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As Brooklyn Nets prepare to face Kevin Durant for first time since trade, a look back at a big deal

Yup, only time will tell and maybe a long time.

Los Angeles Lakers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Trying to determine who’s won a trade often takes time, particularly when there are a number of draft picks included. Some trades have two winners, a few even two losers. But it’s human nature to discuss and argue, particularly at certain points when the teams and players are on the same court together

Wednesday night will be one of those times. Kevin Durant may or may not play for Phoenix against Brooklyn out in the Valley of the Sun, Still, the presence of Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson in black-and-white can’t be ignored either.

So let’s review what happened since we learned of the big deal early in the morning of February 9, a mere 10 months ago. No need for us to declare a winner. Everyone has an opinion of course. We’ll just provide the facts and a bit of analysis.

Here’s the deal in full. Remember, it was a four-team trade, with the Bucks winding up with Jae Crowder and Pacers getting some picks in return for facilitating things.

Phoenix Suns received:

Brooklyn Nets received:

  • Mikal Bridges
  • Cameron Johnson
  • Draft rights to Juan Pablo Vaulet (from Indiana)
  • 2023 unprotected first-round pick (from Phoenix)
  • 2025 unprotected first-round pick (from Phoenix)
  • 2027 unprotected first-round pick (from Phoenix)
  • 2028 unprotected first-round pick swap (from Phoenix)
  • 2028 unprotected second-round pick (from Milwaukee)
  • 2029 unprotected first-round pick (from Phoenix)
  • 2029 unprotected second-round pick (from Milwaukee)
  • $18.1 million trade exception which expires February 8, 2024 (Durant)
  • $1.8 million trade exception which expires February 8, 2024 (Warren)

Milwaukee Bucks received:

Indiana Pacers received:

Since then, a number of things have happened:

  • The Nets took Noah Clowney with the Suns 2023 first round pick, the 21st selection.
  • The Nets re-signed Cam Johnson to a four-year, $94 million contract which with mostly unlikely incentives could reach $108 million.
  • The Nets used the 2029 second round pick from Milwaukee — along with a 2029 pick from Dallas acquired in the Kyrie Irving trade — and $110,000 in cash considerations to send Joe Harris to Detroit in a salary dump, generating a $19.9 million trade exception It expires July 5, 2024.
  • The Nets used the 2028 second round pick from Milwaukee to send Patty Mills to Houston, in a salary dump. The Nets also acquired future draft considerations — reportedly a future top 55 protected Rockets pick — and generated a $6.8 million trade exception. It expires July 6, 2024.
  • The Suns did not re-sign Warren, who is currently out of the league.

The big players in the trade — Durant and Bridges — have played extremely well in the intervening months. Since the deal, KD has played in 27 (out of a possible 50 games) and averaged 29.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists on 53/51/88 shooting splits. Bridges has played in 49 (out of a possible 49) and averaged 24.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists on 48/38/88 shooting splits. There is almost an eight-year difference in age between Durant, 35, and Bridges, 27.

Johnson has played 40 (out of a possible 49 games) and averaged 15.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists on 47/38/85 shooting splits. He’s 27 as well.

Since the trade, the Suns are 28-25, the Nets are 27-25. The Suns are $4.9 million over the CBA’s highly restricted second apron after the Bradley Beal deal while the Nets are $8.0 million under the luxury tax threshold and $25.0 million under the second apron.

Of course, the other part of the trade is the draft haul Brooklyn engineered. Sam Quinn of CBS Sports, in an analysis of all 30 teams traded first rounders, wrote this summer that of the top six traded firsts, four of them are currently controlled by the Nets: three of the four Phoenix firsts that are still outstanding from the KD trade as well as the 2029 Dallas first, also unprotected, from the Kyrie Irving trade. He ranked the 2029 Suns pick the best external pick in the entire league.

Not long after, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report went a bit further, grading all 30 teams by the value of all their picks: traded firsts, their own firsts, protections, swaps and even seconds. In his evaluation, the Nets are No. 5.

As for the four trade exceptions generated by the Suns deal plus those of Harris and Mills — a total of $46.7 million — it’s highly unlikely the Nets will make much use of them. They want to stay below the tax threshold not only this season but next as well to avoid the repeater tax and other sanctions that will hurt flexibility. The two superstar trades (plus James Harden’s decision not to re-sign with Brooklyn and demand a trade) should make the Nets big off-season decision, keeping Nic Claxton, a bit easier.

There are certainly other issues on the Nets plate going forward as well as some positives unrelated to last February’s trade, the key one being how much Ben Simmons can contribute versus how much he’s going to get paid this season and next: a total of $78 million, how many of the players on expiring deals — a total of 10 including two-ways — will return. etc.

There two general rules for determining who won a trade, particularly a big one. Usually, the team that gets the best player is declared the winner at least early on. If a team wins a title as a result of a trade they automatically get the win too. But in superstar trades with young players and draft capital having to play a big role, it usually takes a while for things to work out and this trade is likely to be the biggest trade for a long while, considering the new CBA which kicked in on July 1.

Sean Marks has not publicly said if he thinks the Nets won the trade, keeping wise counsel, but he has praised the Twins — Bridges and Johnson — admitting they are better than he expected and said he is happy with Clowney and Dariq Whitehead taken with the Suns and Nets picks. They are the two youngest picks in Nets history and are currently the second and fourth youngest players in the league.

Bottom line, if you want: Brooklyn did very, very well considering KD had demanded a trade only a day or so before the deadline. In the meantime, we’ll have to be comfortable with that trite saying, “only time will tell.” It applies.