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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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Sports Strength

John Konchar is the Next NBA Cult Hero

Since going undrafted in the 2019, Memphis Grizzlies guard John Konchar has mainly been notable for being a statistical oddity. During his four years as the greatest Mastodon in Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne’s history, he became the only player in NCAA history to amass 2000 points, 1000 rebounds and 500 assists over the course of their career—for reference, Hall of Famers Jerry West and Sidney Moncrief are the only other guards to have even crossed both the 2000 point and 1000 rebound benchmarks. Before this year, there had only been four seasons in NBA history in which a player has had an offensive rebound rate above 10%, an assist rate above 15%, a steal rate above 2% and a True Shooting above 65%; Charles Barkley posted three of them. The fourth? Konchar! As a rookie! By the numbers, Konchar looked like one of the most productive players in basketball history; by the eye test, Konchar looked like an econometrics TA or an information technologist

Last night, though, Konchar transcended his status as a niche Draft Twitter meme and entered the mainstream with a 15 point, 17 rebound masterclass against the Minnesota Timberwolves. In this breakout performance, Konchar paired his sparkling counting stats with efficient shooting (6-7 from the field, 3-4 from three), positive on-court impact (the Grizzlies outscored Minnesota by 15 points during Konchar’s 30 minutes), and genuine highlight-reel material (he crammed a putback dunk on Karl Anthony-Towns). While Kon-heads have long preached the good word, last night’s performance represented Konchar’s introduction to a wider audience beyond the small group of sickos (i.e. me) who have been irredeemably Jitty-pilled.

He’s here and he’s perfect. 

Although Konchar’s per-game stats are modest, he’s always possessed the same latent goodness that enabled his explosion against the Timberwolves. He has the refined instincts of a Norweigan duck toller and an organist’s coordination. On defense, he makes his bones by menacing passing and driving lanes, pawing at the ball whenever possible. He’s disruptive yet disciplined—his 1.7 steals per 75 possession are in the 95th percentile (per BBall Index) but also hasn’t committed more than three fouls in a game since late October. Even if he’s not necessarily the fastest lateral mover, he unsteadies ball handlers with his keen sense of positioning, strength and quick hands.

Offensively, he’s pioneered a weird style of dependent self-creation. In a traditional sense, Konchar cannot generate shots for himself—he has fewer than 10 possessions in isolation or as a pick-and-roll ball handler. Whereas most low-wattage role players are entirely reliant on their starrier teammates to feed them open shots, Konchar has a weird knack or conjuring points that wouldn’t otherwise exist. Beyond the fact that he just makes everything and is shooting 65 percent on three-pointers over the last 20 games, he’s a shrewd cutter and confoundingly good offensive rebounder.

Despite being a 6’5 shooting guard who spends most possessions loitering around the three-point line, Konchar regularly poaches offense boards and tip-ins, stealing points on possessions that should’ve been fruitless—his 2.11 putbacks per 100 possession this season are more than big men like Boban Marjonovic, John Collins, and Bam Adebayo. He sneaks beneath the trees to steal rebounds from unsuspecting bigs; he instantly geolocates exactly where a missed three-pointer will carom; he even dunks, sometimes! According to Cleaning the Glass, when Konchar (a.k.a. Tennis Rodman) is on the court, the Grizzlies scrounge up an additional 3.7 points per 100 missed shots and their offensive rebound rate spikes by 2.3 percent. 

On a Grizzlies team overflowing with good players, Konchar has carved out a niche as a low-maintenance complement in the backcourt to Ja Morant, Desmond Bane and Dillon Brooks. 

In other words: it’s Jitty szn. 

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Sports Strength

Ja Morant is the NBA’s Newest Superstar

Ja Morant, the most exciting player in the NBA, is impressive from even the dry, neutral-tone vantage point of a Basketball Reference page. Averaging 24.7 points, 6.7 assists and 5.7 rebounds, the 22-year-old point guard is the talisman of a maybe-elite, definitely-for-real Memphis Grizzlies team. On an eggheaded macro level, he’s one of the 10 best offensive players in the world (and the youngest in that dectet), according to Estimated Plus-Minus, the current gold-standard of wonky basketball stats. On a more micro scale, Morant’s game log is littered with sneakily signature performances as he’s stolen wins from putative contenders and hung 30-pieces (and sometimes even 40-pieces) on them in the process; over the course of the Grizz’s on-going ten-game winning streak, Morant has char-broiled the Warriors, Lakers, Suns and Nets.

But these gaudy numbers are mere metonymy for the full Ja Morant Experience. Sure, his  57.5 percent True Shooting is a career-high number, but it doesn’t inspire much hootin’ and/or hollerin’. It’s one thing to see that the budding superstar is having one of the most prolific age-22 seasons in NBA history and it’s another thing entirely to witness him control a game with the swagger and confidence of a mega-preacher. There are lots of guards who can amass similarly gaudy numbers; there’s only one Ja Morant.

Whereas most All-NBA-caliber guards are expert shooters, Morant exists within a more (Steve) Francis-can order. A scoring point guard whose success lies in his overwhelming athleticism and rim-pressure, he’s the byproduct of an early-aughts hauntology, unrelentingly hurling himself into the paint just as Steve Francis, Baron Davis and Allen Iverson did before him. 

He imbues his drives with gyroscopic motion, varying the length and speed of his strides on a step-by-step basis so that no defender could possibly mirror them. Like a noble gas or somebody playing Wordle, Morant fills whatever space is available. Give him an open lane and he’ll imposingly storm down the middle of the court, daring a big man to fuck around and find out. Cede space to him on the perimeter to try to goad him into a jumper, and he’ll use it to build momentum before trebucheting himself towards the rack. Sardine the paint with help defenders to cut off one of his drives and he’ll squirm his way to freedom. As such, Morant’s true genius isn’t that he’s faster and bouncier than everyone else, but that he can pair his explosiveness with such a heightened sense of proprioception—on the rare instances that he can’t zoom past an opponent, he’s still able to wiggle by them. 

Interestingly, Morant’s usage this year isn’t radically different than it was in his first two seasons. The main difference is that Morant has just gotten better at everything. This year, he scores 13.4 points on 20.3 drives per game, up from 9.5 points on 18.4 drives per game in his sophomore campaign,; he’s now in the 73rd percentile as a pick-and-roll ball-handler and the 85th percentile as an isolation scorer, after placing in the 41st percentile and 57th percentile respectively last season (all stats courtesy of NBA.com). Despite the fact that he’s always been a stylish player, this is the first year he’s been able to translate his entertaining-ness into elite scoring production.

Beyond his bucket-getting, Morant has continued his maturation as a high-level playmaker, exploiting the rotations that his rim-pressure provokes. He cruelly blends his deliveries into his dribbles and finishes—one-handed skip passes are disguised as harmless dribbles, contested lay-ups evolve in mid-air to become dump-offs to open teammates. When Morant has the ball, opposing defenses short-circuit themselves trying to stop him, so paralyzed by the fear of doing the wrong thing that they end up not doing anything at all.

Although Morant’s on/off splits are skewed by the fact that the Grizzlies essentially didn’t miss any shots during the 12 games that he missed with a knee injury, his playmaking impact is obvious. When he’s in the game, the Grizzlies’s offense scores 4.2 more points per 100 possessions than when he’s on the bench, per Cleaning the Glass. Similarly, the Grizz put up an efficient 56.2 percent True Shooting as a team with Morant, which is nearly three percentage points higher than their Morant-less mark.

Almost single-handedly, Morant has restored the feeling in Memphis after he parachuted in from Murray State to rescue the Grizz from their post-Grit ‘n Grind wilderness. In the 137 weeks since Morant was drafted, he lifted the Grizzlies out of their rebuilding doldrums and transformed them a fringe playoff team, and then into an actual playoff team and, now, into an actual contender. The vibes: they’re good. At 29-14, the surging Grizzlies have more wins than every team besides the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns. Since December 1st, the Grizzlies have won 18 of their last 22 games with a net rating of +12.6.

More than any other player in the NBA, Morant possesses a somatic magnetism so powerful that even opposing fans can’t avoid succumbing to it; outside of his dad, Morant has no haters. He’s an accelerant for hope, embracing his entire team within the valances of his good vibes. Flanked by rabid, skilled sous chefs like Desmond Bane, Jaren Jackson Jr and Dillon Brooks, he’s made the Grizzlies the NBA’s most vital squad. There’s a new team in town: it’s Memphis

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Sports Strength

NBA Highlights From January 3rd-9th

With the holiday season and the wave of Covid disruptions (hopefully) behind us, the first week of 2022 delivered some thrilling NBA action, Klay Thompson played in his first game in two and a half years and looked as if he never left. The Memphis Grizzlies and Ja Morant and bulldozed their competition, stretching their win streak to nine consecutive games. Down below are my four takeaways from the NBA’s latest week in action.

Thompson’s return elevates a already-great Warriors team

For the first time in 941 days, Steph Curry’s fellow Splash Brother returned to action, and it seemed like the old times again. In his first game since the 2019 Finals, Klay Thompson rediscovered his rhythm and scored 17 points in 20 minutes as his Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers, 96-82.

As previously mentioned when discussing what to expect from Thompson in his return, the All-Star shooting guard the Warriors’ offense a new dimension. He was fluid in his movement without the ball, successfully drove to the basket (even punctuating his return with an uncharacteristic dunk in traffic), and was sound on defense.

The Grizzlies are entering the conversation of title contenders

It’s becoming a distant memory when some people thought of the Memphis Grizzlies as a playoff team, who would be fodder for an exciting yet predictable first-round exit. Instead, the Grizzlies, who are three and a half games out of first place in the Western Conference, are forcing their way into the conversation about the league’s title contenders.

Led by rising MVP candidate Ja Morant, the Grizz succeed because their depth and athleticism have produced the league’s No. 1 defense over the past six weeks (Allowing 101.8 per 100 possessions).

Don’t count out the Heat to lead the East

Despite experiencing many injuries and a schedule that had them play 25 of their first 41 games on the road, the Heat are the third seed in the Eastern Conference– only two and a half games out of first. So what can happen next? A realistic run to the NBA Finals.

With Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo eventually making their return to the starting lineup, the Heat have all the necessary talents and coaching to challenge for the Eastern Conference crown, just as they did in the Bubble over a year and a half ago.

The Nets get Kyrie back but are still struggling

Even if the season debut of Kyrie Irving (who will only play road games because of NYC’s vaccination mandate) reignites the second-seeded Brooklyn Nets, it doesn’t fully erase their struggles over the last two-plus weeks. their struggles over the past two-plus weeks. Besides a rousing fourth-quarter comeback against the Pacers or rookie Cam Thomas’s game-winning floater against the Spurs on Sunday, the Nets have been fairly listless, losing four out of their previous six games.

And although every team has stretches where they play below their standard, it still feels as if we haven’t watched the Nets play their best basketball yet. But, with Irving now in tow and Durant still in MVP form, maybe that isn’t a bad thing.

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NBA Highlights From December 27th-January 2nd

The last week of 2021 gave NBA teams a unique opportunity to finish strong before aiming for a strong start in the New Year of 2022. As we approach the halfway point of this regular season in a matter of weeks, the action will intensify amongst teams determined to build their momentum further or drastically improve their situation. Down below are my four takeaways from the NBA’s latest week in action.

DeMar DeRozan should be on your MVP ballot

Even with fans and media members quick to name the usual candidates for this year’s MVP award (I.E., Kevin Durant, and Stephen Curry, to name a couple), their dialogue lacks something if DeRozan isn’t mentioned. The multi-time All-Star has not only led the Chicago Bulls to the first seed in the Eastern Conference, but he’s easily the NBA’s most clutch player right now.

During the same week, DeRozan became the first player in league history to make game-winners on consecutive days; he averaged 28 points, six assists, and four rebounds per game during the Bulls’ ongoing seven-game winning streak.

Ja Morant’s leap into superstardom is happening

While some may have expected this to happen, it doesn’t make it less exciting than it is. In Morant’s third NBA season, he is taking that leap into superstardom which consists of a career-best production, team success, and signature moments that could make him a dark-horse MVP candidate this season.

To conclude 2021, we watched the former second overall pick outduel LeBron James two days after making a game-winning shot against the 28-8 Phoenix Suns on the road.

To say Jalen Smith has potential is an understatement

Even though the Phoenix Suns found a successful big man in Deandre Ayton (Selected first in the 2018 Draft), it was a rare bit of success for a team who has failed multiple times when looking for high-quality big men. But that could change again with the pending emergence of Jalen Smith.

The second-year power forward, who is thriving as a center at the moment, gives the Suns another very athletic and flexible big man to play regardless of Ayton’s availability. Over his past four games, Smith has averaged 16 points and ten rebounds per game while playing less than 30 minutes each game.

Kevin Love is turning back the hands of time

After months of hearing about a potential breakup with the Cleveland Cavaliers and having a slow start to this season, Love is back to playing at the level one would expect from a multi-time All-Star and Olympic Gold Medalist. Throughout December, Love averaged 17 points and over seven rebounds per game, but he’s entering the new year amid his best stretch in a long time.

Over his last five games, Love averaged 25 points and eight rebounds per game, including his 35-point and 11 rebounds performance against the Atlanta Hawks on New Year’s Eve. Love’s reemergence is a welcomed sight for a Cavs team that needs all contributions as they compete for a playoff berth.