Earlier into NBA free agency, I explained why the Nets would be unable to trade for Utah Jazz All-Star Donovan Mitchell in any Kevin Durant deal unless they move Ben Simmons as part of the trade. Simmons has since deactivated his Instagram account, and even though photos of the Australian star sharing laughs with Nets GM Sean Marks and head coach Steve Nash at Las Vegas Summer League have surfaced, it’s become increasingly clear that the Nets are among the teams monitoring Utah’s status in case the Jazz decide to move on from their superstar guard.
It’s let’s-make-a-deal season in the NBA. Durant has requested a trade with the Phoenix Suns as his preferred destination. Reports have surfaced suggesting Jazz president Danny Ainge is unsure whether or not Mitchell can be the best player on a championship team. Deandre Ayton has assuredly played his last game in Phoenix, and Myles Turner has been involved in trade rumors in what feels like each of the past three seasons in Indiana. Ayton has already been linked to Indiana, making a deal with those two at the center a real possibility.
Here’s a proposed deal that would get all parties what they want:
SUNS RECEIVE: F Kevin Durant (via BKN), C Myles Turner (via IND)
JAZZ RECEIVE: F Joe Harris (via BKN), F Ben Simmons (via BKN), G Cam Thomas (via BKN), G Buddy Hield (via IND), 2023, 2025 & 2027 unprotected first-round picks (via PHX), top-5 protected 2029 first-round pick (via PHX), 2026 & 2028 first-round pick swap
PACERS RECEIVE: C Deandre Ayton (via PHX), G Mike Conley (via UTA)
WHY THE TRADE WORKS FOR INDIANA
Tyrese Haliburton and Chris Duarte have Indiana’s backcourt spots locked up, likely for the foreseeable future. What the Pacers need is a steady presence at the five, and veteran leadership in their locker room. That leadership is expensive coming from Conley, who’s due $22.7M next season, but the final year of his contract (the 2023-24 season) is only guaranteed for $14.3M if the Pacers decide to waive him within 48 hours of the 2023 NBA Draft. Conley is from Indiana and a hometown hero is a great storyline for a franchise that struggles to acquire marquee players. Ayton struggled after failing to secure a contract extension in Phoenix and had a public argument with head coach Monty Williams, but the talent is there: He is a 20-and-10 machine with an All-Star ceiling. The Pacers get better in this trade, but it will cost them the worst of their three first-round picks in next year’s draft.
WHY THE TRADE WORKS FOR UTAH
Trading a star in his prime is rarely a popular decision – unless you have the foresight to realize that, as a franchise, you don’t have the facilities to build a contender around that star. The Jazz appear to have that foresight and reportedly want to usher in a full rebuild. They set the bar in the stratosphere after obtaining four first-round picks and three legitimate rotation players in a deal for Rudy Gobert. Add four more first-round picks (and additional pick swaps), two more legitimate rotation players (Joe Harris and Buddy Hield), a potential star in Ben Simmons and a second-year scorer in Cam Thomas. Those rotation players – and even Simmons – can be flipped for additional draft compensation after a few regular-season games showcasing their talents.
WHY THE TRADE WORKS FOR PHOENIX
Because they’ll have an almost bulletproof starting five: Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, Jae Crowder and Myles Turner. Yes, Phoenix will have gutted a good portion of both its depth and draft assets, but it’s a steal for them to end up with Turner for Ayton, a player they appear willing to let walk in free agency. Pulling off this deal gives Phoenix one of the most overloaded offenses in all of basketball, lands Durant at the destination atop his most preferred list and makes the Suns championship contenders so long as Paul stays healthy running the point. This, in all likelihood, is a deal the Suns agree to first.
WHY THE TRADE WORKS FOR BROOKLYN
Because you’ve replaced a soon-to-be 34-year-old megastar with a sensational 25-year-old offensive talent who has superstar potential with the right pieces around him. There is no situation where the Nets emerge unblemished after fumbling the Durant-Irving era three years in. What was supposed to be four more years of Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden “signed, sealed and delivered” in Brooklyn has quickly become an era increasingly likely to feature none of the Big 3 who nearly delivered the Nets a championship two seasons ago. But if the Nets can somehow emerge victorious in the Donovan Mitchell sweepstakes, past transgressions will quickly be forgotten. Mitchell is from Westchester, a two-or-so-hour-long drive from Barclays Center. Mikal Bridges placed second in Defensive Player of the Year voting last season. Bojan Bogdanovic is an ex-Net who brings toughness, playmaking and three-point shooting, and Cam Johnson is a nice, young piece as a three-and-D wing. The Nets also get a 2023 first-round pick from Indiana as part of the deal because, don’t forget, they just traded Kevin Durant.