The Kevin Durant conundrum
It’s hard to argue against picking up a generational NBA player when he shakes loose, but in the case of the 2022-23 Celtics, the price tag to snag Kevin Durant from the Brooklyn Nets is just too damn high.
Multiple reports emerged earlier this week indicating Boston’s front office reached out to Brooklyn offering Jaylen Brown, Derrick White, and a draft pick. Brooklyn GM Sean Marks reportedly countered with an enormous ask: Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, several picks, and possibly a rotational player.
This writer is not arguing against Durant’s incredible value. Yes, he’s approaching his 34th birthday and saw his team knocked out by the Celtics in the first round of the 2022 playoffs, but he put up his highest average points per game (29.9) in nearly a decade and stayed in the MVP conversation for most of the season.
And yet, this is a case of that old rich person adage: If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it. It benefits the Nets to broadcast this message to the entire league: this is KD’s market price, and even an established young star and pieces isn’t enough to get him. He’s a lobster on this menu, not cod.
The Celtics had to kick the tires on Durant. He’s a top-3 player. But to trade away two of five starters under the age of 30 from a team who’s still picking the blue and gold confetti off their shoulders is a non-starter. Throw in a rotational player – particularly rising defensive unit Grant Williams – and it’s a no from me, dawg.
It’s clear Stevens also didn’t enter the offseason with his sites on a major star like Durant. He tweaked the roster with the necessary additions of Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari in hopes of creating playmaking off the bench, and he sent out guys who were never going to appear in a 2023 playoff game. He’s still looking to solve the issue of a 3rd string big, but his moves thus far showed his confidence in mostly running it back next season.
And so trading Brown and Smart would likely leave the Celtics with rotating starters and lots of health risks. What would a starting lineup look like? Kevin Durant, Jayson Tatum, Malcolm Brogdon, Robert Williams, Al Horford? It sounds good on paper and judging by jersey sales, but three of those starters (including Durant) have startling injury histories and at 36 years old, Horford has already been ruled out for back-to-back games next season.
There’s also the conundrum of Jaylen Brown. He’s in a rotten spot as the most talented guy who’s expendable when bigger stars become available, but he and Tatum went to great lengths in 2022 to prove they play complementary ball together. The wild card is whether he intends to extend his current contract through 2027 – a choice he can make in October. The Celtics should do what they can to retain this homegrown star and further mature the chemistry among their core players. Brown’s handle looked mighty ugly in the playoffs, but the guy’s only 25.
Unfortunately, there’s one last thing to consider: the Celtics have been down this road before with one of Durant’s closest friends in Kyrie Irving. The trade they made back in 2017 was a good one, but let’s not revisit how the next two years played out. Is this an experiment that really bears repeating?
Nope. Move ahead with what the Celtics have: a team built from the ground up packed with young stars looking for vengeance.