After finally trading Kyrie Irving last weekend, it felt like a matter of time before speculation on Durant’s future in Brooklyn would begin. The timing may have been the most surprising part considering the return for Irving featured two productive win-now veterans in Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith. Clearly, negotiations between the two teams from last offseason carried over into the trade deadline, allowing both teams to agree to such a massive deal rather quickly.
It felt like Durant trade talks would be shelved until the offseason, but with the most optimal package they could get presented from Phoenix available to them, they had to pull the trigger now. The Nets now have 11 first-round picks over the next seven drafts, setting them up nicely for a potential rebuild. They go from being one of the most constrained and expensive teams to one of the more flexible and asset-rich in the league.
Or, if the organization isn’t patient enough for that, they could look to package those picks for new All-Stars later. The roster is probably too strong to bottom out for a high lottery pick in this year’s draft, but they also can’t exactly bottom out in the short term since they still owe two first-round picks and three first-round pick swaps to the Houston Rockets. This could factor into a decision to remain competitive and flip their assets into an All-Star in the near future.
The Nets now have a ton of overall really good-to-great players on the roster, many of which could be part of the next great Nets team or help another playoff team now. A lot of these players also hold a lot of trade value themselves and could return first-round draft compensation should the Nets decide to sell more. In this insane market, they could get a strong package for any of Bridges, Johnson, Finney-Smith, or Royce O’Neale.
The decreased pressure to win now could afford them to be more patient with Ben Simmons, but he could be a name to keep an eye on in regard to their finances. At the beginning of the week, the Suns had a $108 million luxury tax and $293 million roster. After trading Irving, Durant, and Kessler Edwards, they’ve lowered their tax bill all the way down to $35.5 million and the roster down to $203 million, giving them a total savings of $90 million. They would need to clear an additional $17.1 million by the end of the day if they want to completely get out of the luxury tax.
The tax implications are more substantial starting next year. They still have a salary dump or two to make to remain under the tax next season while re-signing Johnson, but the pathway is within reach. After spending what will be three consecutive years in the luxury tax, the Nets are set to enter the repeater tax. Keeping Durant and re-signing Irving to a salary at his current amount would’ve put Brooklyn’s expenses in the $350-plus million range annually. It’s crazy to think that just less than two years ago, the Nets were hoping to extend both Irving and Harden to maximum extensions and pay astronomical roster expenses.
With the way the deal is currently structured, the Nets would generate two trade exceptions worth $8 million and $1.8 million. There’s potential for this trade to be expanded into a three-way, particularly to try to find a new home for Crowder. If he isn’t rerouted by the end of the trade deadline, he seems like a logical buyout candidate.
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