When you trade a player who is one of the best five players in the world, what can you expect in return? Fans’ easy answer, which is usually the wrong one, is that you must get equal value. That never happens because it can’t. There is no Kevin Durant equivalent, just as there was no Jason Kidd equivalent when he left in 2008.
That said, pundits think that the Nets did well (enough) in what turned out to be a four-team trade that sent 10 players and a lot of draft picks moving among the Nets, Suns, Bucks and Pacers. The haul might not have been commensurate with KD’s talents, but those who grade trades think it was pretty, pretty good.
John Hollinger of The Athletic who didn’t actually grade the trade wrote what is the general consensus:
As for the Nets, this week was a pretty good save from an impossible situation. Brooklyn has the rights to multiple good wings on solid contracts (Bridges, Dorian Finney-Smith, Royce O’Neale) plus restricted free-agent rights on Cam Johnson. With 32 wins already banked, the Nets should be able to make the Play-In at the very least and can quite possibly hold off one of New York or Miami to get into the main draw as the sixth seed. Anything after that is pure gravy, but with Cam Thomas rolling up 40-point games and a nine-deep rotation of quality players, their season isn’t toast.
The Nets also nearly got themselves all the way out of the luxury tax by flipping Jae Crowder’s expiring contract to Milwaukee and shouldn’t be a tax team next year. They’ll walk away with two additional seconds for Crowder (Milwaukee’s in 2028 and 2029), several tradeable contracts for the offseason and five future firsts for Durant and Kyrie Irving. The Nets also have an $18 million trade exception for Durant, one of the rare exceptions large enough to do some real damage in the offseason.
Here are some of the other assessments, these with grades attached. There are those who graded based on what might have been with the “Big Three,” but one pundit gave the Nets and Suns the same grade: an A-.
Brooklyn got a package that combined young talent and draft picks instead of picking between the two. The Nets can’t entirely replace their own pair of first-round picks and two swaps sent to the Houston Rockets in the James Harden trade, but they are now well ahead in terms of total first-rounders and control the Suns’ draft from 2027 through 2029, when Durant’s contract will be up and Booker will be in his 30s.
Bridges and Johnson are young enough to be part of Brooklyn’s future, particularly with tanking an unappetizing prospect over the next few seasons. In a fascinating twist, the Nets have gone from three stars to suddenly flushed with more 3-and-D role players than any team in the NBA, albeit without a star to complement — unless Cam Thomas keeps scoring 40 points per game (can’t rule it out).
Phoenix Suns: A
With Chris Paul no longer as effective creating his own offense, Durant’s addition is a game-changer for a Suns team that has struggled to score with Booker sidelined, dropping to 16th in offensive rating.
When both stars are healthy, Phoenix will have 48 minutes of elite one-on-one creation. And Monty Williams’ creative pick-and-roll schemes should ensure the Suns don’t stagnate into predictable, alternating isolations late in games as sometimes happened with the Nets. Then again, even if that does happen in Phoenix, the team has added the NBA’s best shot-maker to go with two elite ones in Booker and Paul. Nobody is beating the Suns in a one-on-one battle.
Brooklyn Nets: C+
What if I told you the Nets traded away Kevin Durant for the same number of picks the Jazz got for Rudy Gobert? Look, Brooklyn was in a bad position. Irving blew up the season, and perhaps Durant then demanded out. The Nets decided now was the best time to exit this mess. But could they have not possibly gotten a better package in the summer?
Bridges is a very solid player whom Phoenix will miss. He’s also particularly great as a role player, and he’s possibly miscast as a team’s No. 2. Johnson is a great shooter and also can complement an already-great team. As of now, he’s a redundant, not-quite-as-good version of Bridges. And while the picks at least meet the new baseline expectation, it’s hard to imagine them ever being incredible as long as Booker, only 26, is around.
Phoenix Suns: A+
This is a win-now move in a wide-open Western Conference, and it’s a home run. Phoenix almost certainly becomes the favorite in the West, with an improving Chris Paul, an All-Star level Devin Booker and Durant forming a formidable trio. Those are three of the deadliest halfcourt scorers in the NBA, and they will be hellish to defeat in a playoff series. And after years of the postseason burden seemingly catching up to Paul, he now has two ultra-elite perimeter scorers to make his life much easier.
Brooklyn Nets C-
The prevailing question for Brooklyn is ... why now? Surely the Suns made this sort of offer last offseason. Surely they would’ve made a similar one over the summer. Why rush this thing before the trade deadline? Why not wait until the summer, allow other teams to get their ducks in a row and have a proper bidding war? Durant has three years left on his contract. He has no recourse. There was no way for him to force his way to Phoenix, specifically.
The Suns gave up quite a bit in this deal, but they didn’t give up everything...
The Nets didn’t get a single blue-chip asset in this deal. The picks Phoenix sent to Brooklyn? Those are nice, but they’re not nearly as valuable as the ones the Nets sent the Rockets two years ago. Devin Booker is only 26. He’ll still be in his prime when the last of these picks conveys
Phoenix Suns: A
Sometimes, these things can be simple. When Kevin Durant is on your basketball team you have a chance to win a championship. Before this trade, the Suns probably didn’t. Their near-misses over the past few seasons relied on the sort of technical precision that comes with flawless chemistry and impeccable luck. Well, Chris Paul is finally beginning to succumb to the rigors of age. Jae Crowder held out hoping to get traded. Deandre Ayton signed with another team over the summer only to see the offer sheet matched.
Whatever factors allowed them to outperform their talent over the past two seasons simply didn’t exist anymore. Now they don’t need to. The Suns are going to bludgeon you the old-fashioned way: with sheer star power.
Brooklyn Nets: B-
Sean Marks has had to rebuild a franchise before when it didn’t have much of its own draft future in its control, following taking over post-Billy King-Danny Ainge trade debacle. If he’s given the opportunity to reshape this one, he has the pick from Dallas in the Kyrie trade, and all this draft capital to use. Considering what he’s traded away, getting this pick compensation back is solid. But so much has to happen before the Nets can feel good about this future built on Suns picks.
By the way, the Rockets have to love this deal because those Nets picks look a lot better for Houston’s future.
Phoenix Suns: A-
The combination of Durant and Devin Booker is going to be a home run. Booker was also playing MVP ballot-level basketball prior to his injury, and he’s just now getting back to form and looking good. Booker has done a brilliant job in this Suns era with Paul to defer when he needs to, take over when required, play really good defense, and fit in however his team needs. He’s become a complete basketball player when the stakes and expectations got raised significantly. Now imagine what he is able to do with Durant causing sheer panic for the opponent.
The only thing keeping this from being an A+ is Durant’s recent health issues, and the depletion of the Suns’ rotation in having to make this trade. CP3 will hopefully look less washed than he has for most of this season.
Brooklyn Nets: B-
Considering the inflated trade market we saw in the offseason with Rudy Gobert’s move to Minnesota, the Nets’ haul seems palatable. Ideally, you want at least an All-Star in return for a top-five player. The jewel of this deal is Bridges, who has the potential to reach that level in the not-too-distant future.
Bridges has quickly established himself as one of the best young 3-and-D players in the league. Johnson, a certified sharpshooter, had some bright moments with the Suns, delivering impressive performances in their run to the 2021 Finals.
But with Irving being shipped to Dallas and the franchise entering a rebuild, bringing in that kind of draft capital along with Bridges and Johnson is a big win.
Phoenix Suns: A+
The Suns’ championship window appeared to be closing — until they smashed it back open by acquiring Durant.
Prior to his injury, Durant was firmly in the MVP conversation, averaging 29.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.5 blocks per game on super-efficient shooting splits of 55.9/37.6/93.4.
Adding one of the league’s best scorers to a core of Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton immediately puts them back in the conversation of the Western Conference’s elite teams. (It also means Phoenix fans will be seeing even more midrange jumpers.)
Brooklyn Nets: A-
Securing a king’s ransom for both was never a given. The Nets got it anyway. Including the Irving blockbuster, Brooklyn’s haul amounts to Bridges, Crowder, Johnson, Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, five unprotected first-round picks, one first-round swap and two second-rounders...
So many different avenues are now open to the Nets—flexibility and possibility that weren’t available before. That is, unequivocally, spectacular under the circumstances. Their lone potential demerit: opting for a player-heavy, pick-light package in the Irving blockbuster rather than loading up on draft-equity-centric offers when they had to, on some level, know KD was on his way out.
Phoenix Suns: A-
Durant immediately transforms the Suns into one of the West’s foremost favorites, if not its de facto squad to beat. (The Denver Nuggets exist, people.) Pairing him with Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton fills the league’s current superteam void. There is no overstating how dangerous Phoenix becomes now.
Fitting the pieces together will be a non-issue. Durant has played off other superstars at every single stop, and Booker’s own superstardom is in part born from his infinite scalability. Ayton may lust after a larger on-ball role, but he is already accustomed to play-finishing duty and has looked the part of a plug-and-dominate max center in recent games.
Brooklyn Nets: B
Here’s the thing: The Nets roster is littered with intriguing supporting players and no superstar, kind of like where they were before Durant and Irving. It’s not the worst place to be — and unprotected future picks are always a good gamble, just ask the Nets themselves with the infamous Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce deal — but it means any shot at contention is out the window.
So as far as resets go, this isn’t the worst. Maybe my grade is biased by the bummer that is seeing a team with so much hope just get torn down.
Phoenix Suns: A-
My reaction when waking up to this: You’re telling me the Suns dealt for one of the five best players in the NBA right now and DIDN’T have to trade Deandre Ayton? And now they’re going to put KD with him AND Devin Booker?
This makes a contending team that much stronger, and it covers up for Chris Paul’s declining play. The pressure is off the veteran point guard as the Suns try to contend in what feels like a wide-open West despite the Nuggets’ dominance. Bringing back Warren feels like an afterthought but he’ll be a great addition to the bench.
Brooklyn Nets: B-
The Nets weren’t going to do better than what they ended up with for Irving and Durant: five first-round draft picks and quality young wings Cam Johnson and Mikal Bridges. Still, to end up with just one playoff series victory after all the hoops they had to jump through for these two diva superstars the Irving/Durant era can only be classified as an unmitigated failure, particularly after all the picks general manager Sean Marks gave Houston in the ill-fated James Harden deal.
Phoenix Suns: A
Kevin Durant is now a Sun, and Phoenix is a title contender, which could not have been said before the blockbuster move. Durant and Devin Booker will be an electric duo, and Phoenix still has stud center Deandre Ayton and veteran point guard Chris Paul. New owner Matt Ishbia works fast.