The Boston Celtics have indeed made overtures to land superstar forward Kevin Durant, league sources told B/R, but Boston isn’t exactly a new player in the Brooklyn Nets’ ongoing trade process.
The Celtics’ most serious discussion—as first reported by The Athletic’s Shams Charania on Monday—in which Brad Stevens’ front office was amenable to parting with Jaylen Brown, came weeks ago at the beginning of July, sources said. Representatives from most rival teams spoke with Nets general manager Sean Marks and other Brooklyn officials during the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League.
Since the end of summer league, the majority of consequential trade conversations around the NBA have come to a momentary lull, and team personnel aren’t expecting any blockbuster trade any time soon. That will only change if and when a team makes a sudden full-force effort to acquire Durant or Utah Jazz All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell.
Boston’s conversations for Durant, specifically, were considered by both teams as part of the Nets’ first stage of continuing negotiations, sources told B/R.
Durant is one of the NBA’s unquestioned elite players and has four years remaining on his contract. The market price for an established All-Star has grown to unprecedented levels, thanks to Utah’s massive haul for Rudy Gobert and San Antonio’s significant return for Dejounte Murray. But with Durant turning 34 in September and a notable injury history that’s limited him to only 90 games over the past three seasons, no rival teams’ trade offers have come close to meeting Brooklyn’s lofty expectations. Several opposing executives contacted by B/R have suggested the Nets’ terms are so significant because Brooklyn has no intention to truly move Durant.
The Nets have sought at least one bona fide All-Star-caliber player, other contributing players and significant draft capital to consider any Durant package, sources said. Brooklyn also maintains a stance that Durant may ultimately survey the Nets’ training camp roster and determine that playing in Barclays Center represents his best chance for a 2022-23 championship run.
For now, the Celtics’ true legitimacy as a Durant suitor—as with any inquiring team—will be determined by their willingness to meet Brooklyn’s wishes. But the Nets’ firm positioning hasn’t stopped rivals from drawing their own hard lines.
Interested teams are hopeful Brooklyn may ultimately have to lower its terms depending on Durant’s response come late September, several months following his trade request. There has so far been zero indication he is plotting any type of holdout, but that scenario has been repeatedly mentioned by rival team executives as the one variable that could force Brooklyn to drop its expensive demands.
Is Brown Really Brooklyn’s Best Option?
As Boston’s second-leading scorer during a sprint to the 2022 NBA Finals, Brown would clearly qualify as one of the league’s premier young players Brooklyn could theoretically gain from a Durant departure. But is Brown, 25, really a centerpiece capable of leading the Nets on a deep playoff run without Durant, a two-time Finals MVP?
Would Brooklyn view Brown on the same level of, say, Pelicans All-Star swingman Brandon Ingram or Toronto reigning Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes? Both Ingram and Barnes are believed to be the type of cornerstone headliners the Nets are seeking in Durant conversations.
Gobert’s trade value has provided Brooklyn with precedent to replenish its chest of draft capital—depleted during the James Harden blockbuster in January 2021—but the Nets have been described by league personnel as far more interested in a package that positions them for a title run.
Playing it out, if Phoenix’s now-not-happening offer of Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson and the richest possible number of draft picks likely wouldn’t have been enough to satisfy Brooklyn, then Boston has a large gap between the Nets’ towering price point and a package of Brown, Derrick White and a first-rounder. Ayton can no longer be traded until Jan. 15 after the Suns matched his offer sheet from Indiana.
Boston’s Growing Tolerance for a Brown Trade
This seems to be the first moment the Celtics have truly explored the possibility of moving Brown. All the way back in 2018, Boston never made Brown available in its efforts to land Kawhi Leonard from the Spurs, sources told B/R.
When Anthony Davis was on the trade block in 2019, the Celtics only internally deliberated on including Brown in a package to New Orleans—the Pelicans’ one significant offer for Davis came from Los Angeles, sources said. And when Boston inquired about Ben Simmons last fall, the Sixers held firm in their own demand for an All-Star-caliber centerpiece and additional assets, and their talks never grew substantive.
When Boston stumbled to 23-24 in January, team personnel only began to consider the possible returns from parting with Brown this offseason, sources said, to better optimize the Celtics’ contending window starring Jayson Tatum. The Celtics did not seriously entertain any inquiries for Brown ahead of the February trade deadline, sources said.
There aren’t many players Boston would swap Brown for, but the Celtics’ franchise has coveted Durant since before his 2006-07 draft year, when they fumbled games in an attempt to land him or Greg Oden that June. Then in 2016, Boston sent a buzzworthy traveling party—featuring Tom Brady—to the Hamptons in an attempt to lure Durant as an unrestricted free agent, before he joined Golden State.
Since their momentous run to the Finals, Celtics figures have spoken of wanting to add to a burgeoning championship core. Boston found additional ball-handling in Malcolm Brogdon, and free-agent acquisition Danilo Gallinari is slated to provide a valuable scoring punch in the second unit. Sam Hauser is expected to play a more significant rotation role as a reserve marksman.
If the Celtics don’t land Durant, Boston will still be positioned as one of the favorites to emerge from a competitive Eastern Conference, with a bit of internal housekeeping likely in order.
Jake Fischer covers the NBA for Bleacher Report and is the author of Built to Lose: How the NBA’s Tanking Era Changed the League Forever.
Why Kevin Durant for Jaylen Brown trade is the most realistic deal on the market
Three reasons why a Kevin Durant for Jaylen Brown trade makes sense for the Nets and Celtics.
Kevin Durant’s trade request from the Brooklyn Nets hours before free agency opened on June 30 became the biggest story of the NBA offseason from the moment it happened, but there has been very little momentum building towards a deal. Just when it seemed like Durant returning to Brooklyn might be the likely scenario, reports from ESPN and The Athletic showed a mystery team emerging with a serious bid.
The Boston Celtics reportedly offered Jaylen Brown, Derrick White, and a draft pick for Durant, according to insider Shams Charania. Brooklyn turned down the offer, and reportedly asked Boston to include Marcus Smart and likely additional draft compensation.
ESPN initially reported Boston’s interest in the superstar scorer, and added “there are no deals believed to have traction for Durant.” Adrian Wojnarowski notes the Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, and Toronto Raptors are also serious suitors for KD. Training camps around the league open on Sept. 26, and Durant reportedly still wants to be traded from Brooklyn.
Building a Durant deal was always going to be difficult for several reasons, including his age (he’ll be 34 years old to start the season), his contract situation (he’s under contract for four more years), and an obscure league rule that limits the type of veteran star the Nets can get in return for him.
While the Nets and Celtics might not be close to a deal yet, here’s why a framework centered on swapping Durant for Brown feels more realistic than any other proposed deal.
Jaylen Brown isn’t on a Designated Rookie Extension — which helps a deal
There’s been added difficulty in constructing a Durant trade because of a little known league rule about acquiring players in a trade. The NBA’s Designated Rookie Rule states that each team is allowed to have two players on a five-year extension following the end of their rookie contracts, but only one of them is allowed to be acquired via a trade.
This rule applies to Ben Simmons for the Nets. Simmons is on a five-year rookie extension, and was acquired via trade as the headliner in Brooklyn’s James Harden deal in February. Players like Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, Devin Booker, and Bam Adebayo are currently on five-year rookie extensions, which means Brooklyn would have to trade Simmons before acquiring any of them in a Durant trade.
Jaylen Brown is not on a five-year extension after signing a four-year, $115 million contract extension with Boston in 2019. The Nets’ ability to keep both Brown and Simmons on the roster presents an easier pathway to do a deal than most competitors can find.
Jaylen Brown may be the best player on the table in a Durant deal
We know that Brooklyn wants a young All-Star caliber player plus serious draft capital for Durant. If we assume the top-four Durant suitors are the Celtics, Heat, Suns, and Raptors, there may not be a better player available in any potential deal than Brown. Let’s go through what each package could look like:
The Heat can’t offer Adebayo because of the Designated Rookie Rule. Their best offer likely revolves around Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, and rookie Nikola Jovic.
The Suns can’t trade Deandre Ayton this offseason after locking him into an extension earlier this summer. A deal with Phoenix would revolve around Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson.