Kevin Durant likely won’t play in 2019-20, but he’s still contributing to the Nets’ future.
The Warriors sent the now-Nets superstar to Brooklyn as part of a sign-and-trade for D’Angelo Russell this summer. While the deal was initially meant to be a one-for-one exchange, Durant was against the idea of such an “unfair” trade and pressured Golden State to part with a protected future first-round pick as well, according to a report from ESPN‘s Brian Windhorst, which cited unidentified league sources.
“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.”
Durant has since inked a four-year, $164 million deal with the Nets and has a player option in 2022-23. He will join his close friend in star point guard Kyrie Irving, who also signed a four-year max deal with Brooklyn this offseason.
While Durant’s recovery from the ruptured Achilles he suffered in Game 5 of this year’s NBA Finals will delay his return to the court, the Nets have a talented young core featuring the likes of Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen to work with in his absence.
If the pick Golden State included in Durant’s sign-and-trade is outside the top 20, it could become a quality asset or building block for Brooklyn down the road.
The Warriors will look noticeably different next year, as star guard Klay Thompson is expected to miss most of 2019-20 rehabbing a torn ACL. They’ll have to hope Russell becomes a serviceable replacement in the meantime, especially given his hefty three-year, $117 million contract.