBA record for wins in a season. Durant joined a superteam that didn’t need him to win. If he joined a championship-caliber team that didn’t need him to win two times, it would have ruined any perception about him.

Both teams have their separate storylines. Can Durant lead a team with him as the face? Can the Warriors become the greatest dynasty in league history? Neither of these questions would be answered if Durant teamed up with the Warriors again. Now, if both teams can make the NBA Finals, that would be the dream scenario. 

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