Before teaming up with Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn, Kevin Durant made sure to bring along another asset to the Nets.
Durant’s acquisition came via sign-and-trade with the Warriors, who received D’Angelo Russell in the deal. Before the deal went through, however, Durant made sure the Nets also retrieved a first-round pick from Golden State, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.
“First, Durant initially balked at being traded for Russell straight up, multiple sources said,” Windhorst reported Thursday. “He didn’t think it was a fair deal, and in this case, the Warriors had to not just satisfy the Nets, but also Durant.
“Leverage was applied by the player, and Golden State had to include a first-round pick before Durant would agree to sign off. The Warriors begrudgingly gave it up and did so with a heavy condition: If the pick falls within the top 20 next year, they don’t have to send it, and instead will only give Brooklyn a second-round pick… in six years.”
A sign-and-trade involving the two All-Stars worked in Golden State’s favor, allowing them to hedge Durant’s departure with one of the league’s best young guards. On the other hand, the Nets had created enough cap space to sign Durant outright, and there was no tangible advantage for Durant to take part in the sign-and-trade and help the Warriors. Neither did it necessarily help Russell, who would have had plenty of potential suitors if the Nets had made him an unrestricted free agent.
As a result, Durant and the Nets owned the high ground, and were able to leverage the Warriors into parting with their first round pick. In addition to the pick, the Nets forced the Warriors to take Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham, giving them the extra cap space used to sign DeAndre Jordan, Durant’s good friend and key piece in luring him to Brooklyn.
Whether Durant — known to be sensitive regarding how he’s perceived — simply thought he was too good to be traded for Russell straight up, wanted to give his new employers another asset to build the team around him, or still held some animosity over how things ended in Golden State is only known to him. Regardless, the Nets brought in Durant and a first-round pick, while the Warriors ended up with Napier, Graham and Russell on four-year, $117 million contract.
Durant’s demands followed a trend of players exerting their will against their teams, as Anthony Davis and Paul George successfully landed on championship contenders after asking for trades.
After beating up on the rest of the NBA for years, the Warriors found themselves on their back foot this offseason.