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Woj: Raptors ‘lurking’ in Kevin Durant sweepstakes

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NBA: Toronto Raptors at Brooklyn Nets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The age-old question arises: Is Woj speculating or is Woj working? Or to put it more succinctly, what does Adrian Wojnarowski know? On Friday, Woj dropped what might not be a bomb but was still incendiary enough to get fans — and his own colleagues on ESPN thinking...

That’s because Woj reported that the Toronto Raptors might be “lurking” in the Kevin Durant sweepstakes.

“I think a team that’s lurking is Toronto. They have all the kinds of pieces that you would want and their picks to do a deal for Kevin Durant,” said Woj talking to Malika Andrews. “And they have an organization, a leader in Masai Ujiri — you certainly saw the chance he took on Kawhi Leonard with one year left on his deal. How far are the Raptors willing to go in an offer to Brooklyn? Would they offer Scottie Barnes? I think that’s a player who under almost any circumstances they would not want to part with. But having him on their roster, Pascal Siakam, all the other talented players, contracts that might match up.

“I think you keep watching Toronto to see how involved they might get for Kevin Durant.”

Did Woj just say Scottie Barnes, the NBA Rookie of the Year, a 20-year-old wing, could be in play?? I would seem he did. Barnes would no doubt, under normal circumstances, be among the most untouchable players in the NBA. Just two months older than Cam Thomas, Barnes averaged 15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in his first year.

The Raptors would also have to add pieces to get the deal done and/or the Nets would have to add a third team, maybe a fourth. While attention has been pointed at the Suns and Heat because they are at the top of KD’s list, Woj and others have said the Nets will not be bound by Durant’s desires, that they are looking at the best return package for a player who is 1) in his prime even at close to 34 and 2) is under contract for four more years.

The NBA Today team took the rumor apart as well Friday with Zach Lowe suggesting that Sean Marks’ first call should have been to Ujiri.

“I’ve been saying for a week my first phone call if I’m Sean Marks is to the Toronto Raptors to see if I can get Scottie Barnes,” said Lowe in kicking off the discussion. “Because all I’m doing in canvassing the league for the best under-23 players in the league and looking at what team has them and what teams can trade them and other stuff to me and have enough left over in the cupboard for Kevin Durant to look around and say, ‘Okay, I can still win here.’

“Scottie Barnes, No. 1 on the list. Whatever else Toronto would have to throw in. Kevin Durant could walk in there and have O.G. Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Fred Van Vleet, Precious Achiuwa, Chris Boucher and on and on. That team would be the favorite to win the title next year. Parting with Scottie Barnes? Yeah, that would be painful. They might not do it. It might be a hard no, but you don’t get Kevin Durant without Scottie Barnes. I don’t think they have a package that’s not Scottie Barnes-centric that gets them Kevin Durant.”

Malika Andrews then asked Bobby Marks to design a trade that could work. Marks said the problem is that the Raptors and Nets would have to find a package that would get the two sides to the $36 to $37 million in assets they’d need to make it all work within the cap. The former Nets assistant GM raised the possibility of an offer based on Barnes, Gary Trent and former Net Thaddeus Young plus two firsts — the Raptors have a few — could work.

Richard Jefferson pointed out that Ujiri is willing to take risks, noting as did Lowe that the Raptors GM has been on both sides of deals for league superstars. While in Denver, he traded Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks and got a big return and while in his current job, traded multiple years of DeMar DeRozan for one year of Kawhi Leonard ... and won the NBA title in 2019.

“You could get Kevin Durant for four years!” RJ exclaimed. “Are you kidding me? Scottie Barnes? I’d sent Scottie Barnes like ... his dogs, I’ll pack them up myself ... I’m giving Scottie Barnes a private plane. ‘Hey Scottie, I love ya, Congratulations on the Rookie of the Year,’ but I’m getting him everything to get and I’m not saying that in a negative sense. I’m saying look at the guy you’re going to be dealing with. Masai Ujiri who has been part of these blockbuster trades for superstars over the past.

“I would not be surprised if this one of those ones where Masai is like, ‘I’ve done this before. Shoot, I’ve done this a couple of times.’ If he’s willing to get rid of DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi, Scottie Barnes? That’s collateral damage for Kevin Durant.”

On Saturday night, Woj went on ESPN again to update how things stand with the Suns and the Heat, Durant’s preferred final landing spots...

“There are still a lot of conversations going on with teams around the league,” said Woj. “Two of the teams that Kevin Durant would like to play with — the Phoenix Suns, the Miami Heat — they’ve been in pretty consistent contact with Brooklyn, I’m told. But I’m told that, individually, both teams may not have enough to do a deal with Brooklyn without being able to go out and move some pieces in three player, four player trades.

“I think for Brooklyn, they are even more determined after they see the Rudy Gobert trade. the DeJounte Murray trade, the number of picks and assets moving: five first round picks essentially for Rudy Gobert. What’s Kevin Durant worth?:

Of course, nothing appears close. ESPN also reported that more than half the league’s other 29 teams have called the Nets about packages for Durant with a much lesser number in touch about Kyrie Irving. Other than Woj’s suggestion about Toronto, there’s been little out there that looks realistic. Speculation rules as it does during every off-season and with arguably the best player in the game on the block, it’s reached a fever pitch.

Earlier in the day, Brian Windhorst in a video that went viral (and was deeply Socratic) asked just what Jazz were doing, starting with the trade of Royce O’Neale, their best wing defender, to the Nets for a first rounder.

Other than the fun of watching Windy pose one question after another is that the Jazz may be moving toward a rebuild and could be a partner for the Nets and Suns to get something done. And indeed, not long after, Utah traded Rudy Gobert, the perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate to Minnesota in a pick-centric move. That trade, with five picks going to Utah also seemed to raise expectations for a Durant deal.

As Brian Lewis wrote Saturday, it wasn’t the first move this off-season that sent (lesser) stars out for draft picks and young players. The bar has been set ... higher.

The Spurs received three first-round picks for Dejounte Murray and the Jazz topped that by essentially bringing back five for Rudy Gobert — setting the bar for Kevin Durant. The Nets are holding out for an Elon Musk-level fortune in return for their star, who has demanded a trade, and they could get it.

Indeed, there was also a report that some have even circled back to increase their offers before even getting a counteroffer, as Lewis noted. That all bears well for the Brooklyn Nets, but there are, as Bobby Marks and Windhorst have repeatedly pointed out, road blocks that could require multiple teams to get done. There seems little hope for a “clean” trade.

Indeed, on Friday night, Windhorst on his Hoop Collective podcast said the Nets have been underwhelmed by the Suns’ offers and local reports out of Phoenix have repeatedly stated the Nets are not that interested in DeAndre Ayton, the Suns’ 23-year-old center who’s on the market.

“A couple of things are starting to become clear: One is that Durant’s preference, Phoenix, I seems from what I understand, Brooklyn just isn’t interested in what Phoenix can offer in a straight deal,” said Windhorst. “So if Durant is going to get his No. 1 choice — and that’s his No. 1 choice today. It might not be his No. 1 choice by the end of the weekend — I think it’s going to take a third team.”

Of course, that could be a negotiating tactic with so much of the discussion about Durant’s future playing out in the media.

Marc J. Spears of ESPN laid out what NBA GMs are telling him is the Nets bottom line: “a young or future All-Star, lots of picks, the ability to swap picks and another starter.” (Windhorst said he’s hearing the Nets want two under-25 All-Stars.)

Will they get it or add to their monumental organizational failure by coming up with a less than stellar return. The Athletic’s John Krawczynski writes that discussions between the Nets and Timberwolves went nowhere when the Nets reportedly asked for Karl-Anthony Towns or Anthony Edwards.

The Wolves also made several calls to Brooklyn on Kevin Durant, sources said, but the Nets were asking for established All-Stars and a mountain of picks. Minnesota was unwilling to part with either Edwards or Towns in a KD-centered deal, so there was no traction.

There was also increasing speculation that KD could play hardball with the Nets about his future landing spot. While he has some leverage because of who he is and what he’s accomplished, he also has no player option or no-trade clause in the four-year deal he signed with Brooklyn last summer. He could, in theory, threaten not to report to training camp with a new team, but that kind of move would no doubt hurt his brand which has already been tarnished by his demand to be traded to what will be his fourth team.

As for Irving, the market remains, in Lewis’ words, “tepid” and there is no desire by the Nets to accommodate him. Windhorst predicted that Irving’s $36.5 million contract could be used as “trade ballast” in multi-team deal centered on Durant. He does seem willing to leave, posting this on Friday, perhaps his least cryptic post...

KD also posted his own tweet Saturday which appeared to be a vague explanation of why he wants out of Brooklyn...

The tweet did match Chris Haynes explanation of Durant’s issues with the organization. The Yahoo! Sports reporter told NBA TV that KD didn’t see enough infrastructure and leadership in the franchise but did not elaborate. KD was reportedly upset when the Nets director of development, Adam Harrington, was dumped by the Nets. Harrington and Durant go back to OKC.

How soon will things work out? There appears to be no deadline. One ray of hope for fans hoping to see some clarity: the NBA’s 30 GMs normally gather in Las Vegas for Summer League shortly after the July 4 weekend. Games begin Thursday. Expect a lot more rumors in the meantime.