The NBA’s Trade Deadline is Thursday afternoon at 3 p.m. Eastern time but the biggest deal happened in the early morning hours of Thursday as the Brooklyn Nets shocked the NBA in trading superstar Kevin Durant to the Phoenix Suns, who immediately became the +230 favorites to win the Western Conference and +425 second favorites behind the Boston Celtics (+350) to win the NBA title.
Phoenix Suns Now NBA Western Conference Favorites After Trading For Kevin Durant
Phoenix sits in fifth in the Western Conference ahead of Thursday night’s game at Atlanta and was at +1800 to win the NBA title before trading for Durant. His impact in Phoenix won’t be felt until after the All-Star Break as he continues his recovery from a knee injury. The Suns’ first game after the break is Feb. 24 at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Durant still plays MVP-level basketball when he’s healthy – but his health is a concern. In two consecutive years, someone has fallen into his knee and caused him to miss significant time: 151 games and counting in the last three-and-a-half seasons. This season in 39 games, Durant is averaging 29.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.5 blocks per game while shooting an astounding 55.9% from the field as a perimeter player. He has had 11 seasons with his true shooting percentage reaching at least 60% with 25 points per game or more. The next closest all-time is LeBron James with eight.
Brooklyn traded All-Star Kyrie Irving earlier this week, so teams started calling the Nets gauging whether Durant might be available because he was friends with Irving and the Nets really had no championship hopes after losing Irving. At first, Nets GM Sean Marks said Durant wasn’t available but after meeting with the former MVP, a deal was struck with Phoenix – which had Mat Ishbia formally approved as the team’s new owner on Tuesday. New owners love to make big splashes to win over the fan base.
The Suns got Durant and solid wing player TJ Warren for Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder, four first-round draft picks (2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029) and a 2028 pick swap. The deal delivers Durant to the desert to partner with fellow All-Stars Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton in the desert. The Suns had tried to acquire Durant this past summer, and he wanted to go there. It is now or never for the championship title window for Phoenix with Paul at age 37.
Phoenix tried to keep Bridges out of the deal but the Nets said that was a non-starter. The NBA’s current Ironman finished runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year last season. Bridges so far in 2022-23 was averaging career bests in points per game (17.2), assists per game (3.6), rebounds per game (4.3) and field goal attempts per game (13.6). He was also on a team-friendly rookie extension paying him an average of $22.5 million through 2025-26. Johnson is another solid young player, while Crowder hadn’t played yet this season.
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This version of the trade likely would not have happened if not for Ishbia’s purchase. Because Phoenix held on to Ayton, its second-highest salary after untouchable star Booker, this deal more than doubles its projected luxury-tax payment to over $68 million.
Durant is in the first year of a four-year, $194 million extension he signed in August 2021 when the Nets had a Big 3 of Durant, Irving and James Harden. None of them no longer wear a Nets uniform. Harden was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in a package that sent Ben Simmons to Brooklyn at last year’s trade deadline and Irving is now in Dallas.
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