Durant's unhappiness still looms large over NBA offseason
The NBA draft is done, summer league is over and free-agency has pretty much run its course.
But the league managed to leave a couple of dangling cliffhangers for the rest of the summer. Mainly, when is a blockbuster deal for Kevin Durant going to happen?
Durant reportedly requested a trade from Brooklyn last month, but the obstacles have been building. His preferred destinations are believed to be Phoenix and Miami. Suns center DeAndre Ayton didn't cooperate, signing an offer sheet with Indiana that prevents him from being traded right away. Because of an obscure rule, the Heat can't trade Bam Adebayo to the Nets unless Ben Simmons is sent away.
Would Golden State really break up a championship squad to bring back Durant? Toronto has been mentioned, but might prefer a long, competitive run with its current group to hoping another all-in trade delivers perfect results.
The idea Durant will bring an unprecedented trade package in return might be flawed to begin with. The Slim Reaper is about to turn 34 and he's signed through 2026 at a peak salary of $53.3 million.
A team trading for Durant should become an instant title contender, but is likely to feel some pain on the back end of that deal. No team wants to trade a bunch of future draft picks that end up in the lottery. Then what if Durant doesn't like his new home and demands another trade? Team-hopping has become fashionable among NBA stars.
Gobert a poor comparison
The party line around the NBA has been, "If Utah can get four first-rounders plus a pick swap for Rudy Gobert, imagine what Durant will bring?"
But Minnesota faced a unique set of circumstances. The Timberwolves have the third-team All-NBA center in Karl Anthony Towns, who can score at will, win the 3-point contest, but barely attempts to play much defense.
So what's the move? The T-wolves decided to think outside the box and bring in a defensive player of the year winner.
It goes against the NBA trend of smaller, versatile lineups. But it also eliminates the need to count on defense from Towns. Minnesota made its move and new Utah boss Danny Ainge drove a hard bargain.
To think a similar package of draft picks should be a starting point for a Durant trade doesn't work, since Minnesota was in an odd spot.
With talk of a Kyrie Irving trade to the Lakers fading, Brooklyn will probably sit tight and hope things can be worked out between Durant, Irving and Simmons. That might take things into training camp, when Durant will decide whether to suit up or stick with the trade demand.
Bulls sitting tight
If the Durant saga drags on, it would make sense for the Bulls to get involved, but there's no guarantee they will. Considering the Miami and Phoenix situations, a Bulls offer of Nikola Vucevic, Lonzo Ball, Patrick Williams and Portland's first-rounder would seem to be competitive. There's still room to negotiate from there.
The Bulls can play up the better-health angle as much as they want this season, but no one is picking this group to go to the Finals. A lineup of Durant, DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, Alex Caruso and Andre Drummond would be more interesting. A turning point might be if Durant decides to favor that scenario.
A Durant, DeRozan, LaVine lineup would commit $115 million in salary to three players in 2023-24. So that's another potential obstacle. The Bulls are currently a couple million below the luxury tax line and might plan on staying there.