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The Five Best Teams Who Can Trade For Kevin Durant

Nearly 24 hours later, the NBA world is still in shock over Kevin Durant’s trade request from the Brooklyn Nets. The two-time NBA Finals MVP is likely to generate the kind of interest rarely seen by any player that’s suddenly available, but the questions are who will be pursuing him and at what price?

And while there’s no doubt about Durant’s ability to play at a high level— he was placed on the All-NBA second team after averaging 29/7/6 this season– it does exist regarding his soon-to-be former team. Even during this era of player empowerment and movement, the Brooklyn Nets can’t get forced to trade Durant to his chosen place.

With four years remaining on his contract and a desire to either compete for a title or land a massive haul for him, the Nets and Durant could stay together beyond this summer. But what are those odds?

Below are the five best teams who can trade for the accomplished superstar.

Phoenix Suns

After the initial shock of Durant’s trade request, another one came in the form of his most- preferred trade destination: the 64-win and No. 1 seeded Phoenix Suns.

Upon looking at their roster and assets, there’s an immediate offer that makes sense– Mikal Bridge, Cam Johnson, Deandre Ayton, and an assortment of first-round picks. The only thing to be discussed is if the Nets trade Ben Simmons elsewhere. Under the Designated Rookie rule, a team can’t have more than two players who signed four or five-year extensions after their rookie deals, and only one can be acquired through a trade.

This rule is huge because Simmons signed a massive five-year extension in Philadelphia before being traded, and Ayton is in line for a massive contract this summer.

Miami Heat

Like Phoenix, Miami is another title contender that ranks high on Durant’s list of trade destinations, yet; they have a critical asset that can’t get traded to Brooklyn because of the Designated Rookie rule (Bam Adebayo). But is that enough to stop a deal?

If anything, the Heat could offer a package of Kyle Lowry, Tyler Herro, and a third player attached with first-round picks unless the Nets decide to trade Simmons elsewhere, as mentioned in our Suns discussion.

Memphis Grizzlies

Could you imagine if KD returned to the Western Conference as a Grizzlie? It’s certainly possible given the team’s salary cap situation, their immensely talented, young superstar in Ja Morant, and a trade package headlined by dynamic-two-way big man, Jaren Jackson Jr.

Golden State Warriors

Talk about what would be a full-circle moment? But when looking beyond the jokes and chaos Durant’s return would create, the Warriors could offer a fair exchange for their former superstar— the newly-motivated Andrew Wiggins, a certified bucket in Jordan Poole, and 2020 No. 2 overall pick, James Wiseman.

Toronto Raptors

Hey, you better not sleep on the Raptors in these trade discussions. Besides the brotherhood Durant has with superstar musician and Raptors ambassador Drake and Masai Ujiri being an incredible dealer, the Eastern Conference competitor has several attractive trade assets.

Anyone between All-NBA forward Pascal Siakam, reigning Rookie of the Year, Scottie Barnes, and OG Anunoby could start a return for the Nets– especially with various picks involved.

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The Story of Andrew Wiggins

It’s far too common today to label an athlete a ‘bust’ before they’ve gotten a fair chance to shine. Top picks are tasked with not only transitioning their game to the NBA level, but are also expected to contribute to winning. That is way easier said than done when a majority of these picks are walking into not-so ideal situations. Newly minted NBA champion Andrew Wiggins had that exact experience. So how did Wiggins get labeled as a ‘bust’ and how did he beat that misnomer?

High School
(Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Andrew Wiggins was born in Toronto, Canada and played high school basketball there for two years. To say he dominated the Canadian basketball scene would be an understatement. Wiggins led his team to a 44-1 record on the road to an Ontario Provincial championship. There was no more to conquer up north for Wiggins so he took his talents to the prep school circuit. He was the consensus #1 prospect in the country after putting up averages of 24 points, 11 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks. After winning just about every national player of the year award Wiggins was ready to take on the collegiate level. In May of 2013 he would officially commit to the University of Kansas.

University of Kansas
(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Although Wiggins would only play one year at Kansas, it was a year to remember. Kansas would finish the 2013-14 season with a 25-10 record and a two seed in the NCAA tournament. Wiggins put up averages of 17 points and 6 rebounds, earning him Big-12 All-Freshman team honors. Kansas would make a mid-tier run in the tournament, losing to Stanford in the third round. Wiggins was still the consensus #1 prospect in the country and the next logical step was declaring for the draft.

Timberwolves Days
(Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Backed by maddening hype and dubbed ‘Maple Jordan’, Wiggins would go first overall in the 2014 draft to the Cleveland Cavaliers. As the Cav’s were eagerly awaiting LeBron James to announce his return to the team, they sent Wiggins to Minnesota in return for a win-now player in Kevin Love. Wiggins would find individual success right off the start for the Timberwolves. He would average 17 points and 5 rebounds en route to winning the Rookie of the Year award. Wiggins would spend five seasons with the Timberwolves and only make the postseason once. Despite averaging 19 points over that time, the Timberwolves felt that Wiggins couldn’t help contribute to winning and would trade him at the 2020 deadline.

Winning Warriors
(Photo by Josh Leung/NBAE via Getty Images)

Wiggins next landing spot would be with a Warriors team that was plagued with injuries. The team had just lost Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson was sidelined with a season-long injury. During his third year with the Warriors they were finally healthy and primed for a title run. Wiggins was spectacular all season averaging 17 points and five rebounds while propelling the Warriors to a top seed in the West. He earned his first all-star honors and was even named a starter. Wiggins would elevate his game during the postseason. He played superb defense all NBA Finals and was even the second leading scorer for the champion Golden State Warriors. There is no question in anyone’s mind if Andrew Wiggins can contribute to a championship squad. It’s truly incredible the resiliency that Wiggins has shown over these past couple of years. His story just shows that a fresh start and the right situation can be the difference.

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The Golden State Warriors Prove Their Toughness, Win Game 5

In Game 5 of the NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors played badly—they went 9-40 from behind the arc and got doubled up on the offensive glass; Stephen Curry ended the game without making a single three-pointer, snapping a streak of 132 consecutive playoff games (and 233 consecutive combined playoff and regular season games) with at least one triple. For the most part, the Celtics’ defense has befuddled the Warriors, taking away the automatic advantages that jumpstart Golden State’s whirligig attack. And yet, the Warriors are now one win away from their fourth title in eight years, stealing a 104-94 win from the Boston Celtics to take a 3-2 series lead. 

More than anything, this toughness has been the foundation of the Warriors’ dynasty, even if it’s been obscured by their flashy offense and near-untouchable runs with Kevin Durant. In 2015, Golden State steeled themselves against Memphis Grizzlies and Cleveland Cavaliers teams that tried to arm-bar them into submission; in 2018 and 2019, they beat the Houston Rockets, who designed their team with the express purpose of gunking up the Warriors’ offense. And now, against the Celtics, the Warriors are once again refusing to be punked by a bigger, more physical team. Just as Robert Pattinson is a pretty-boy actor with surprising artistic depth, the Warriors are a finesse team with a hidden store of grit. 

With their offense largely throttled by Boston’s defense, Golden State ratcheted up their defense, simply deciding to no longer let Boston score. Although Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have been able to sustain the Celtics’ attack with their shot-making chutzpah, the Warriors preyed on the duo’s sloppy ball-handling. Golden State tried to confuse Boston in the first four games of the series by sending late help to try to disguise their rotations, but made a conscious effort to clog gaps on the perimeter in Game 5. Every Boston drive thwarted before it could really begin, repelled by waves of prying hands. Visibly frazzled by the Warriors’ new-found aggression, Tatum and Brown combined for nine turnovers and just eight assists. Collectively, the Celtics coughed up the ball 18 times, dropping to 0-7 in the postseason when they turned the ball over more than 16 times. 

Beyond forcing Boston into crushing, momentum-swinging gaffes, Golden State turned nearly every Boston possession into a series of minor indignities. After granting Boston switches without too much protest to start the series, Golden State labored to protect Steph Curry and Jordan Poole more from Tatum and Brown in Game 5. Save for Boston’s scintillating third quarter, the Celtics struggled to target Curry and Poole, wasting precious time in the process; the Celtics only took 12 shots with more than 15 seconds left on the shot clock—for reference,  Golden State generated 28 early looks. 

If being able to consistently create an advantage is the most elemental aspect of being a good offense, the Warriors clamped the Celtics by stemming any potential problem before it could arise. A comprehensive list of things Boston couldn’t do: score in the paint, score in the midrange, score in isolation, score in transition, create shots for each other. A comprehensive list of the things they could do: bomb semi-contested threes and suffer. 

As such, Golden State’s defensive effort was as necessary as it was impressive. While the Warriors offense wasn’t quite as toothless as Boston’s, Curry’s uncharacteristic stinker still required them to recalibrate on the fly. Gone were the heliocentric, Steph Curry spread pick-and-rolls that proved to be such fertile offensive ground in Game 4; in its place, was a more egalitarian approach featuring contributions from the slightly lesser lights like Klay Thompson (21 points, five three-pointers), Draymond Green (11 points, seven rebounds, six assists), Gary Payton II (15 points on 6-8 shooting) and Andrew Wiggins (26 points and 13 rebounds???). 

Accordingly, Game 5 marked the latest chapter in the ongoing Wiggins renaissance. Tasked with slowing Tatum and Brown, he provided pressurized on-ball at the point of attack—on the 47.8 possessions that Wiggins matched-up with Tatum, Boston managed just 29 points as a team. Offensively, he overwhelmed Boston with his athleticism, nailing 12 of his 17 two-point field goal attempts and racking up a team-high 26 points. Wiggins’s Maple Jordan nickname has always been a misnomer—he’s Maple Pippen, an athletic stopper who offers as much offense as he needs to. Despite sharing the court with Brown, Tatum, Curry, Green and Thompson, the former 2014 #1 pick was clearly the best player on the court. Here was a game as surreal and odd as a Sopranos dream sequence—a fish talks, a horse is in the living room, Andrew Wiggins can’t be stopped. 

If the Warriors can close out Boston, they won’t be a particularly convincing champion, but that’s irrelevant. What they lack in raw talent, the Warriors make up for with their resolve. Stick-to-it-ness, spunk, feist, guts, whatever you want to call it: they have it. The Golden State Warriors are one win from a championship because they’re totally unphased by being one win from a championship.

Whereas Boston melted into a puddle of nerves and neuroses in the fourth quarter of Game 5, the Warriors were unmoved. Draymond Green rebounded from his Game 4 benching and returned to his destructive ways; Andrew Wiggins shed the sluggishness that harpooned his Minnesota tenure and dominated the biggest game of his career. Steph Curry had the worst postseason game of his career and the Warriors still withstood a second-half comeback from a more athletic and more talented team because, of course, they did; this is just what they do. For the Warriors, success is a (Golden) state of mind. 

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Andrew Wiggins Does It All

By now, the Golden State Warriors are hardly breaking new ground. Whereas their offense felt radical when it was unveiled in 2015, it’s now an institution unto itself. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson running through split actions together, Draymond Green ricocheting around the court to guard all five guys on the other team at once, the face-melting scoring sprees that end the game by the first media timeout of the third quarter: this is just what springtime basketball has looked like for most of the last eight years. It’s this constancy that not simply allowed the Warriors to withstand the roster attrition and churn that naturally occurs over eight years, but what has turned Andrew Wiggins from a churlish gunner into an all-purpose dynamo. 

In the Warriors’ 112-87 dog-walking of the Dallas Mavericks in game one of the Western Conference Finals, Wiggins was the primary Luka Doncic-stopper. He acquitted himself well—Doncic easily had his worst postseason performance of his career, with just 20 points (on 6-18 shooting) and four assists. While the Warriors mixed in their usual array of blitzes and switches and pre-rotations to unsteady the Mavs, their defensive gameplan was predicated on the belief that Wiggins had the right cocktail of strength and quickness to bother Doncic. 

Unlike the Suns who let Doncic window-shop for his preferred matchup, the Warriors labored to prevent Doncic from dictating the terms of engagement. Instead of simply granting the switch, the Warriors hedged Doncic into oblivion, forcing him to retreat while Wiggins scrambled back into position. In total, Wiggins matched-up with Doncic for about 10 minutes of game time, holding Doncic to 12 points and forcing three turnovers. On a larger, more impactful level, the Mavs were able to squeeze just 39 points from the 43 possessions that Wiggins spent on Doncic—after averaging 1.14 points per possession in the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Mavs could only muster .906 points per possession when Wiggins was sicced on Doncic. 

During the Warriors’ playoff run, Wiggins has been the unseen suture that’s held the team together. Although Stephen Curry, Jordan Poole and Klay Thompson are the offensive engines and Green is a one-man defensive game-breaker, the team has thrived because of the way that Wiggins can toggle between different matchup-specific roles. In the Western Conference Finals, Wiggins cosplays as a perimeter stopper; against Memphis, he attacked the offensive glass with never-before-seen vigor, grabbing 3.33 offensive rebounds per game despite averaging just 1.2 offensive rebounds for his career; for the Warriors’ first-round romp against the Nuggets, Wiggins was a capable floor-spacer and shot nearly 54 percent from beyond the arc. 

As a Minnesota Timberwolf, Wiggins was derided as a glory-boy monotasker who had internalized the shot selection of Kobe Bryant without any of Kobe’s competitive sicko-ness. People only cared about the delta between what he could’ve been—an epoch-defining superstar—and what he actually was (i.e. something far short of an epoch-defining superstar). But now, on a Warriors’ roster that’s devoid of much depth, Wiggins is so valuable because of his malleability; he can plug whatever gap pops open. Even if there was some initial consternation about how Wiggins would fit within the Warriors’ incredibly specific ecosystem, his fit now is clear: Andrew Wiggins is whatever you want him to be.