An NBA Halt: Why Brooklyn and Utah have the association at their disposal and why skepticism remains on whether LeBron James will sign an extension this week when he is eligible
With virtually no movement going on in the NBA, eyes are on Brooklyn and Utah's next moves regarding Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell and whether LeBron James will put pen to paper
First off, RIP to Bill Russell, one of the greatest players in the history of the game and undoubtedly the biggest winner in team sports history. Sunday was a very sad day for the NBA. As we move into August, the league is still at a “halt” and there have been very few free agent signings over the past several weeks because of what is happening in Brooklyn and Utah. Many hopeful contenders including the Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Toronto Raptors, and Boston Celtics are waiting on whether or not they can swing a trade for Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell and Brooklyn Nets’ stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
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Even unlikely contenders such as the Washington Wizards, Charlotte Hornets, and New York Knicks have been talking with the Jazz about Donovan Mitchell. Although the Knicks talks have reportedly stalled per The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the Wizards and Hornets are still actively engaging in talks but no deal is close.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Boston Celtics were engaged in talks to acquire Kevin Durant. Still, even that seems farfetched from the league rumblings over the past couple of days. It’s highly unlikely we see any movement with trades or free agents in the coming days and this “halt” could linger into when training camp starts on September 26th.
Nonetheless, LeBron James will be eligible to sign a max extension with the Los Angeles Lakers tomorrow, Thursday, August 4th, but it seems highly unlikely that he will rush to do so. Per Marc Stein, James can either sign a max one-year extension worth 46.7 million, a max two-year extension worth 97.1 million, or play out his current deal where he will earn 44.5 million next season and then become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
Stein also reported that “James and his family, by all accounts, are extremely entrenched in Southern California” and that James is “extremely happy in Los Angeles despite back-to-back rocky seasons”. I have always said that James will finish his career as a Laker and have stood by that point since he first signed with the team in the summer of 2018. Stein also reported that LeBron James still wants to swap Russell Westbrook for Kyrie Irving before the season begins and that would lock him into an extension with the Lakers.
At this moment in time Kevin Durant is still a Brooklyn Net and so is Kyrie Irving. Unless Durant has an absolute reluctance to play alongside Kyrie Irving next season and force the Nets’ hand to trade Irving first, it’s looking more and more likely that both of them will run it back until the Nets get an offer that pleases them.
The Nets will undoubtedly never get the “king’s ransom” that they previously have asked from teams (2 stars-superstars plus draft compensation) nor should they. Everyone in their right mind knows Kevin Durant is still a top 5 basketball player in the world. It’s also evident that Durant is 33 years old, has a recent major injury history, and couldn’t get the Nets one game on the Celtics in the first-round series this past postseason despite having Kyrie Irving on the team.
I am by no means inferring that the Nets should have won that series, but why would anyone give up a “king’s ransom” package for an aging superstar that couldn’t get one game against the Boston Celtics despite having another superstar talent alongside him?
Durant has four years of team control once he’s traded which is a fantastic commodity to have, but why would Toronto give up Rookie of The Year Scottie Barnes plus OG Anunoby or Gary Trent Jr. or Fred VanVleet and draft compensation for Durant? I certainly wouldn’t and I am surprised that the Nets rejected the Celtics’ reported offer of Jaylen Brown, Derrick White, and 2-3 first-round picks. That is probably the best offer they are going to get for Durant.
The Nets wanted Marcus Smart included in the deal and that probably won’t happen considering the Celtics would have to give up the Defensive Player of The Year and a rising star in Jaylen Brown just to pair Jayson Tatum with Kevin Durant. It certainly doesn’t seem fair. If the reported package the Celtics offered is indeed true, I don’t get why; Jaylen Brown just outperformed Jayson Tatum for the majority of the NBA Finals, and Brown and Tatum have been playing together for 5+ years now, improving every single season. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
The Celtics just went to the NBA Finals and already drastically improved this offseason by landing Malcolm Brogdon to bolster their depth at the guard position. As of right now they are the best team in the Eastern Conference and have team camaraderie. Why would they want to waste that all for Kevin Durant? Despite Durant’s greatness, there will be team chemistry issues and the Celtics will lose the depth that got them to the Finals if they acquire the 33-year-old superstar.
Unless the Nets compromise before training camp, I still think Kevin Durant will be a Net next season because the team certainly won’t get its asking price for him. With a Kyrie Irving trade unlikely at this point and time (things could change in the blink of an eye), LeBron James has to come to the conclusion that there is a strong possibility Russell Westbrook is still on the Lakers next season.
I agree with Rob Pelinka and the Lakers’ front office stance on not sacrificing two first-round picks for an uncommitted star in Irving or for a bad contract in Buddy Hield + Myles Turner. Other teams around the league are trying to get Pelinka and Co. to bite and give up more than they should. Still, the fact of the matter is that the Pacers don’t want Turner a part of their future (and Turner doesn’t want to be a Pacer either according to new reports) nor do they want to eat Hield’s salary for two more seasons.
It makes way more sense to take on one first-round pick and Russell Westbrook’s expiring contract, where they can then agree with Westbrook on a buyout agreement. Just because Westbrook had a down season doesn’t mean he is untradeable.
The Nets certainly don’t want Irving on their roster next season and the Pacers have no interest in stunting their rebuild process by keeping Turner and Hield. Hield takes away minutes from Chris Duarte who plays the same position and is much cheaper.
Hield also will take minutes away from first-round pick Bennedict Mathurin and the Pacers desperately need Tyrese Haliburton, Duarte, and Mathurin to be on the court as much as possible to build team chemistry. The Pacers also re-signed PF/C Jalen Smith, who was a godsent for them last season, further enforcing the belief that Turner is not a part of the long-term picture.
If the Pacers and Nets still ask for two first-rounders over the next two months and do not drop their asking price, James will be stuck with another season of Westbrook and the team chemistry will be at an all-time low. Nonetheless, I stand by my belief that LeBron James will finish his career as a Laker.
The Lakers will draft LeBron James Jr. (Bronny James) too high at one of their pick swaps with New Orleans in two years (think like the 27th overall pick) to appease James and entice him to finish his career as a Laker, while fulfilling his dream of playing in the NBA with his son. Therefore, whether or not LeBron signs a contract extension (which I highly doubt since he will want to continue to put pressure on the Lakers to field a winning team) he will be a Laker for the foreseeable future.
Regardless of the allure of a Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis, and LeBron James trio, or even a starting 5 that includes James, Davis, Myles Turner, Buddy Hield, and whichever point guard they pick up afterward, under no circumstance do the Lakers need to part ways with their only two controllable first rounders (2027, 2029) in a possible deal. Rob Pelinka, LeBron James, and the whole Lakers organization need to understand if they do not already that Irving will likely be a Laker in a year anyways and that Irving does not want to be a Net.
The same situation happened with Anthony Davis, who was going to sign with the team in Free Agency the following summer anyways, yet the team still gave up all of its high-end assets for him. It did lead to a championship so I am not opposed to the trade happening, but the moral of that story is that they gave up way too much for a guy that was going to end up on the Lakers anyways. This is a similar situation with Kyrie Irving, who has expressed his interest in reuniting with LeBron James in the past.
On the Utah Jazz side of things, they are asking for something like 5 first-round picks and some young talent for Donovan Mitchell and the Knicks obviously aren’t close to that asking price which is why talks have stalled between those two parties.
Dejounte Murray warranted 3 first-round picks and a couple of players so Mitchell should only get 4 picks at most to go along with young talent. Dejounte Murray is an elite on-ball defender and while his offensive game isn’t as polished as Mitchell’s, Mitchell is one of the 10 worst defenders in the NBA and the Knicks have Tom Thibodeau as their head coach, who values defense,
Thibodeau has to be voicing his concerns about trading most of the team’s young assets for a player who only values one end of the floor. As for the Hornets and Wizards’ involvement in a Mitchell trade, it doesn’t make too much sense. Charlotte isn’t trading LaMelo Ball, Miles Bridges won’t be in the NBA any time soon (and he was their second-best player) and James Bouknight, Kai Jones, and Mark Williams certainly aren’t coveted young talent that would interest the Jazz.
The only thing the Hornets have going for them is their controllable first-round picks in the coming years, but I would assume that the Jazz want some good young talent as well as picks in a Mitchell trade and the Hornets don’t have that mix. The Wizards, on the other hand, have more options.
Like the Hornets, the Wizards also don’t have an abundance of young talent as Corey Kispert, Deni Avdija, and Rui Hachimura aren’t the best young pieces in the NBA and the Wizards likely won’t part with Kyle Kuzma or 2022 first-rounder Johnny Davis in a Mitchell trade. I do think that Avdija still has a ton of potential and that Kispert would also fit into the Jazz’s future plans more so than any of the young talent on the Hornets, so the Wizards have that going for them.
If the Wizards by any chance are willing to include Johnny Davis in a Mitchell deal along with Avdija, Kispert, and 3-4 controllable first-rounders, then the Jazz will strongly consider that (and could accept the offer). I don’t know where the talks between those two sides are, but Bradley Beal has voiced his insistence on wanting to win, and a starting lineup of Donovan Mitchell, Bradley Beal, Kyle Kuzma, Kristaps Porzingis, and Daniel Gafford will make them a playoff team and a likely 7th or 8th seed at worst in the Eastern Conference.
In conclusion, it does not seem that any of these deals surrounding Kyrie Irving, Donovan Mitchell, and Kevin Durant have any traction going for them at the moment. As a result, some talented unsigned free agents remain because the association is playing a waiting game at the expense of Brooklyn and Utah. Until then, there likely won’t be much NBA news or teams finalizing their rosters. This “halt” could and likely will linger into training camp as one of the more interesting and unexpected NBA offseasons still has a ways to go.
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