First, Durant initially balked at being traded for Russell straight up, multiple sources said. He didn’t think it was a fair deal, and in this case, the Warriors had to not just satisfy the Nets, but also Durant.
Leverage was applied by the player, and Golden State had to include a first-round pick before Durant would agree to sign off. The Warriors begrudgingly gave it up and did so with a heavy condition: If the pick falls within the top 20 next year, they don’t have to send it, and instead will only give Brooklyn a second-round pick … in six years.
This characterization seems unfair to Durant.
Was he pettily trying to stick it to Golden State? Perhaps. I can’t rule that out.
But I wouldn’t assume his motivations.
This could easily be spun into Durant helping his team, which at that point was the Nets. The only way Brooklyn getting an extra draft pick helps Durant is helping his team build a winner. At that point, he no owed the Warriors no favors in building their team.
The Warriors badly enough wanted Russell – the youngest All-Star ever to change teams through fee agency – that they agreed to the trade (and to send Andre Iguodala plus a first-round pick to the Grizzlies and to get hard-capped).
Acquiring Durant in a sign-and-trade rather than signing him directly was also an important aspect of the Nets’ offseason. They dealt $30,479,200 of salary* to acquire Durant and his $38,199,000 max salary.
Cap room goes only as far as its actual amount. Teams can acquire 125% of outgoing salary plus $100,000 in a trade.
That extra spending power was key to signing DeAndre Jordan.
But a sign-and-trade worked well for both Durant and Brooklyn.
Whether Durant was acting on his own or as a conduit for the Nets, the extra pick makes the arrangement even better for Brooklyn.