As Philadelphia 76ers fans impatiently await the start of the 2022-23 season, a recent report has done nothing but stoke the flames of excitement in Philadelphia.
Ian Begley of SNY reported earlier today that Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant would welcome Philadelphia as a potential landing spot.
For most of the Kevin Durant discussion this summer, it’s been teams like the Phoenix Suns and Boston Celtics associated with a potential deal. After those perceived leaders in the clubhouse, the Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat have been frequently connected.
Noticeably absent from this list are the Philadelphia 76ers, but why? It’s not as though Philadelphia is not interested, as Jason Dumas reported on June 30th that Joel Embiid made his desire known to the organization that he would like them to pursue Durant no matter the cost.
Begley even addresses Philadelphia’s interest in his report: “Something worth noting: As of earlier this week, there were high-ranking members of the Sixers who’ve felt strongly about engaging with Brooklyn on a Durant trade.”
The Sixers’ interest in Kevin Durant is clear as crystal, and yet, they often remain unnamed in connection to a deal for the soon-to-be 34-year-old superstar. Questions can be posed asking why that is, but the answer has been known from the beginning.
Generally, the thought has been that a deal for Kevin Durant would just be a bit too rich for the Sixers as their asset pool is not as flush as their division rivals in Boston and Toronto. They have one of the League’s most exciting young prospects in Tyrese Maxey; however, Maxey alone will not be enough to land a player of Durant’s caliber, and Philadelphia has little else to offer.
So what has changed? What’s different now compared to previous reports surrounding Durant’s trade demand?
The answer to this question is unequivocally Begley’s report stating that Kevin Durant would welcome Philadelphia as a landing spot. The mere mention of mutual interest between Durant and the Sixers completely flips the script regarding the possibility of a deal.
To be clear, Kevin Durant is not in complete control of this situation, and just because he reportedly is interested in a certain team does not mean he will wind up there. It also does not mean he’s interested in just one team.
Begley also mentions Boston as a destination of interest for Durant, and considering their available assets, they should still be considered the leader in the rumor mill.
In his report, Begley details interest in Marcus Smart from both Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets organization, which admittedly adds a wrinkle to a potential deal, but Boston has enough assets to make up that difference.
The Celtics are frankly more proven with a deeper collection of assets, but Philadelphia has one thing that Boston does not, James Harden.
Begley acknowledges how Harden could affect a Kevin Durant deal in his report stating the following:
“Regarding the Sixers, it would be a bit strange on the surface for Durant to reunite with James Harden after the way things played out in Brooklyn. Is there any lingering issue between Harden and Durant? For those reading the tea leaves, it’s worth pointing out that both Durant and Harden spent time together in London recently.“
Well, well, well. How the turntables…
Kevin Durant’s relationship with James Harden has reportedly gone from contentious to a link connecting Durant to the Sixers.
In the past, it was clear that Harden and Durant were amiable; it’s a large part of the reason Harden ended up in Brooklyn, to begin with. That apparently changed after Harden’s departure though, it may have changed yet again.
The timing of this report and the joint appearance by the superstars is certainly of interest as, at the very least, it’s clear, and the two are on pleasant terms, at least in a personal setting.
The Sixers also boast another player with a connection to Durant. P.J. Tucker and Kevin Durant also have a history dating back to Durant joining a practice at the University of Texas while Tucker was attending. It was on that day that Tucker’s respect for Durant began to develop, and as time went on, the two had many physical matchups that only furthered their mutual respect for each other.
Similar to Durant’s relationship with Sixers’ superstar Joel Embiid, Durant and Tucker give each other their all on the court and, at times, give off the appearance of hating each other when that is the opposite of the case. The respect has been earned by both parties, and while Tucker would certainly not be the reason for Kevin Durant to push his way to Philadelphia, it most certainly should be considered a positive.
There’s still the not-so-simple matter of the price for Kevin Durant, however. As one of the most valuable, if not the most valuable, players to hit the trade market in the history of the NBA, the haul for Durant is expected to be massive at the very least.
Any and all potential deals between Philadelphia and Brooklyn are sure to include rising star Tyrese Maxey as the centerpiece returning to the Nets. From there, things really begin to become interesting.
Brooklyn already owns Philadelphia’s 2023 first-round pick (unprotected) and their 2027 first (top-8 protected in 27′ and 28′), thanks to the James Harden trade. What more could Philadelphia have to offer?
Considering Brooklyn’s desire to remain competitive, the Sixers may have more ability to complete a deal than initially thought. Tobias Harris undoubtedly has more value to a team competing and has solidified himself as a proven leader in the locker room, something else Brooklyn could — and should — value.
After Harris, Matisse Thybulle and Georges Niang are sensical pieces to round out the deal, as are young players such as Paul Reed, Isaiah Joe, and former first-round pick Jaden Springer.
Removing the protections to the pick in 2027, adding an unprotected first in 2029, and every swap possible in between would be about all the Sixers can offer from a draft pick standpoint, but perhaps the Nets could be convinced that as a whole, it is enough.
It’s difficult to justify trading away nearly every single asset for one player, but when that player is Kevin Durant, a team must do what they must.
With four seasons remaining on his contract, Durant would significantly increase the Sixers’ title odds in that time. While some may argue that he may not desire to stay in Philadelphia for all four seasons, the Sixers will undoubtedly be able to recoup some future assets in that occasion.
While the assets going out and the potential flight risk Durant presents must be considered, so must Joel Embiid and the potential of an NBA Championship. It would be difficult to look back on Embiid’s tenure in Philadelphia, knowing that the team passed on an opportunity to add one of the greatest scorers in league history.