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Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Stephen Curry weighs in on possible Warriors trade for Kevin Durant: 5 burning questions about hypothetical Golden State reunion

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The Kevin Durant saga continues to roll on with momentum this NBA offseason. 

Durant reportedly put in a trade request to the Nets, which has sent basketball fans and pundits into a frenzy trying to predict where he will land. 

Trade Machine scenarios are being bandied about with abandon, but the reality is, only a small number of teams can make a deal for the superstar forward, and probably an even smaller amount that Durant would like to play for.

Initial reports indicated that the Heat and Suns were on Durant’s list of possible destinations, but recently the Warriors have emerged as a dark horse to regain the services of the star who won two straight Finals MVPs with them in 2017 and 2018. 

Fox Sports’ Ric Bucher reported that Stephen Curry has reached out to Durant multiple times as he prepares to chase the fifth title of his career — which would give him the advantage over LeBron James.

“The rumor mill and all that stuff is part of the nature of the NBA and league,” Curry told NBC Sports Bay Area. “You take it for what it is. You know how quickly things can change, but I like where we’re at.”

The rumor mill will keep turning, but where there is smoke, there is fire, no?

What would a Durant trade to Golden State look like? We answer the five most burning questions, beginning with the most obvious . . .

MORE: Warriors’ Summer League team provides glimpse of future

Can a trade be done? 

If the NBA has proven anything over the years, it’s that anything is possible. (Shout out to Kevin Garnett.)

As is the case with most trades in the league, there are always moving parts and finer details to get around, but the Nets reportedly are setting a steep price in any potential Durant trade. According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the Nets “want a young star player and they’re looking for at least three first-round draft picks.”

That would require a lot of teams to gut their roster to bring in Durant (more on that in a moment), which shrinks the market for the two-time champion.

The Warriors, however, could present one of the better offers to the Nets and, in theory, still remain competitive.

Golden State just won its fourth title in eight seasons, helped greatly by a group of promising young players, and they could be getting back center James Wiseman, who should be ready to return from injury next season.

MORE: Wiseman shows potential in first game back

The Warriors’ championship window should remain open as long as Curry is playing, so their draft picks won’t be high for the next few seasons. But if they were to package an All-Star — Draymond Green or Klay Thompson — several young players from among Jordan Poole, Jonathon Kuminga, Wiseman and Moses Moody, and some picks, that might get them over the line. 

Andrew Wiggins’ name has been thrown into the mix as well, but he cannot be traded to the Nets unless Brooklyn trades Ben Simmons elsewhere first because of the designated rookie rule.

Teams are allowed to have two players who have received a five-year max extension on the roster, but only one player can be acquired via trade. Brooklyn acquired Simmons in a deal with the 76ers last season, so the Nets couldn’t also trade for Wiggins, who signed his rookie max extension with the Timberwolves in 2017.

Another option could be a three-team trade with Phoenix, but that would depend on how Deandre Ayton’s situation plays out. 

Would it be worth giving up the young players?

This is the question the Warriors will have to answer: Chase short-term success with a proven commodity, or continue to build for the future?

Golden State’s young group was a key reason why the team won the ‘chip this past season, and the expectation within the Warriors organization is that those players will continue to progress and move the franchise forward when Curry is no longer the force he is now. 

MORE: Debating six potential Kevin Durant trades

Curry will turn 35 by the midpoint of next season and Durant will be 34 by the time the season tips off in October.  

But Durant is still one of the best five players in the world when he’s healthy. If the Warriors trade for him, they are hoping to maximize the tail end of Curry’s — and possibly Durant’s — prime for another title. 

Their championship window probably will close as soon as Curry is done. Will the transition from the Curry era to the next era of Warriors basketball be smooth? 

In 76 games last season, Poole averaged 18.5 points and four assists while leading the league in free-throw percentage (.925); that made him a contender for Most Improved Player. Kuminga has shown signs of becoming a dominant player. The Warriors likely envision him playing alongside Wiseman and Moody moving forward. 

Are the Warriors thinking short or long term? That brings us to . . .

What are the pros and cons of a Durant trade?

Pros: Adding Durant ensures the Warriors will remain a title contender for the next two, maybe three, seasons. If history has shown us anything, it’s that teams sometimes have no regard for the future so long as they win that one title. 

Golden State wouldn’t be giving up any high draft picks, so that’s a positive. 

Cons: As mentioned before, getting Durant would mean gutting a large part of the young future core and the Warriors would definitely be betting on themselves to get at least one more title for Curry, Durant and the franchise. 

Getting rid of beloved figures such as Green or Thompson would be a hard sell to the fan base. Durant helped them win a couple of titles, but Green and Thompson have been there from the beginning, through all the ups and downs. 

Why is this different than in 2016?

Durant came to the Warriors in 2016 as probably the best player in the world, or at least a clear No. 2. This time, he’ll be 34, and it’s questionable whether he can remain healthy for a full regular season plus a playoff run. 

The torn left Achilles tendon that he suffered in the 2019 Finals caused him to miss the entire 2019-20 season. He finally returned in December 2020 and initially looked as if he hadn’t missed a beat, but injuries again took a toll. A hamstring injury forced him to miss 21 games during the ’20-21 season. 

In 2022, Durant exited in the second quarter of a mid-January game with a left knee injury, which was later revealed to be an MCL sprain that subsequently ruled him out for four to six weeks. 

His health and longevity are legitimate concerns, especially for a team that would have to gut its roster to acquire him. 

And from the Warriors’ point of view, they might be looking at the situation and thinking that they don’t need Durant this time around. In 2016, they were coming off a devastating Finals loss in which they coughed up a 3-1 lead to LeBron, Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers. They felt like they needed Durant to get back to the mountaintop. 

This time, the Warriors are the reigning champs and have exciting young players to build around for the future. Maybe they don’t need Durant now.

Would a Durant trade make the Warriors title favorites?

The answer to that would obviously depend on which players the Warriors give up in a trade. 

If the Warriors have to deal one of Green or Thompson, plus some combination of Poole, Moody, Kuminga and Wiseman, that would leave the talent cupboard a bit bare after Curry and Durant. 

The Warriors will always be a threat so long as those two are healthy, but without the defensive nous of Green or the dynamism of their youth, it might be a stretch to say that they should be favorites. 

Competitive? Sure. Favorites? Hmmm.

In the East, a bunch of teams are looking to take the Dubs down. The Celtics have deepened their roster with the acquisitions of Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari. The Bucks will be back in contention with their trio of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton. The Heat, led by Jimmy Butler, should stay be up near the top.

And in the West, the Nuggets will be a threat if Nikola Jokic continues his MVP form, and Denver will also be getting Jamal Murray back. The Suns, depending on what happens with Ayton, could position themselves for another run. The Grizzlies made a huge leap last season and will look to replicate it this coming season.

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