Why a Kevin Durant trade is not as simple of a decision as it may seem for Sixers

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FILE – Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) drives against Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown, right, during the first half of Game 4 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series April 25, 2022, in New York. Durant has again told Nets owner Joe Tsai that he wants to be traded, reiterating a request he first made nearly six weeks ago, a person with knowledge of the matter confirmed Monday, Aug. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

The constant rumor mill, otherwise known as the NBA offseason, is in full swing as Sixers fans wait for the next shoe to drop. The most notable storyline this year has been Kevin Durant’s trade request and desire to leave the Brooklyn Nets. Durant initially made this request on June 30th, following three seasons with the Nets.

Durant once again met with the Nets this week to reinforce this desire and offer an ultimatum. The former MVP claimed that his belief in the organization could be restored if they elect to fire GM Sean Marks and Head Coach Steve Nash.

Whether this is Durant’s genuine desire or a tactic to further speed up the process of him finding a new destination is unclear, but it did lead to a new potential landing spot emerging for the superstar. As first reported by Ian Begley of SNY and confirmed from a variety of sources, the Sixers and Kevin Durant have a mutual interest in Philly becoming a landing spot.

It was also reported that Joel Embiid signed off on the Sixers attempting to land KD following the trade request. The rumors have continued to heat up following Durant traveling with James Harden, and the two recently spotted working out in Barcelona. This is a clear indication of the two patching things up following their fallout in Brooklyn and further indicates a potential interest in the duo reuniting.

What an Offer Could Look Like

It is difficult to picture exactly what a trade for Kevin Durant would look like. The four first-round picks it took the Timberwolves to land Rudy Gobert have increased the trade market greatly. Kevin Durant also is still one of the top-five players in the NBA, and the four years remaining on his contract further increase his value.

It would certainly take just about everything the Sixers could offer to land the superstar, and the franchise is already fairly picked over with their assets.

Sixers Get: Kevin Durant

Nets Get: Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle, Jaden Springer, lift 2027 first-round protections, 2029 first-round pick

This package holds just about every appealing asset the Sixers could offer and, frankly, probably still is not as much as other teams around the NBA could or will offer. The lack of draft picks the Sixers are able to offer is a significant hurdle in the conversation, as the 2029 first-round pick is the first year they can trade a first-round pick due to previous trades.

The 2027 first-round pick was already traded to Brooklyn in the James Harden trade but is currently top-8 protected. Brooklyn also has the Sixers’ unprotected first-round pick for next season. It is illegal for NBA teams to trade first-round picks in consecutive years due to the Stepien rule.

While pick swaps are possible, it does not seem likely a team built around Embiid, Harden, and Durant would be in the running for a top pick.

Why this should appeal to the Sixers

A trio of Kevin Durant, Joel Embiid, and James Harden would likely be the best big three in the history of the NBA. Pairing one of basketball’s best playmakers with two 7-footers who can do nearly everything on the basketball court has exciting potential.

The Sixers would immediately catapult to title favorites, and they already have a nice collection of supporting pieces around the trio which were picked up this offseason.

A lineup along the lines of Joel Embiid, Kevin Durant, James Harden, PJ Tucker, and De’Anthony Melton or Danuel House as a fifth option is a pretty freighting starting lineup. This would increase the Sixers’ title chances in a major way, and this lineup stacks up against the rest of the NBA.

The term generational talent is thrown around too often, but Kevin Durant fits this description. The 12-time all-star and four-time scoring champion is one of the greatest scorers of all time.

His career averages of 27.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game rank up there with the all-time greats. Durant would certainly increase the Sixers’ title chances, and he has proven to be a capable finishing piece on a title team from his time with the Warriors.

Why this would be such a risk

While the Sixers are already clearly in win-now mode, this trade would significantly darken the future of the post-Joel Embiid era. It also further shrinks the championship window as Durant is soon to be 34 and has recently dealt with some injury issues.

During the two seasons that Durant and Harden spent together in Brooklyn, they played just 39 total regular season games with both guys on the floor. The trio of Durant, Harden, and Kyrie Irving suited up for just 16. While the trio of Durant, Embiid, and Harden would be lethal when they are all on the court, there are legitimate injury concerns with all three guys.

The most notable loss in this trade would be Tyrese Maxey. The 21-year-old has developed at a more rapid rate than just about any player in the NBA in recent years.

As a rookie, Maxey averaged 8.0 points, 2.0 assists, and 1.7 rebounds while shooting 30.1% on three-point attempts. The Kentucky product showed a ridiculous work ethic and took strides forward in every area of his game.

With the increased opportunity in his second season, Maxey averaged 17.5 points, 4.3 assists, and 3.2 rebounds while shooting 42.7% on three-point attempts. To go from a player whose biggest red flag coming out of college was as a shooter to ranking third in the NBA in three-point percentage in his second season is a special level of improvement.

It is not an understatement to say that the addition of Maxey has breathed a second life into the franchise. His growth as a potential cornerstone player has opened the door for the championship window to remain open following Embiid’s current prime. Maxey has blown past all expectations that have been set for him.

The realism of him becoming a top 25 NBA player is not acknowledged enough, and sending him away could be a move that haunts the Sixers for quite some time. The potential for Maxey to elevate into the lead scoring option as Embiid trends toward the twilight of his NBA career would extend the Sixers’ potential championship window.

While the ultimate goal is a championship, and Durant seems the most likely route to the Sixers getting there, it is not as clear of a decision as it is made out to be. The pressure would be fully on the Sixers to win a championship within the next three seasons if a trade is made.

If this does not occur, this will be a massive failure and put the organization in a poor spot for years to come. Considering a change of heart or significant injury to any of the three stars would make this a legitimate possibility, making a trade of this magnitude should be weighed heavily.

The theoretical decision to add Kevin Durant makes a ton of sense, but when weighing over the details, it is not one that should be made lightly.