This NBA offseason has been rather quiet on the trade front and lacks the drama that fans have grown accustomed to in recent years.
After a promising start with the announcement of deals that brought Christian Wood to the Dallas Mavericks, Dejounte Murray to the Atlanta Hawks, and Malcolm Brogdon to the Boston Celtics, the market went quiet in the fallout of the blockbuster move that sent Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves on July 5.
Utah Jazz general manager Danny Ainge may have been too sly for his own good as the package of five first round picks and a handful of useful role players that he received for the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year spooked the market. It essentially pushed the benchmark higher for trades this offseason and has stalled his attempts to deal the other remaining NBA All-Star on the Jazz roster Donovan Mitchell.
For now, Utah’s full-on rebuild will have to wait at least a few more weeks. The New York Knicks were tipped as the favorites in the race for the high-scoring Mitchell, but were reportedly unwilling to part with similar levels of draft equity to what the Timberwolves coughed up for Gobert.
The Jazz’s focus has now shifted to the Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets who have also indicated their interest in the three-time NBA All-Star guard. However, it seems that no immediate deal is apparent and this game of poker will continue to be drawn out.
A more far reaching consequence of the impressive haul that Ainge extracted from Minnesota is the delay in the Kevin Durant sweepstakes. It has been more than a month since the 12-time NBA All-Star requested for the Brooklyn Nets to trade him away, yet no major progress has been made.
The biggest consideration is that any trade that sends Durant away from Brooklyn will have to command a collection of picks or players that is perceived to have exceeded what Utah obtained for Gobert. This makes perfect sense, given that the 33-year-old forward remains one of the best players in the game today, though finding a team inclined to give up that many assets will be difficult.
The clearest path to getting Durant to a new team would be to swap him for a combination of picks and players that is bannered by a promising young star. This evens the scales and helps skirt a direct comparison to the Gobert move, which was heavily tilted towards first rounders, where the best active player received was arguably Jarred Vanderbilt.
It has been reported that the Boston Celtics have genuine interest in making a move for Durant and negotiations have zeroed in on a package centered on their 25-year-old guard Jaylen Brown. Boston’s willingness to send away the promising one-time NBA All-Star in the wake of his solid showing in their NBA Finals loss a few weeks ago is a testament to the kind of talent that the 2014 NBA Most Valuable Player is even in the last few years of his prime.
A potential high-scoring pairing of Durant and Jayson Tatum would reinforce the Celtics as one of, if not the favorite, to come out of the Eastern Conference in this upcoming season. Their ability to do almost anything on the offensive end of the floor at their size will pose a nightly conundrum for opponents who might be equipped to stop one player of this profile, but not two.
In the meantime, it seems like no further moves are imminent as front office executives have started to take their annual time off as the summer season wraps up before the grind of the new campaign begins in a few months. The completion of one of these two blockbuster deals in the next few weeks could immediately lead to the execution of the other as the league gains a footing on the value of these players on the open market.
For now, the Gobert trade will remain the benchmark for this offseason as Ainge has reminded the NBA that trading with him should never be taken lightly.