How easy would a Suns trade for Nets' Kevin Durant be? Several obstacles to potential Brooklyn-Phoenix swap

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Kevin Durant Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant rocked the NBA world Thursday by announcing a trade request via The Athletic's Shams Charania. According to Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes, the Suns are Durant's preferred destination.

What would the holdups be in such a trade, and what might it look like? 

Which Suns players would the Nets be interested in acquiring?

Devin Booker and Chris Paul are both signed through the next two seasons but the Suns would obviously be extremely reluctant to move either one. Durant has expressed an affinity for Booker's game in the past, which at least partially explains his trade request. 

Mikal Bridges would be an obvious centerpiece to include in a trade. He will be in the first year of a four-year, $91 million extension that pays him $21 million in 2022-23. Bridges is one of the best 3-and-D players in the league and a very valuable asset. 

MORE: Suns, Heat, Raptors headline best landing spots for Durant

DeAndre Ayton would be the other centerpiece that would make sense in this deal. Ayton is a restricted free agent, and his maximum contract would start at $31 million. If he were sign-and-traded to the Nets, he could sign a contract up to four years in length. While Ayton is an extremely promising young big man, the Suns have shown lukewarm interest in keeping him. The rumors have persisted all offseason about him being moved.

Sign-and-trades for Ayton are tricky because of the base year compensation (BYC) rule. Trades between teams without cap space require salary matching. But BYC players' salaries count for 50 percent as outgoing salary and 100 percent for incoming salary.

If that sounds confusing, you're not alone in thinking so. That rule makes salary matching extremely complicated in any trade involving Ayton. 

The Suns can get around this issue by including Ayton and Bridges together for Durant, roping in some other minor contracts, and working with a third team that has cap space to offload some minor salary pieces, along with some small draft compensation for their help. 

MORE: Free agency tracker: Live updates on news, signings and trades

The Suns also have some solid role players who could be worked in, too: Jae Crowder, Landry Shamet, Dario Saric, Cam Payne, Cam Johnson and Torrey Craig. 

Do the Suns have draft picks to trade?

The Suns have all their own future first- and second-round picks. They have no additional picks incoming from any other teams. 

The Suns would be limited by the Stepien rule from trading picks in consecutive years. Many teams, such as the Hawks in their trade for Dejounte Murray or the Nets in their most recent trade for James Harden, have included pick swaps in these in-between years to add value in a deal. 

Does Kevin Durant have a no-trade clause?

Durant does not have a no-trade clause in his current contract. He is signed for four guaranteed years. 

Year Age Base salary
2022-23 34 $42,969,845
2023-24 35 46,407,433
2024-25 36 49,856,021
2025-26 37 53,282,608

Can Kevin Durant force his way to the Suns? 

Probably not. Even if it is Durant's preference to go to certain teams, the Nets can move him for the best offer they receive. That may or may not be from the Suns, depending on what other teams offer.

Normally, stars can exert more control over where they are traded. But because Durant is locked in for four years, there is less flight risk if he doesn't like his new situation.

MORE: Why did Kevin Durant request a trade?

Durant would have to sit out games and forgo his massive salary to exert leverage on his new team. We've seen that situation with Ben Simmons, but it is rare. Those four guaranteed years give Durant much less control than if he only had one or two seasons left on his deal. 

Why would the Nets want good players back from the Suns instead of trying to bottom out?

Oftentimes, teams who trade their stars try to bottom out to get some draft picks back and find a new star. The Nets don't have that luxury, because they traded so much to get Harden from the Rockets. 

The Rockets own pick swaps with the Nets in 2023, 2025 and 2027. They also own the Nets' picks in 2024 and 2026, which are unprotected.

In other words, if the Nets are bad, they don't gain that draft pick equity because of how much they owe to the Rockets.

MORE: How Durant trade request alters 2021 Rockets deal for Harden

Author(s)
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Stephen Noh is an NBA writer for The Sporting News.