A number of ideas right here as Day 2 of NBA free company unfolds…

Kevin Durant sweepstakes, Day II

All eyes are on Phoenix in terms of Durant, the Nets star who’s believed to be concentrating on the Suns as his most popular subsequent vacation spot. Yet whereas I wrote at length on Thursday about how a deal centered on restricted free agent middle Deandre Ayton and small ahead Mikal Bridges may work for either side, the early sense is that it might take greater than that. Or, to be clearer, one thing totally different.

As the New York Daily News’ Kristian Winfield identified within the wake of the Rudy Gobert-to-Minnesota blockbuster that went down on Friday, the Nets’ asking value for Durant — two All-Stars, as we’d been informed — may have just gone up. There’s no method the Suns are buying and selling Devin Booker, who simply agreed to a four-year, $224 million extension.

Cam Johnson is value watching as a doable participant who may transfer the needle for the Nets. But reality be informed, it’s too quickly to know whether or not Durant will get his Valley-of-the-Sun wish right here.

While we wait, let’s discover the extra macro query: Why does Durant seem centered on Phoenix as the very best place to proceed his legendary profession? There are possible a number of elements in play right here — the prospect to contend once more, the L.A.-adjacent locale, his relationship with Booker and respect for Chris Paul. But when it comes to the private dynamics, his shut relationship with Suns coach Monty Williams could high the checklist.

The two of them have been collectively for one season in Oklahoma City, that 2015-16 marketing campaign when Williams was an affiliate head coach beneath Scott Brooks and Durant was in his last Thunder days earlier than heading for Golden State in free company. The two males had already grown shut throughout that season, however the bond grew even deeper after the tragic passing of Williams’ spouse and mom to their 4 youngsters, Ingrid, in a Feb. 9, 2016, car crash. A fast story that I’ll always remember from that point…

During All-Star weekend in Toronto that yr, I had deliberate to cease in Oklahoma City for a Durant interview on my method again west (I’m primarily based close to Sacramento). But earlier than the information of Ingrid’s passing had been reported, Durant’s longtime enterprise supervisor, Rich Kleiman, referred to as to let me know the interview was off. Naturally, I requested why.

He shared the terrible information of what had occurred and described Durant — like so many others near Williams — as devastated. All these years later, individuals who lived by way of that state of affairs with Williams say Durant’s respect for him grew immensely as he noticed the sleek method he dealt with all that ache. (If you could have by no means watched the unimaginable speech Williams gave at Ingrid’s funeral, please do.)

Not lengthy after Durant made his controversial alternative to affix the Warriors, he was again with Williams once more on the Team USA squad that received Olympic gold in Rio with Durant as its main scorer. They have remained shut ever since. Does that imply he’s Phoenix-bound? Not in any respect. But it would assist of us perceive a few of his motivations in the mean time.

As for the Miami risk that additionally appears to be in play, I’m informed there’s a big impediment on that entrance. Durant, it appears, would solely wish to play on a Heat staff that features Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Kyle Lowry. So even when the Heat have been keen to maneuver Butler in a deal as a method of satisfying the Nets’ (understandably expensive) request, doing so would go away Durant discontented from the beginning.

As others have identified, Adebayo comes with a complication of his personal even past the truth that Durant possible needs him to remain. Since groups aren’t allowed to have two gamers on designated rookie-max extensions who got here their method by way of commerce, Brooklyn must commerce Ben Simmons to usher in Adebayo. If the Heat’s finest supply is centered on Tyler Herro, I simply don’t see how that ever features any traction. And when it comes to Durant’s most popular locations, that is why it appears as if the Suns could have a shot at making some magic occur right here.

On Gary Payton II to Portland and the Damian Lillard ripple impact

The Payton take care of Portland — three years, $28 million, per our Shams Charania — has all types of layers to it. First up, the Golden State facet.

While the Warriors’ luxury-tax concerns are comprehensible contemplating each greenback spent was being multiplied by seven, the optics of this loss are going to be powerful on proprietor Joe Lacob and his group. Not solely was Payton an essential a part of their elite protection, an excellent match of their offense and an absolute game-changer within the NBA Finals after speeding again from his elbow fracture, however he was a fan favourite too.

These are first-world issues for a fanbase that has seen its staff dominate for many of the previous decade, nevertheless it’s an issue nonetheless. A supply with information of the Payton-Warriors talks stated Golden State provided the taxpayer midlevel exception for 2 years (beginning at $6.4 million yearly).

According to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes, Payton’s take care of Portland includes a player option. As an apart, sources say Steph Curry and Draymond Green have been a part of the method with Payton however have been clearly unsuccessful in persuading him to remain.

Add in the truth that the Warriors misplaced Otto Porter Jr. to Toronto on Friday and Nemanja Bjelica determined to play for the Turkish champion, Fenerbahce, and it was a tricky 12 hours within the Bay. As rebound strikes go — in additional methods than one — re-signing free-agent middle/fellow fan-favorite Kevon Looney to a three-year, $25.5 million deal on Friday was an absolute should.

Now for the Portland angle.

While it has been broadly assumed Lillard will settle for the two-year extension supply value greater than $100 million that’s expected to come his way, sources say the Trail Blazers nonetheless wanted to have a robust offseason to influence Lillard to signal on by way of the 2026-27 marketing campaign (when he’ll be 36). The deadline right here isn’t till the beginning of the common season, and I’m being informed this isn’t a certain factor simply but.

The Jerami Grant addition (by way of trade with Detroit) this offseason was a significant step in the fitting course on this entrance, as Lillard’s need to play with the 28-year-old ahead was no secret. They’ve thrived as teammates earlier than, in fact, having received the gold within the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with Team USA. Grant’s protection is sorely wanted too, as Portland completed twenty seventh, twenty ninth and twenty ninth in defensive ranking for the previous three seasons, respectively.

The draft was way more of a query mark, as Blazers basic supervisor Joe Cronin’s choice to take mystery man Shaedon Sharpe out of Kentucky with the seventh choose was a long-term play. The Anfernee Simons deal is one more optimistic, though the worth tag was curiously excessive (4 years, $100 million) for the fourth-year guard who had a breakout yr when there wasn’t a lot significant basketball being performed in Portland (Lillard, in fact, solely performed 29 video games due to his stomach surgical procedure, and Portland went 27-55). Big man Jusuf Nurkic is returning as properly, agreeing to a four-year, $70 million deal that retains the Lillard favourite on the town.

Yet in terms of Payton, that is the type of transfer that may absolutely make Lillard smile. Not solely does he desperately want elite wing defenders at his facet, however Lillard is shut with Payton’s father, Gary Payton, the Hall of Fame level guard and fellow Oakland, Calif., native who has helped mentor him for years now.

What’s extra, Payton II, his father and Lillard have all been repped by the identical agent, Aaron Goodwin of Goodwin Sports Management. There’s the Northwest tie-in for Payton II too, as he was beloved in his two years at Oregon State (2014-16).

The Warriors’ loss, in different phrases, is the Trail Blazers’ achieve as they try to maintain the Lillard period alive.

(Playoff) progress for the Kings?

I just like the Kings’ offseason to this point — imperfect although it could be. First-year coach Mike Brown will definitely battle to get this group to defend at a excessive degree, and which may imply their ceiling is low sufficient to proceed the league’s longest playoff drought. Especially contemplating the variety of high quality groups within the West (like, say, the Timberwolves!).
But the additions of Malik Monk, Kevin Huerter and Keegan Murray are substantive options to their capturing woes, and so they come on very affordable contracts (two years, $19 million for Monk via free agency; 4 years, $50.5 million for Huerter via trade with Atlanta). Franchise centerpiece De’Aaron Fox has the whole lot to do with these strikes because the Kings merely needed to discover a method to give him the type of supporting solid that helps take his recreation to a brand new degree whereas serving to Domantas Sabonis thrive too (keep in mind, the 26-year-old, All-Star ahead is a free agent in the summertime of 2024).

Fox’s Kentucky historical past with Monk makes that transfer all of the extra significant and, doubtlessly, impactful. Monk (career-high 13.8 factors; 39.1 p.c from deep on 5.1 makes an attempt per recreation) was a uncommon brilliant spot within the Lakers’ otherwise-dreadful 2021-22 marketing campaign. What’s extra, the Monk transfer unofficially justifies the Kings’ option to let Donte DiVincenzo stroll in restricted free company.

Their option to draft Murray over Jaden Ivey with the fourth choose will likely be debated and analyzed for years, however the Iowa product is broadly seen as a particular younger participant who ought to be capable of assist straight away.

There might definitely be extra to return too, with the Kings having had on-again-off-again talks with Atlanta about John Collins (in a deal centered round Harrison Barnes) for months now. There might be alternatives surrounding the Durant state of affairs as properly, with groups just like the Kings doubtlessly able to benefiting in a third-team position.

You don’t must agree with the strategy, however it is a staff in win-now mode. Again. And contemplating the stress this entrance workplace is beneath, with basic supervisor Monte McNair and assistant basic supervisor Wes Wilcox working within the last years of their respective contracts, there was important progress right here.

(Photo of Mikal Bridges, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul: Brad Penner / USA Today)

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