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Could the Memphis Grizzlies actually trade for Kevin Durant?

After reports the Grizzlies are making calls about Kevin Durant, now we wait to see what’s the price to pay

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Memphis Grizzlies v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The saga between Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets has taken the league by storm, as the offseason has felt quiet and inactive because of the plethora of teams angling to acquire the future Hall of Famer. After Monday’s news drop from The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the Memphis Grizzlies are in the sweepstakes.

The Grizzlies’ refusal to include Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane makes this tricky, leading to a plethora of questions.

Let’s start with the biggest one. Can the Grizzlies even acquire Durant without Desmond Bane or Jaren Jackson Jr.? The answer is probably not. The rumors with the Boston Celtics and Jaylen Brown have been out there for weeks. The Hawks reportedly put John Collins and DeAndre Hunter in there as a starting point. The Raptors may not include Scottie Barnes, but what about Pascal Siakam or OG Anunoby? If the Grizzlies want to win this sweepstakes, then Bane or Jackson need to be on the table.

So the next question is, can the Grizzlies swoop Kevin Durant with a draft-focused package If the Grizzlies want to build an offer centered around their draft picks, any trade will need to include Steven Adams ($17.9M), Danny Green ($10M), and Dillon Brooks ($11.4M) to make the money work. Those 3 players will get the Grizzlies to $39.3M with roughly $5M left to match Durant’s salary. From there, they could thrown 1 of Brandon Clarke or Ziaire Williams, but Brooklyn may ask for both players. If this type of package is the route the Nets want to go down, the Grizzlies can get close. Adams, Green, and Brooks are expiring contracts; Williams is a young prospect worth investing in; and Brandon Clarke is a restricted free agent next summer.

However, if the package opens up to “rotation players and a boat-load of picks,” there are other teams that could swoop in and trump the deal. The Pelicans have the Lakers and Bucks picks from the Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday trades — so they could throw out any of those, their own picks, salary fodder (Jonas Valanciunas or Larry Nance Jr.), and young prospects (Dyson Daniels, Trey Murphy III, Jose Alvarado) and trump the Grizzlies’ potential offer. The Raptors can do the same thing with 4-5 picks and swaps but include a combination of OG Anunoby, Precious Achiuwa, and Gary Trent Jr. Atlanta lost draft capital in the trade for Dejounte Murray, but could they unload the rest of their draft cupboard along with John Collins, DeAndre Hunter, Jalen Johnson, and Clint Capela?

Granted, if Kevin Durant simply wants to come to Memphis, then they could win. I just don't see the Grizzlies trumping any sort of offer without Bane or Jaren — regardless of which avenue the Nets decide to take in this complex situation. And it likely won’t be a picks-based package, as the Nets are unrelenting in their approach with Durant, per Marc Stein’s Substack:

League sources maintain that the Nets have not yet lowered their asking price in response to Durant’s trade demand and thus appear to be banking on the idea that there is still time for Durant to soften his trade-me stance and reengage with the franchise he is signed with for the next four seasons at $194 million. The Nets, as well as the rest of the league, thus remain in wait-and-see mode with regard to Durant’s willingness to report to training camp on time and whether he is prepared to make things more uncomfortable for the organization to encourage trade discussions.

Now, another question I’ll ask is if there’s something else to watch for here. Stick with my conspiracy theory here. I promise I’m not trying to go off the rails too hard here. The Nets have a bit of a shortage with logical trade partners, as the CBA prohibits a team from trading for two players on Designated Rookie Max Extensions. With Ben Simmons on the roster, they can’t trade for Donovan Mitchell or Bam Adebayo — as speculated in this saga.

What if the Grizzlies were the team to help provide the pathway to acquire a player of that elk through a massive 4-team blockbuster deal?

Proposal:

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Whoops!

So let’s run through some rationale real quickly. Brooklyn, the team giving up the best player in this deal, acquires another All-NBA talent and 3-and-D wings ready to win now. Mitchell, Brooks, Bridges, and Crowder with Kyrie Irving, Seth Curry, Joe Harris, and Nic Claxton could help push for playoff/play-in positioning between 5 and 9 — while also giving them future flexibility with the salary cap. Phoenix gets Kevin Durant, as well as another player at the end of their playoff rotation with Danny Green. Utah gets a rebuilding package that represents salary fodder, a veteran on an expiring contract, and 5 first-round picks. Of all the teams in this deal, the Utah angle makes me the most skeptical, because they might want a prominent young prospect or two in any trade around Donovan Mitchell.

For the Grizzlies, acquiring Ben Simmons at that price would be a great swing. Dillon Brooks is likely entering unrestricted free agency next offseason, and Steven Adams could do the same. Danny Green can’t play until after the All-Star break. A core of Morant, Bane, Jackson, and Simmons has a great shot at winning a championship over the next 4 seasons. Though the back situation is worrisome — and casual fans are turned off on him due to his lack of outside shooting and his whole fiasco with Philadelphia last season — he’s still an All-Star talent. He’s a powerful forward that’s an elite playmaker and a defender, two things that fit well with the Grizzlies’ prized trio. If they can’t get Kevin Durant and they still want to make an aggressive — yet sensible — move, why not give it a whirl?

Moving on from my Pepe Silvia moment.

So now, what’s behind the reports coming out? It’s not uncommon for teams to leak out information for leverage — a simple “hey, this is out there. Try and beat it!” statement. Could this just be a leak for the Nets to get the offer they want? It’s entirely possible. Zach Kleiman likes to work in the dark, similar to Ja Morant.

It could be smoke to pull some leverage from other inquiring teams.

Regardless of how it’s spun, the Grizzlies are in the mix for Kevin Durant.

Brooklyn Nets v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

The Memphis Grizzlies are playing this smart.

They’re not mortgaging their young trio of Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, and Jaren Jackson Jr. to make this blockbuster move. Trade or not, that trio has the potential to contend for the next decade. When it comes to draft picks, the Grizzlies have shown the ability to extract value deeper into the draft or on two-way contracts — Desmond Bane (acquired for future 2nd-round picks), Xavier Tillman, and John Konchar serving as prime examples right now. They can navigate around that potential reality, similar to Miami who’s churned out undrafted prospects and turned them into rotation players for a championship contender.

It’s Kevin freaking Durant after all.

Even though he’ll be 34 years old by the start of the season, he’s still one of the best players in the world. He’s a generational talent that can do just about everything — score from the any spot on the floor, find his teammates for shots, rebound well for his position, and serve as a positive team defender. He’d alleviate scoring responsibility from Morant, and he and Ja would likely be a top duo in the league. He can toggle positions for the Grizzlies to morph into any style they want — go big with him at the 3, play him at the 4 for either style, or dive into small-ball with him at the 5.

Pairing him with Morant and 1 of Bane or Jackson would make the Grizzlies a title contender next season. If they kept both Jackson or Bane with Morant and Durant, they may very well be the favorite to win it all next season. Durant is also under contract for 4 seasons. They could have those 4 players together for the next 4 seasons, and that possibility may be too good to pass up. Even though he’ll be in his late 30’s by the end of his contract, LeBron James and Chris Paul have shown that you could perform at an All-NBA level that late into your career, and Kevin Durant has the talent to follow that same path.

For the first time in franchise history, the Memphis Grizzlies are positioned and in the mix to acquire a superstar via trade. They may get their wish and land him without sacrificing any of the members in their talented, young core — though unlikely. They may very well have to send out 1 of Desmond Bane or Jaren Jackson Jr.

Nonetheless, there’s a price they’ll have to pay to acquire Kevin Durant, a future Hall of Famer who’s still a scoring supernova. They’ll have to weigh the opportunity benefits and costs, as this is the organization’s first time (outwardly) in the mix for a disgruntled star on the block. As they embark on this uncharted territory, we’re about to find out how committed the Grizzlies are to the culture and to the long endgame in mind.

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