In a surprising move late Wednesday night or Thursday morning, depending on where you were, the announcement came out that the Brooklyn Nets have traded superstar Kevin Durant to the Phoenix Suns per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. This move came just 14 hours ahead of the NBA’s trade deadline.
Brooklyn traded away Durant and forward TJ Warren for forwards Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, and Cam Johnson, plus four first-round picks and a pick swap in 2028. Quite the haul but noticeably missing DeAndre Ayton, who many theorized would be involved. This is because the Nets were not able to acquire Ayton due to Ben Simmons’ presence on the roster.
According to the NBA’s “designated rookie rule,” the Nets could not trade for Ayton — who signed his rookie-scale extension this past summer — because they currently roster Ben Simmons — who signed his back in the summer of 2019. While the league allows teams to have two players on rookie-scale extensions on the roster, only one is allowed to be acquired via trade. Simmons was acquired via the James Harden trade on February 10th, 2022.
This is, of course, softened by the emergence of Nic Claxton, who has clearly made Brooklyn comfortable with the idea of adding Cam Johnson — and more draft capital — over Ayton.
The move comes as some surprise as the Nets seemed to focus their return for superstar Kyrie Irving on players who could help the team remain competitive. In particular, the addition of Dorian Finney-Smith seemed to be directly tied to Durant’s presence in Brooklyn.
That was then, however, and this is now. Now Kevin Durant begins the next phase of his career in Phoenix.
More to come as the story develops.