Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are staying with the Nets. Are you surprised at all? And do you think the Nets are going to be good?
Marilyn Dubinski: It definitely doesn’t surprise me that no one would take Irving off their hands with all the baggage and demands (such as commanding a 60-game limit and not having to play in back-to-backs) he carries, but I’m a little more surprised there wasn’t a market for Durant. He’s still a top 5 player in the league when healthy, but therein lies the catch: he’s injury prone and will definitely leave his prime during the remaining four years of his contract, so I can see the hesitance from other franchises to give up too much for him in return. (Plus his trade demand always seemed a little suspect and out of the blue.) As far as if they’ll be good: if healthy and everyone (including Ben Simmons) participates, they should be a top 4 seed in the East. How close they are to a contender remains to be seen.
Mark Barrington: The Nets are a little like the Island of Misfit Toys, which is the place where all of the toys that nobody wanted to play with ended up in the Christmas classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Some of the misfit toys were actually pretty cool, like the cowboy riding an ostrich instead of a pony. But like a toy train with square wheels, it’s really hard to find a place for Kyrie Irving, so he’s staying on the island. At least one team was interested in Durant, but not at the price the Nets were asking, which was reportedly set at the draft capital that the Jazz landed for Gobert plus at least one star player. I do think the Nets are going to be very good if they stay healthy, because they have Patty Mills. But I doubt they can contend for a title, because there’s just no cohesion. I see a second-round exit in their future this season.
Bruno Passos: Hindsight is 20/20, but the fact that actually finding the right deal for Durant, still one of the greatest players in the world at 33 and with 4 years left on his contract, was easier said than done makes total sense. The Nets had no reason to be in a rush to move him, especially when most of the reported offers out there a) paled in comparison to Utah’s haul and b) neither kept them among the East’s better teams nor offered them real long-term upside. Irving is a different beast for all the reasons that are continuously reported, and it’s understandable that few teams were willing to go out of their way to integrate such a wild card, albeit a very talented one. I am looking forward to them trying to make it work, because of how fun Irving is on the floor, Durant’s All-World skills, and the idea of a Benaissance. There’s also some interesting depth behind them that makes it fun to imagine things clicking. That said, I wouldn’t bet on them contending because there are simply too many ways things can go wrong, one of the least mentioned being Simmons’ return from lower back surgery.
Jesus Gomez: It’s a little surprising because stars normally get to force their way out of teams, and the Nets seemed ready to move on after a disastrous season. Under more normal circumstances I assume the two would have been moved, but with Kyrie Irving looking like more of a liability than an asset, Durant entering the last stage of his prime, and other teams worrying about giving up too much for players who have a track record of leaving whenever they are not comfortable with their situation, the market was clearly more tepid than it would have been a couple of years ago. Still, the people in charge in Brooklyn deserve credit for navigating the situation well. The question is, will it pay off in the long run?
The Nets should be good if everyone is healthy. It’s just tough to give them contender status with so many question marks. If Kyrie is ready for the playoffs, Durant doesn’t decline too heavily and Simmons has a Defensive Player of the Year-level season, they could get there. The more likely scenario involves something going wrong, the Nets being a good but not great team that falls short of making the Finals, and more drama coming next offseason.
J.R. Wilco: If it was anyone other than Kevin Durant (and maybe one or two other guys in the NBA), I’d be surprised about the non-trade. But KD is so odd that I could see him withdrawing his trade request and deciding to stick it out and see if it works. After all, the team is loaded and could be pretty special once the guys gel and play to their strengths.
If it was anyone other than Kyrie Irving, I’d be surprised about the non-trade...
The Jazz were rewarded for their patience with a big haul for Donovan Mitchell. What are your thoughts on the deal?
Dubinski: Utah was smart. A lot of teams — including the Spurs — have taken flack over the years for panicking when their star demands a trade and taking a merely “acceptable” package too soon when, with more time, they likely could have done better.
Barrington: I’m a little surprised that the Cavs were the team that pulled off the trade, but when you see how much the Jazz received, it’s pretty clear that the Knicks lost in a bidding war they couldn’t afford to win. The Jazz got a King’s Ransom, and it appears that all of the first round picks for the next ten years will belong to either the Thunder or the Jazz. The Jazz now have 15 first round picks in the next 7 years of the draft, which moves Danny Ainge ahead of Sam Presti in the draft pick hoarder sweepstakes. While the Cavs paid a lot for Donovan Mitchell, they kept all of their star players, except for Sexton, who’s being replaced, and also their 2024 first round pick, so they’re set for a good run as a contender in Donovan’s prime, which is all they’re looking for. This trade helps both teams, the Cavs right now and the Jazz over the next decade and beyond.
Passos: The Jazz bet on the Knicks being the Knicks, thirsting so hard for the closest shiny object that they cave to what was reportedly an absurd return of picks and players. New York didn’t bite, but it’s not surprising someone else did. With how good and young Mitchell is, I think it was fine to wait for an offer closer to what they thought they could get.
Gomez: It’s a good trade for both teams. It wouldn’t have made sense for the Knicks to give up as much as Cleveland did, because Mitchell alone doesn’t turn a team into a contender, but pairing him Garland and Mobley should give the Cavaliers a good core for years to come. As for the Jazz, they got the type of deal they wanted, so clearly waiting a few weeks paid off, but I’m not sure being as patient as they were would work with a more high-profile star willing to work the media to put pressure on the front office to deal him to his preferred destination.
Wilco: Cleveland is a young team, and they’re get even younger (and have some cap space) when Kevin Love comes off the books at the end of the season. It’ll be interesting to see how they rise in an East that looks like it’s finally putting its “Leastern Conference” tag behind it.
Utah had to move Mitchell, and getting so much back for him has to be gratifying for the fans. Almost makes me wonder what would have happened if Kawhi’s group decided to let PATFO take their time instead of choosing to tank his trade value. (Not that I’m bitter or anything.)
Not counting the Nets stars, who do you think will be the next All-Star to be traded?
Dubinski: This may be an easy out, but I’ll go with Russell Westbrook because some insiders remain confident he won’t be Laker on opening night. Maybe he finds chemistry with the other Lakers stars this season and things work out better, but if nothing changes they should still have a bit more of a market for him during the season since he’s on an expiring contract, which opens up another market for him as the season wears on. As a possible side note, they also just traded for his arch-nemesis Patrick Beverley. Maybe both are more mature about each other than they represent on social media and will find a way to get along, but I just don’t see that as a move the Lakers would if they really wanted Westbrook to be happy
Barrington: I think the Lakers are itching to move Westbrook, but it would probably have to be part of a multi-team mega-trade involving a ton of players. There are a lot of teams that have some obvious holes to fill, but they don’t have the cap flexibility or draft capital to make significant trades on their own. For example, the Mavericks need some help in the frontcourt, even after the acquisition of Christian Wood, but they don’t have a first-round pick next year because they sent it away in 2019 as part of the deal to get Kristaps Porzingis (who is now on the Wizards).
That’s why I think that the Mitchell trade might be the last big move of the offseason. Although it makes me nervous to make these kinds of predictions, because it always seems the opposite occurs shortly after I say something like that.
Passos: I’m choosing to ignore the answers above framing Westbrook as an All-Star, foregoing a suggestion of Julius Randle on similarly fraudulent terms, and I’ll roll with a more legitimate All-Star talent in Pascal Siakam. It’s a long shot, but I think the Raptors eventually have to consolidate their glut of long 6-9 dudes who can only kinda dribble or shoot and differentiate a bit. Scottie Barnes is now untouchable, which may make Siakam their best path towards a more complementary star-level piece.
Gomez: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would be my pick, but despite having had star-level seasons, he has not made an All-Star team. So instead I’ll go with four-time All-Star Nikola Vucevic. Vooch has struggled at times in Chicago, especially when his outside shot has abandoned him. If everyone is healthy, his role on offense should shrink even further as he’s pushed to the perimeter more, and while he’s not a liability on defense, he’s not the type of inside presence the Bulls could use. I can see the front office trying to move him for more depth and shooting, which could make sense for both parties.
Wilco: I don’t see any All Stars being traded before the season begins. But after that, my guess is that the Lakers will unload Westbrook as soon as it’s obvious that he’s incapable of changing his game to benefit his team as long as he’s on his current contract.