After an eventful week leading up to the NBA Trade Deadline, it is finally in the rearview mirror and the dust is starting to settle.
With a ton of movement, many around the league are just now able to exhale after living on the edge of their seat the past few days. Among those traded, many names, such as Marc Gasol and Nikola Mirotic were no surprise, while others, like Tobias Harris and Kristaps Porzingis, seemed to almost come out of nowhere.
There were obvious winners, like the Boston Celtics, who now will have the opportunity to enter the Anthony Davis sweepstakes come summertime, and apparent losers, like the Los Angeles Lakers, whose biggest pick up prior to the deadline was Reggie Bullock.
Out of all the transactions and buzz that made up the trade deadline this season, there was one very clear winner: Kevin Durant.
Although his team didn’t make any moves around the deadline KD lucked out big time, for two major reasons.
Firstly, Durant got off the hook easy for a pretty big media meltdown. It all started earlier this week when Ethan Strauss, who works the Golden State Warriors beat for The Athletic and has covered the team for some time now, dropped, what didn’t feel like, quite the bomb it turned out to be.
Strauss basically revealed speculation that Durant felt he would obtain the perceived title of the best player in the world by beating LeBron James in the finals and winning his first championship in 2017- something that obviously didn’t happen.
He furthered this by basically suggesting that this could have an effect on the two-time Final’s MVP’s looming free agency by increasing the likely hood he aims to compete for a title somewhere else to help him claim that designation.
However, Durant was having none of it.
On Wednesday, a quiet Kevin Durant sat in front of reporters and bit his tongue until prodded about his silence just enough and erupted. He went off, spouting his disapproval of the constant reporting and querying of him and those around him about his free agency. He even went as far to make eye contact with Ethan Strauss and tell him, and the rest of the reporters, to “grow up”.
While the star is no stranger to his openness about letting things get to him, this was a doozy of an outburst.
Luckily, though, what would have normally commanded a week’s worth of nationally syndicated coverage was just a blip on the ticker as players around the league where on the move like Carmen Sandiego. Programs like ESPN’s The Jump, who did a three-hour trade deadline special, just simply didn’t have time to dive fully into the latest Durant drama, letting him get off nearly scot-free.
The other big reason Durant, who will be the most highly coveted free agent this offseason, was a clear winner at the trade deadline was the priority multiple teams placed on opening up cap room.
The New York Knicks, who Durant has been linked to since before the season even started, used a Kristaps Porzingis trade to clear up enough cap space for two max contracts and add some assets to their pantry in Dennis Smith Jr. and some future first round picks.
The Los Angeles Clippers did the same by trading Tobias Harris. They brought in two more first round picks, including a Miami Heat 2021 first round pick which many believe to be a potentially great asset, and are flirting with enough room for two max contracts as well.
Teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets also avoided taking on money that would affect their offseason spending abilities, and even though they may not be preferred destinations for KD like the Knicks or Clippers, the more teams that have money, the more valuable he becomes on the market.
With his two main offseason target teams outside of Golden State looking like they will have enough money to bring in a second max guy alongside Durant, being able to pick his destiny, in terms of location and costar, makes for a rich selection of options.
Beyond that, both New York and Los Angeles have enough assets to possibly make a run at another big name on the trade market.
With those two teams making up half of the list of Anthony Davis’ preferred landing spots, there is a chance that Kevin Durant could find himself forming the next big three in the city of his choosing as soon as July of this year.
Many teams made great moves for this season, and some even made big moves for their franchise down the road, but Kevin Durant is a clear cut winner coming out of the 2019 trade deadline.