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The team that should trade for Kevin Durant

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Roar Rookie
1st July, 2022
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After three seasons with the Brooklyn Nets, Kevin Durant has decided it’s time to leave the franchise and has requested a trade elsewhere, despite having only singed a fresh four year contract just last August.

While it has been reported that Durant has put the Phoenix Suns and Miami Heat on the top of his wish list, it’s no surprise that with four years remaining on his current deal, over 15 other teams have inquired about a potential trade. 

No doubt the standard ‘big market’ teams will do their best to trade for the former MVP, however there is one team who I believe should risk it all and mortgage their future in order to land Durant, and that is the Denver Nuggets.

When was the last time Denver landed a notable free agent? Have they ever really?

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In an article on Clutchpoints ranking the Nuggets’ top five free agent signings of all time, there are some ok players, however nothing like what conference rivals such as the Lakers, Golden State Warriors or even the L.A Clippers have been able to attract in recent years.

So with it being clear that free agents are reluctant to come to Denver, the only way to acquire new players is through the draft or via a trade.

With current back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokić only being 27-years-old, its highly unlikely they’ll be landing a high draft pick anytime soon, so in order to bring in a high calibre player that will contribute to the team right away, their only viable option is via a trade.

DENVER, CO - JUNE 11: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets accepts the 2021 NBA MVP award before Game Three of the Western Conference second-round playoff series at Ball Arena on June 11, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Nikola Jokic. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
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It certainly isn’t every day where a player of Durant’s ability becomes available on the trade market, so now is the perfect time to strike if you are the Nuggets.

So what would the trade look like?

Obviously the Nuggets won’t be able to complete the trade without giving up some major assets, however Jokić is without a doubt untouchable as he has just singed a $264 million supermax long term extension, so you can rule him out being in the trade.

Their next best player on paper is Jamal Murray. While the shooting guard missed the entire 2021/22 season with an ACL injury, at only 25 years of age, Murray’s best basketball is most likely still to come.

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The ACL injury may be a big deterrent to trade for him, however no team knows how well a player can bounce back from a major injury like the Nets as they saw first-hand how quickly Durant was able to return to his MVP level despite suffering a ruptured achilles.

In a league like the NBA we’re quick to forget performances of the past, but in the 2020 playoffs Murray scored 30+ points on six occasions, where against Utah he would score 50 twice

While there are some doubts about the legitimacy of players performances in the NBA COVID ‘bubble’, Murray had shown promising signs in regular conditions where before he ruptured his ACL, he was averaging 21.2 points per game (PPG) and 4.8 assists (APG) over 48 games while playing second fiddle to Jokić in the 2020/21 season.

So who knows what the Canadian could do as the number one option.

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The other player the Nets should look to include in the trade is Michael Porter Jr. While a serious back injury has hampered the 24-year-old over his short career, much like Murray he has shown some serious promise.

Michael Porter Jr.
Michael Porter Jr.  (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson, File)

In the 2020/21 season, Porter Jr averaged 19 PPG and 6.1 rebounds per game while shooting 44% from three.

It’s not crazy to suggest he could also elevate his game to the next level and become an All-Star level talent.

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In Murray and Porter Jr, the Nets would get two players a couple of years away from their prime who have shown signs of becoming real talents in the NBA.

Since the Nets traded away three unprotected first round draft picks, along with four first round pick swaps to Houston in the James Harden trade, they would also be looking to get back several unprotected first round picks in the Durant trade.

Due to previous trades the Nuggets have made, under the Stepien Rule they can only trade away their 2029 first-round pick. However in a loophole they are able to trade a 2024 first-round pick swap rights, 2026 first-round pick swap rights and their 2028 first-round pick swap rights

While the Nets could get better picks from other teams, it’s never a guarantee that you’ll land a top draft pick, or that the player you pick will turn out to be a star, just ask the process 76ers. So being able to include players like Murray and Porter Jr in this trade would put the Nuggets trade package above what other teams could offer.

The Nuggets may also be able to get back a shooter like Seth Curry or Joe Harris in the trade, where an outside three point shooter would slot in nicely next to a Durant and Jokić combo.

By using the ESPN trade machine, a trade that involves Murray and Porter Jr for Durant and Curry or Harris is successful, and while the machine doesn’t allow for picks to be used, the Nuggets should be willing to part with several first rounders for Durant.

With Durant turning 34 in September, this trade would shorten the Nuggets championship window drastically, however with strong competition currently in the western conference, even with a healthy Murray and Porter Jr, the Nuggets in my opinion would be the sixth best team in the conference.

Personally I would have them behind the reigning champions in the Golden State Warriors, Phoenix, Dallas, Memphis, and the L.A Clippers (assuming Kawhi Leonard is healthy). Depending on the health of LeBron James and Anthony Davis the Lakers could also be a better team on paper.

Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets talks to Kyrie Irving
Kevin Durant talks to Kyrie Irving  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

However if the Nuggets were able to pull of this trade for Durant, to me they would rocket up the rankings and would be shoulder to shoulder with the likes of the Warriors and the Suns in competing for the top seed.

Both Durant and Jokić are exceptional passers who constantly find the open man, if the front office was able to surround the pair with knock down shooters, offensively they would be hard to stop.

They both are capable of being the primary playmaker and initiating the offence however when needed they can also make impossible shots in an isolation setting. Game planning a defensive scheme to stop the pair would cause opposing teams to lose sleep and would be near impossible, however they aren’t without their faults.

The problem would be defence, obviously Durant and Jokić are more known for their offence, they have shown signs of good defence, but you won’t be seeing them in the all-defensive teams any time soon.

That being said, through free agency and other trades, the Nuggets could look to acquire defence first orientated players to fill in the gaps and complete the roster.

Overall this is the Nuggets best shot at elevating themselves from a dark horse to a firm contender and they will without a doubt never have another chance like this to add a player like Kevin Durant to their team, which is why they should do everything in their power to make this trade.

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