The best trade Blazers can offer Nets for Kevin Durant after Damian Lillard teases potential partnership
Kevin Durant grew closer with Damian Lillard last suymmer while leading Team USA to gold at the Tokyo Olympics, and still has a public, personal affinity for the Pacific Northwest well more than a decade after being drafted by the Seattle Supersonics. Still, odds of the two-time Finals MVP putting the Portland Trail Blazers on his wish list of potential new teams should he actually leave the Brookyn Nets seem pretty unlikely.
Good thing Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic are already openly recruiting him to Rip City, then. As rumors continue swirling about the Nets’ dissolution amid acrimonious contract negotiations with Kyrie Irving, the Blazers’ franchise player and longtime starting center made direct appeals to Durant on social media.
Damian Lillard posted this photo with Kevin Durant on Instagram 👀 pic.twitter.com/a5DpWxqaqA
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) June 25, 2022
Neither Lillard nor Nurkic specified, though, what Portland would give up to make their dreams of teaming with in 2022-23 become reality.
Disclaimer: The likeliest outcome is Durant remaining with Brooklyn beyond this summer, and there’s never been an inkling that he has interest in playing for the Blazers. Anfernee Simons’ status as a restricted free would trigger complicated sign-and-trade rules for salary-matching purposes, forcing Sean Marks and Joe Cronin to structure one bigger deal as multiple small trades—no simple obstacle.
Regardless, if Irving really does bail on Brooklyn and Durant asks out, the Nets could certainly do worse to hasten a sudden rebuild than a collection of the best trade assets Portland could offer.
Blazers best Kevin Durant trade offer
- Nets: Anfernee Simons (sign-and-trade), Shaedon Sharpe, Eric Bledsoe and top-five protected 2026, 2028 first-round picks
- Blazers: Kevin Durant
Portland’s justification doesn’t need much further explanation.
Any team featuring Lillard and Durant would be title a contender with the right supporting cast, and Jerami Grant, Josh Hart, Nurkic and Nassir Little provide a solid one in this glorious theoretical scenario. The Blazers would need additional depth in the backcourt to keep Lillard fresh and could use an athletic or floor-spacing third big off the bench, but would immediately vault toward the top of the Western Conference based on that collective star power and and lineup versatility alone.
There’s a reason Lillard and Nurkic have taken it upon themselves to flaunt tampering rules, after all.
Brooklyn obviously would have its choice of massive player and pick hauls from across the league if it opened up the bidding for Durant. General manager Marks and the front office would be under no delusions of meaningful contention in wake of losing Durant, Irving and James Harden, surely seeking blue-chip prospects and high-value first-round picks instead of win-now replacements.
The problem there is that truly elite young players probably aren’t available in exchange for Durant despite his reasonable remaining case as the best player in the world. He turns 34 in September, has a history of foot injuries and was outplayed by Jayson Tatum two months ago as the Nets were swept from the first round of the playoffs.
Why would the Toronto Raptors or Cleveland Cavaliers, for instance, want to part with Scottie Barnes or Evan Mobley in a deal for Durant? Those teams, like the Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks and New Orleans Pelicans around their franchise cornerstones, are set up for a decade or more of lasting success. It’s fair to surmise they wouldn’t sacrifice sustained bright futures for a couple seasons of chasing a ring with Durant.
In that case, Brooklyn could pivot to targeting a lower tier of young players, where the tandem of Simons and Sharpe offers immense intrigue. The former was quietly one of the league’s most prolific and efficient perimeter scorers last season once Lillard went down in early January, while some scouts and analysts believe Sharpe has the highest ceiling of any player taken in the 2022 draft.
Simons has never produced at that level over a full season, let alone under the postseason pressure cooker. Sharpe, who last played a competitive game nearly a year ago, presented nearly as much risk with the seventh overall pick as reward. Would sweeteners of future first-round picks, when Lillard and Durant will both be past their primes, be enough for Brooklyn to get comfortable with those downsides?
Maybe not, but the allure of surrounding Ben Simmons with dynamic, explosive shot-makers like Simons and Sharpe would at least prevent Brooklyn from hanging up the phone. It’s time for the Blazers to follow the lead of Lillard and Nurkic by giving the Nets a call.