September 29, 2022

Kevin Durant
Photo: Getty Images

Kevin Durant is under contract for one more year with the Brooklyn Nets, but based on the multitude of reports and leaks on the Extremely smooth Kyrie melodrama and its potential fallout, its employment is volatile. That uncertainty spawned a slew of options for Durant, but only the Portland Trailblazers took their sales pitch for Mad Men levels. It all started with Jusuf Nurkić tweeting an image of a Durant-Lillard photoshop and adding an emoji that implied Durant was the missing piece. Damian Lillard shared the same image on his Instagram page. Lillard desperately firing his shot at KD isn’t as effective as the Golden State Warriors rallying the whole gang for their Location of the Hamptons at Durant in 2016, but that may have been the opening salvo.

Kevin Durant’s older brother tried to throw flame retardant on the grease fire, Lillard launched, but the problem had already gained too much ground for a tertiary character to crush. Plus, the Blazers might make the most sense in today’s landscape. Durant gives Portland the fiery partner who can finally give Lillard the edge against Golden State. After putting Golden on top, doing the same with Steph Lite would save his rep after failing to capitalize on a stacked Nets lineup from 2021 to early 2022. Durant has been paired with nearly every star point guard of his generation. He played the two-man match with Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry, James Harden and Irving. Two of these three partnerships went wrong. Durant would be better off going for 2010 Point Guard Bingo with Lillard, which is built from the remnants of the Curry mold.

Unlike Curry, Lillard went stag during an era of player empowerment where superstars took the lead in staging their own mergers. Lillard’s push for Durant is the ultimate full-circle moment. The Blazers already had their chance to land Durant in 2008. All they had to do was take him with the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft.

Before the dawn of positionless basketball and the floor-spacing philosophies that reigned supreme, Greg Oden fit the then-contemporary model of a franchise player. Durant was the first unicorn of that era. Durant was clearly the most well-rounded offensive talent, but while average scores were generally bogged down in the 80s, the 90s a big heavyweight was the ideal choice. In 2007, the NBA was still a copycat league. Former Texas great LaMarcus Aldridge and Oden were an easy bridge to sell as the next Twin Towers duo.

If Portland had been able to operate a healthy Oden, they might not be in the precarious situation they find themselves in today. It’s been 15 years since the Blazers chose Greg Oden over Durant and they still miss him. Durant’s virtuoso playing would sit perfectly alongside Lillard, Jerami Grant and Jusuf Nurkić – should he re-sign next month.

From the Nets’ perspective, Brooklyn has the most promising upsides to offer. Anfernee Simons or their recent lottery pick, Shaedon Sharpe, and future picks are prospects superior to the early proteges of Durant suitors who expect to be outside the top 20 for the next few seasons. Sharpe has the potential to be the top wing in this draft, but the scouting report on him is slimmer than Chet Holmgren after spending the entire season at Kentucky to upgrade from the 2022 class.

Anfernee Simons is an ideal replacement for Irving and a future top-20 player who could thrive alongside Ben Simmons. This deal would only work as a sign and trade for Simmons, who is a restricted free agent this summer, although the Blazers are expected to match any offers he receives from interested teams.

Durant seems to have a latent affinity for the Toronto Raptors. However, Masai Ujiri is likely to forego a package including promising Scottie Barnes. Pascal Siakam is Toronto’s best player right now, but he and Fred Van Vleet are what’s left of the core that defeated the (restricted) Warriors in the 2019 NBA Finals. What they have more Durant may be good enough to net them 50 wins, but that could leave Durant carrying the load on a scrappy, smart, well-drilled but outdated playoff roster.

A Celtics offer of Jalen Brown and multiple picks would be attractive to Brooklyn, but would have Would Boston be ready to separate an NBA Finals runner-up? They have a young core that plays overwhelming defense against 29 of 30 teams. Brown is still a healthy 25-year-old All-Star. Despite all his gifts, good health has not been one for the past three seasons. While he remains a force to be reckoned with, Durant has missed 126 games since tearing his achilles in 2019. A Thin Towers roster would be the biggest benefit of an Oklahoma City reunion. . While Durant, Holmgren, and Poku are an interesting novelty, they don’t fit Durant’s timeline. Durant returning to Golden State is an unlikely scenario and after all the flack he caught signing with them after their Finals loss, he would never survive chasing another title in Curry Town.

A Durant-Lillard couple is the best of both worlds. There was a time when Lillard and Curry were considered pea pods. Since then, Lillard has been the Clyde Drexler of Curry’s GM. He’s 8-26 against Curry in the regular season, 0-10 in the playoffs and four titles behind. What better way to finally make a run for the Warriors than by luring Durant to Portland as a championship Sherpa? Lifting a starving basketball city during its nearly 50-year drought would be a hell of a way to get back on a level playing field.