The Athletic’s Hollinger: Suns trade for Kevin Durant likely needs 3rd team

Jul 2, 2022, 2:45 PM | Updated: Jul 3, 2022, 4:09 pm
Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets reacts during Game Four of the Eastern Conference First Round ...
Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets reacts during Game Four of the Eastern Conference First Round Playoffs against the Boston Celtics at Barclays Center on April 25, 2022 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Boston Celtics defeated the Brooklyn Nets 116-112. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

John Hollinger, an NBA analyst for The Athletic and former executive for the Memphis Grizzlies, devised five of the most sensical Kevin Durant trades he could think of on Saturday.

The Phoenix Suns option became one of the more complex.

Durant reportedly listed the Suns as one of his preferred destinations after requesting a trade on Thursday, but Hollinger wrote that a third team would likely need to get involved.

For starters, an actual direct trade with Phoenix gets tripped up almost immediately by two bits of salary cap arcana: first, that the Nets are too far past the luxury tax apron to take back Ayton in a sign-and-trade; and second, that Ayton’s “base-year” status prevents Phoenix from taking back all of his first-year salary as a match.

Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro has already reported that the Brooklyn Nets are not seeking Ayton in a deal.

Gambadoro said one team that does have some interest in Ayton is the Utah Jazz, which traded center Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves Friday for a king’s ransom of picks and players.

Hollinger brought up Utah as the logical third party.

Utah and Brooklyn have already made a trade this offseason with the Jazz sending wing Royce O’Neal to the Nets for a first-rounder.

The Suns would still have to match Durant’s salary by including a combination of other players, be it Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, Cam Payne, Jae Crowder or Landry Shamet. Essentially anyone on the roster not named Devin Booker or Chris Paul.

Here’s where it gets fun. Utah can pull off this deal by folding the Gobert trade and this one into a single megadeal, where they acquire Ayton, send some of the draft equity they received from Minnesota to the Suns, and ship out another $15-20 million in salary (Say, Bojan Bogdanovic, or Mike Conley, or one of Malik Beasley or Patrick Beverley and Rudy Gay).

The haggling of who gets what out of this would be pretty intense. The Nets would ask for first-rounders and pick swaps from Phoenix, while the Suns would ask the same of the Jazz.

The former executive wrote that Phoenix would likely need to part with a similar stack of draft picks as Minnesota did for Gobert, which was four, to acquire Durant.

Hollinger noted this would be worth it for a team in title contention.

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The Athletic’s Hollinger: Suns trade for Kevin Durant likely needs 3rd team