The NBA world was shocked Thursday afternoon when reports emerged that Kevin Durant had requested a trade from the Brooklyn Nets. After another All-Star season and with four years remaining on his contract, Durant is arguably the most valuable asset to ever hit the trade market. While the Phoenix Suns and Miami Heat are the known teams on Durant’s list of favorite destinations, it will be in the Nets’ interest to do business with the franchise that can offer them the best deal in return. All of this begs the question; Could the Charlotte Hornets be in the Kevin Durant draw?
Durant is currently the league’s fifth-highest-paid player, which means Charlotte would have to return a large sum of salary in order to comply with NBA salary-matching rules. In this case, the Hornets could recoup 125% of the outgoing salary plus $100,000 since Charlotte’s total outgoing salaries would be over $19.6 million.
Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier are the two highest earners on the Hornets’ books with a total of $51.5 million. Due to the aforementioned salary-matching rules, Brooklyn could take over both Hayward and Rozier’s contracts. The Nets are unlikely to see either as a long-term staple, but they’re useful players nonetheless. Hayward has struggled to stay healthy in recent seasons, but has the advantage of only having two seasons left on his contract. Rozier has proven to be a solid player and at 28 should have several more productive years ahead. He was also durable, missing just 14 games in his three seasons in Charlotte. The Nets will almost certainly want at least one young player in any deal, and Charlotte can include James Bouknight in that hypothetical trade. Drawn up just a year ago, Bouknight has yet to gain a foothold in Charlotte but could flourish with a change of scenery.
The Nets will also demand a serious capital project in any Durant deal. Earlier this week, the Atlanta Hawks sent three first-round picks and one pick trade to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for Dejounte Murray. Based on that benchmark, Charlotte would include four first-round picks in that hypothetical deal.
Four first-round picks
Another possible deal Charlotte could offer would include Miles Bridges in place of Gordon Hayward and PJ Washington in place of James Bouknight. It would be a better comeback for Brooklyn in a short sense, but Bridges’ recent arrest and uncertain status certainly complicates matters. Bridges is a restricted free agent, which means his inclusion in this deal is contingent on a sign-and-trade deal. Again, that would entirely depend on the Nets’ comfort level with bringing in a player who is currently facing domestic violence charges.
Miles Bridges (sign and trade)
P. J. Washington
Four first-round picks
Imaginations across the league will run wild with Durant on the market
Charlotte is not likely to acquire Durant’s services; in fact, they’re probably one of the least likely teams to do so. However, when a player of Durant’s caliber hits the open market, and when more than half the league inquired about his availabilitythe imagination will run wild.