With the statement released by the Brooklyn Nets and Kevin Durant, the drama and the sweepstakes for his services have pretty much been put to bed.
However, things took an interesting turn before it was over as it was earlier reported that the Memphis Grizzlies became the latest team to make inquiries about Durant’s availability.
Of course, when a player like Kevin Durant becomes available, teams should at least consider acquiring him. A 12-time All-Star and 10-time All-NBA selection, Durant is a two-time Finals MVP who has led the league in scoring four times and has been in the conversation for best player in the NBA for much of the last decade. The body of work he has produced since entering the league in 2007 speaks for itself.
The downside, though, is that Durant has recently had the tendency of changing his mind especially when the situation turns sour. In his career, Durant has stayed with the Oklahoma City Thunder/Seattle Supersonics the longest, as his nine seasons with the team were nearly double his stints with the Nets and the Golden State Warriors combined.
Sure, Durant’s current contract runs through the 2025-2026 NBA Season but one has to wonder how his health will hold up. More than three years removed from surgery to repair a ruptured right Achilles tendon and turning 34 on September 29, Durant has played 90 regular season games and has led Brooklyn to consecutive postseason appearances. In the two seasons since his return from surgery, the 2013-2014 NBA MVP has so far averaged 28.7 points (on stellar 52.5/40.9/90.0 shooting splits, 7.3 rebounds, 6.1 assists, and 1.1 blocks per game, so it can be said there’s been no dropoff since his return. He’s already at the point where he will have the occasional night off not just because of the injury but also because of the mileage that comes from playing 1,094 regular and postseason games over 15 years of professional basketball. So there will be some trade-offs, which may not be drastic, but will certainly factor into the decisions of whichever team he will play for.
While the interest surrounding Durant was not unsurprising, the Grizzlies’ interest (even if minimal) was intriguing. Fresh off a Western Conference Semifinal appearance where they took the eventual NBA champions Golden State Warriors to six games, Memphis has a young and talented core led by Ja Morant and supported by Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane, and Dillon Brooks, among others.
Memphis, of course, became a potential Durant suitor largely because of the assets they could have sent to the Nets in return. For one, the Grizzlies have five first-round draft picks that are usually hot commodities in the market. Memphis also has a solid collection of talent that would certainly help Brooklyn if they were to rebuild, however, the Nets’ asking price may have been too steep.
Even with those assets, Grizzlies Executive Vice-President of Basketball Operations and general manager Zach Kleiman needed to weigh on whether or not to disrupt a great defensive core that was the best in the NBA in terms of blocks per game (6.5), rebounds per game (49.2) and steals (9.8), had the second-highest winning percentage (68.3) in the regular season, and even managed to finish with the second-best scoring average (115.6 points per game).
In the postseason, Memphis took it up a notch, as they were the top scoring team in the 2022 NBA Playoffs (112.5 points per game), had the highest postseason steals per game (9.2), and finished second in the 16-playoff field in terms of rebounds per game (45.8).
Given that the average age of its roster will be 23.9 years old by opening day of the 2022-2023 NBA Season, one has to wonder how Durant would have fit into the Grizzlies’ timeline. Although Durant would have easily slotted into the role of the grizzled (no pun intended) veteran, he easily would have provided another closer that could have made Memphis a dangerous team in the postseason. Also, the Grizzlies already seem like a tight-knit bunch who love to take to Twitter, although Durant is quite the active tweeter himself.
Kevin Durant looks set to be a Brooklyn Net at least for the foreseeable future but there was a chance he would have been a member of the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies joined the fray for Durant’s services like a child when a shiny, new toy suddenly becomes available. While the chance to acquire a star of Durant’s caliber is too good to pass, one has to wonder if it would have come at a significant cost both now and down the road.