Late Thursday night, the NBA world was sent into total chaos. 13-time All-Star Kevin Durant was traded to the Phoenix Suns. Phoenix acquired Durant and T.J. Warren for Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder, four unprotected first-round picks, and a pick swap in 2028 (per Adrian Wojnarowski via Twitter).
Less than four years ago, news broke over the summer that Durant and Kyrie Irving would be signing with the Nets, and nobody could have predicted the drama that followed. Eventually, former MVP James Harden would join them in the Big Apple, and almost everyone thought a championship in Brooklyn was a lock. Arguably the best group of stars the NBA has ever seen, and what a ride it’s been.
If you could take a time machine back to when that deal occurred and told NBA fans that this team would never make it past the second round of the playoffs, they would’ve called you a madman.
After trading Harden, Durant, and Irving spent roughly two more years together with the Nets, until Irving requested a trade. He was eventually dealt to the Dallas Mavericks on February 6. Barely three days later, the final piece of the ‘Big 3’ is gone.
With Durant’s departure, this makes it official: the Nets’ experiment with KD, Kyrie, and James Harden, is the biggest failure in the history of the NBA. A combined two MVPs, endless All-Star and All-NBA appearances, and just 16 games played together.
Looking at the present and the eventual future, the Suns just made themselves the favorites to win the Western Conference. Durant joins Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and Deandre Ayton, undoubtedly a super team. Sitting at the fifth seed, they’re just 8.5 games behind the Denver Nuggets, who hold the top spot. The narrative this season has been that the West and maybe the NBA as a whole, is wide open. That may still hold true even with a new potential juggernaut, but the conference just got a whole lot tougher.
As for the Nets, this move brings back a haul of draft capital, which is huge considering they traded that away in 2021 for Harden. Following the season, it definitely looks like they’ll go back into a rebuild, something fans were so familiar with before 2019.
While a rebuild is in the near future, how does that happen right now with a 32-22 record? With a roster consisting of young talents such as Cam Thomas, Mikal Bridges, and Nic Claxton, yet solid veterans such as Jae Crowder, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Seth Curry, it’s hard to believe that this team will fall into the lottery. Just over halfway through the season, Brooklyn sits at the fifth seed in the East. It’s more than likely they’ll take an exit in either the first round or the Play-In Tournament.
With Durant now a Phoenix Sun, here are my standings predictions for the top six seeds in each conference (barring injury, acquisitions, etc.):
- Boston Celtics
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Philadelphia 76ers
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- New York Knicks
- Miami Heat
(Play-In candidates: Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls, Toronto Raptors)
- Denver Nuggets
- Phoenix Suns
- Dallas Mavericks
- Sacramento Kings
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Los Angeles Clippers
(Play-In candidates: Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers)
Will Durant find success with his new superteam? Time will tell, but one thing is for certain: it’s an unbelievable time to be an NBA fan.