It’s a bold thing to toss dynamite into your locker room and blow up your team – especially a supposed super-team – but, credit to the Brooklyn Nets, that’s just what they did at this year’s trade deadline.
After trading Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks and altering the fabric of this NBA playoff picture, Brooklyn doubled down on its rebuild, dishing Kevin Durant and TJ Warren to the Phoenix Suns. The Nets got a haul of players and picks in return.
Immediately, Brooklyn was derided for its miserable effort to create a super-squad with Irving, Durant and James Harden (the trio played just 16 games together). Phoenix, on the other hand, was lauded for its brashness – “Look how badly the Suns want to win a championship!”
But will this trade actually accomplish Phoenix’s long-sought-after goal? Is this the year the Suns win their first championship in franchise history? I wouldn’t count on it.
Before we dive in, check out our NBA betting news page and NBA MVP odds for all the latest info. If you’re more into stats and trends, our NBA first-quarter/first-half betting report is perfect for you to gather extra info before making a wager.
Kevin Durant Trade Summary
Here are all the pieces in the Kevin Durant trade from the February 9 trade deadline. The blockbuster was technically a four-team trade involving the Suns, Nets, Milwaukee Bucks and Indiana Pacers.
Woof, what a haul. The NBA is famous for these colossal swaps that’ll make your head explode. To keep things concise, let’s look at the pieces the Nets and Suns exchanged.
Obviously, Durant is the star acquisition, though he’s battling an MCL sprain and won’t debut with the Suns for a few weeks. Phoenix also brought in Warren, a versatile forward who will help the team’s bench and can start in a pinch. Warren’s addition is significant, as the Suns punted on a hefty chunk of their depth.
Then, of course, there’s what the Suns gave up. The four first-rounders are inconsequential in the modern NBA, where picks are slung from team to team without regret. Phoenix also surrendered Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson, two important players who will be sorely missed this season (more on that later).
All told, the Suns mortgaged their future draft capital – that part doesn’t matter – and gave up some useful auxiliary pieces to land Durant, who’s under contract through 2025-26 (his age-37 season) but is still one of the NBA’s true game-changing superstars.
Phoenix Suns Championship Odds
Quickly, I wanted to touch on how the KD trade altered the NBA championship odds. After the deadline, the Suns exploded up the ranking, jumping from +1800 before the trade to +500 afterward. The Celtics are still chalked at +350, but the Suns are steady in second place, now sitting at +450.
I would steer clear of Phoenix at +450, especially with the Western Conference as competitive as it is. When their roster is healthy, the Denver Nuggets (+750) look really good; Golden State (+1200) is always a threat, and let’s not forget the Mavericks (+1400), whom bettors are more bullish on after the Irving deal.
Why The Suns Won’t Win A Championship, Even With Durant
Let’s unpack it all.
An Overload On Mid-Range Shooting
The Suns will attempt to pair incumbent star Devin Booker with an incoming legend in Durant. Since both guys are high-usage players, I have concerns about these two finding any sort of on-floor harmony. Booker and Durant hold 31.3 and 31.1 usage percentages, respectively, putting them in the top 12 league-wide. These guys thrive as on-ball scorers, and there are doubts about how well they share the floor.
On a more granular level, Booker and Durant are best used as mid-range guys. Both can drill from deep at a respectable clip, but KD, for example, is attempting just 4.8 threes per game, his lowest number since 2012-13 with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Along similar lines, 74.3 percent of Durant’s shot attempts have been two-pointers, also his highest clip since 2012-13.
As a team, the Suns aren’t a lost cause from long range. Phoenix has averaged 12.4 made treys per game (12th in the NBA) but will now have to make up for the loss of Johnson, their best three-point specialist. To win in the playoffs, you need three-point fortitude. I don’t know if Phoenix has enough long-range weapons to get it done.
Durant’s Playoff Record
I hate to nitpick, but beyond Durant’s years in Golden State (during which he won two championships), postseason basketball has been a grind for the 34-year-old, especially lately. As an individual, Durant balls out in the playoffs – he averages 29.3 PPG and owns the ninth-most playoff points of all time – but his teams haven’t succeeded lately.
The Warriors of the mid- to late 2010s were an unstoppable crew. Prime versions of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Durant made them shoo-ins for NBA championship chalk status on a yearly basis. The 2022-23 Suns are not on that level. Phoenix is still good – better than Durant’s Brooklyn teams – but not at Golden State’s level.
From 2009 to 2018 (when he won his second title), Durant led his teams to a sparkling 80-47 playoff record. Since then, his teams have gone just 15-13. Phoenix has other playoff performers – Chris Paul and Booker led the Suns to the NBA Finals two seasons ago – but Durant’s postseason wizardry from years past may no longer exist.
Locker Room Fit
I understand basketball is different than most sports – guys can be divas, force trades on a whim, cuss out their teammates on the record and then go out and dominate. It blows my mind, but I get it. The Association is made popular by superstars, and basketball as a sport is growing. Excellent.
That said, Durant is not a cohesive teammate. He’s a future Hall of Famer, but his attitude leaves much to be desired. Who knows where he’d be if he didn’t join the Warriors dynasty and waltz to two championships. Without an elite supporting cast, I don’t think Durant possesses the leadership or the ability to buoy a club to a title. In fact, having Durant in the locker room might just drag this Suns team down, not lift them up.