Do the Washington Wizards have the assets to trade for Kevin Durant?

Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

Every Wizards fan has fantasized about seeing Kevin Durant in a Washington Wizards jersey. Bringing one of the best players in the NBA still in his prime back home to DC to save a franchise stuck in mediocrity is a dream scenario. How far-fetched is the dream? Do the Wiz have the necessary assets to bring KD home?

To be clear, Durant has never shown any interest in “playing at home”. He has hit free agency twice in his career. In neither of the situations has he seriously considered signing with the Wizards, instead choosing the Warriors in 2016 and the Nets in 2019. But this is not free agency. KD, despite having three and a half years left on his contract, asked for a trade last summer, and the Nets have not found a suitable package to trade him just yet.

So, maybe things are different now. Wizards are in a different place. KD is in a different place. He is 34 years old, is entering the final stage of his career, and despite playing at an All-NBA level this season, the drama-ridden Nets are still a middling team. Durant’s current situation does not seem sustainable or fulfilling.

He has made his desire to play on a team competing for championships clear, and the Washington Wizards most certainly would be doing that if KD were to join them. Of course, to accomplish this, the Wizards would need to keep Kristaps Porzingis and Bradley Beal and pair them with KD to create a “Big Three”.

Sam Amico of Hoops Wire reported over the summer that the Wizards “could make a major push” for Durant.

Could this ‘major push’ land them KD without giving up Porzingis or Beal?

The short answer to that question is: “it depends”. In any of these superstar-for-youth trade constructions, a lot depends on how much the team with the superstar loves the young pieces on the other side. Realistically, the Wizards will need to empty the cupboard to even have a chance at the negotiating table.

This means every tradeable first-round pick (most likely 2024, 2026, 2028), as well as swapping rights in the in-between years. Once that gets you in the door, then the hard part begins: matching the salaries.

Durant’s $44.1 million annual salary almost certainly requires the Wizards to include multiple young players and critical rotation pieces. Will Barton’s expiring contract of $14.3 million and Kyle Kuzma’s $13 million bargain of a contract provide good matching salaries for the Wizards.

On top of this, at least three of the Wizards’ young core — Deni Avdija, Corey Kispert, Rui Hachimura, and Johnny Davis- would be needed. It is safe to assume that the Nets would have some interest in Avdija as any rebuilding team would be interested in a defensive specialist with a potential for more.

The interest in others is more unknown. While Kispert is certainly contributing to the Wiz’s success, none of the three has shown consistently enough that they can be a starting caliber player in the NBA. However, there is a chance the Nets or other teams around the league find them intriguing and would treat them as valuable assets.

What the teams around the league think of the Wizards’ young assets are the key factor in all of this. In mid-season trades, sending multiple players in exchange for one is easier said than done. In the aforementioned scenario, the Wizards would send five players to the Nets for KD, requiring a good amount of roster juggling. They would need to waive or trade players currently on the roster unless the trade can be expanded to three or four teams.

Involving a team that has cap space like the Spurs or the Pacers, the Nets could send a few of their players or redirect the Wizards players to these teams in exchange for cap relief and more draft picks. As one of the most expensive teams in the league, the Nets would certainly be looking for a significant reduction in their tax bill in a potential KD deal. A trade with the Wizards and a third team could potentially achieve that.

Kevin Durant could influence the Brooklyn Nets’ decision to pull the trigger on a trade with the Washington Wizards

It is hard to imagine that the Wizards would have the best trade package for KD in terms of the quality and upside of the players. This is where Durant’s preference may play a role. Players of Durant’s caliber can usually choose the team they want to be traded to. The Nets will not want to taint their reputation any further and will most likely send KD to a destination he prefers. If Washington were somewhere KD wanted to play in, he could get himself there even if the trade package wasn’t the best the Nets could receive.

Of course, it is impossible to get into Durant’s mind. He is notably cagey and unorthodox in his decision-making process. But there is a world in which he would want to rehabilitate his reputation and solidify his legacy as one of the all-time greats by bringing a championship to his hometown.

A deal for Kevin Durant is a big swing, and it is not clear if the Wizards are ready to overhaul their roster and empty their asset cupboard on such a move. But if they ever want to get out of the “not good enough to contend, not bad enough to get good draft picks” limbo they are currently in, they need to put all their chips in for a big prize at some point.

For the Washington Wizards, there isn’t a bigger prize than Kevin Durant.