As the calendar nears August and much of the roster maneuvering that happens via the NBA draft and free agency is behind us, the dog days of the offseason are here. But the unsettled futures of superstars Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell continue to loom over the league. The NBA never sleeps.
So while NBA executives and players are scattering all over the globe for much-needed time off and personal time after shortened offseasons in 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, a full summer provides everyone time to clear their minds even while the very balance of power for next season and beyond remains to be determined.
There’s no trade deadline right now, but deadlines always breed action, allowing parties to either become truly serious or decide to walk away from discussions. Now, the start of training camp around Sept. 26 is the unofficial trade deadline. Teams aiming to move players face the late September date for finding a move ahead of camp — or they risk having a cloud hanging over the beginning of the season.
Durant requested a trade from Brooklyn on June 30, according to sources, and after active discussions between the Nets and interested teams in early July, conversations have slowed down. The Nets have set an incredibly high threshold for the return the franchise wants in a Durant trade — a two-time NBA champion, two-time Finals MVP, a former league MVP and 12-time All-Star — and teams have not come close to meeting their price yet.
Durant has shown no change in his stance, sources say, and executives from across the league at the Las Vegas Summer League this month wondered whether his status for training camp could be in question via holdout should no trade develop.
After the Phoenix Suns matched Indiana’s $133 million maximum offer sheet to Deandre Ayton, the list of suitors for Durant became clearer. With Ayton currently unable to be traded, the Suns appear to be all but eliminated from the Durant sweepstakes. The Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat remain among the teams in pursuit — and the Boston Celtics recently offered a package around one-time All-Star Jaylen Brown for Durant and have emerged as a real threat to acquire Durant, league sources tell The Athletic.
The Celtics offered Brown, guard Derrick White and a draft pick to the Nets for Durant, sources said. The proposal was rejected, and Brooklyn has asked Boston — in any proposal — to include Brown, Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart, draft picks and potentially one more rotation player, those sources added. Currently, the Celtics are less inclined to include Smart along with multiple other player assets or pick assets, but the franchise is mulling over next steps on how to approach discussions.
As of right now, the Celtics have emerged as a serious possibility as a landing spot for Durant. They have tremendous interest in bringing him in and view him as a piece that could take them over that final hurdle. Although there is work to be done, there is a deal to be had that would suffice the Nets’ overwhelming ask.
For Boston, fresh off a trip to the NBA Finals, the opportunity to potentially land one of the greatest players in league history is one that president Brad Stevens must analyze and explore. However, the Celtics are assuredly set to be judicious and are keen on ensuring the franchise can remain a championship contender for years to come, which this current core appears to be set to do. But this is Kevin Durant, and his greatness could instantly reshape a team’s fortunes from a title contender to a title winner under the right circumstances.
No deal for Durant is imminent, and as August and then September loom, the real desire of interested teams will become clear to the Nets. Brooklyn’s front office, led by general manager Sean Marks, has set a high price on the Durant market while constructing a team that gives the organization confidence in its ability to contend should the team bring the roster, as is, into training camp. The onus is on the interested parties to come to the table on meeting the price for one of the NBA’s greatest ever players. The Utah Jazz moved Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves for a package including multiple players, their 2022 first-round pick in Walker Kessler, four future first-rounders and a draft pick swap — which has somewhat increased the market value for Durant and the Nets’ desire for All-Star caliber players and picks.
Nets star Kyrie Irving opted into his $37 million player option for next season, committing to the 2022-23 season with the franchise. In Brooklyn, there remains plenty to sort out — and a clearer picture promises to reveal itself as the summer rolls along — and a belief still that the best path to compete for a championship could certainly be to bring the current roster into the new season.
ESPN first reported on the Celtics’ entry as an interested suitor for Durant. Durant has four years and $198 million remaining on his contract while Brown has two years and nearly $60 million.
Meanwhile, eyes and ears around the league also remain fixated on the Utah Jazz and New York Knicks engaging in trade talks surrounding Mitchell. The Knicks’ asset pool — up to eight first-round draft picks and young players such as Quentin Grimes, Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin — gives them a clear opportunity to acquire Mitchell, but sources say talks so far have moved slowly and the sides are far from an agreement. With three years guaranteed remaining on Mitchell’s contract, the Jazz are not operating with a sense of urgency and have the time to evaluate the best offers for the 25-year-old.
Mitchell has spent the summer in his usual offseason routine: high-intensity workouts and time with his family and friends. Sources said the three-time NBA All-Star has not requested a trade or attempted to force his way out of Utah, but should the franchise move toward a full rebuild, a competitor like Mitchell would prefer to be in an environment geared toward winning now, not later.
Like Brooklyn, the Jazz have held firm on setting a high bar on any potential Mitchell deal, and they expect to be patient throughout the process. For now, the Jazz will continue to evaluate incoming calls and seek ways to balance their roster.
The NBA’s unofficial trade deadline for the offseason is two months away, and Durant and Mitchell loom as major dominos for the entire league.
More NBA news and notes…
Collin Sexton is in the midst of the most difficult free agency status — restricted free agency — but the fourth-year guard and his representation, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul, have shown so far that they won’t settle in negotiations. Discussions could go into training camp, and potentially into the season when the landscape of the league’s rosters shift.
Sexton has a $7.2 million qualifying offer for the 2022-23 season, which would make him one of the top unrestricted free agents on the market next offseason.
Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr. and the organization have mutual interest in a contract extension before the start of the 2022-23 season, sources said. Porter, the No. 30 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, is entering the final season of his rookie deal. He joined the Rockets on Jan. 29, 2021, and has made progress over the past two years in Houston.
Porter averaged 15.6 points, 6.2 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game last season while shooting a career-best 37.5 percent from 3-point range.
After further conversations, former NBA All-Star Rasheed Wallace will no longer join new Lakers coach Darvin Ham’s staff, sources said. Wallace served as an assistant under Penny Hardaway at the University of Memphis last season.
Utah, New York and Indiana are among the teams that have discussed deals with the Lakers involving Russell Westbrook and draft capital, sources said. There appears no deal imminent in those conversations — as the overall trade market plays out over the next two months of the offseason.
(Top photo: Al Bello/Getty Images)