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Phoenix Suns reportedly Kevin Durant’s preferred destination: Why a trade must include Deandre Ayton

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Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns are reportedly the team that Kevin Durant would most like to go to next. However, to land such a massive superstar, the Suns and Brooklyn Nets will probably have to get Deandre Ayton involved in a trade to make it possible.

The NBA world was shocked to its core on Thursday afternoon when ESPN reported that Durant wanted out of Brooklyn. Despite his bestie Kyrie Irving opting into the final year of his four-year contract, he’d had enough of the drama that has been inherent during his tenure with the Nets, and was ready to take his elite-scoring elsewhere.

With a new multi-year extension set to begin, Durant does not have a great deal of leverage in deciding where he wants to go. And much of the league will surely kick the tires on what it would take to land arguably the best scorer on the planet. Nevertheless, Durant’s agent Rich Kleinman told ESPN yesterday that “Nets general manager Sean Marks is working with Durant and [him] on finding a trade.”

Related: Kevin Durant’s trade request significantly shifts Suns’ odds

Well, while it may not be up to him in the end, Durant reportedly does have a preferred landing spot in a possible deal. During a recent edition of his podcast, ESPN NBA insider Brian Windhorst revealed that he is fairly confident that Phoenix is where Durant wants to go, he’s just not sure if he will get there.

“Phoenix is the place he wants to go, I feel reasonably confident of that,” Windhorst said “I think Miami is second. What I’m not confident over is that Phoenix is going to be able to give Brooklyn what they want. And I’m also not confident in what Brooklyn is going to prioritize.”

Why Deandre Ayton will need to be a Kevin Durant trade to the Phoenix Suns

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Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Nets are expected to want a massive return in any trade for the 12-time All-Star. The two best players on the Suns — Devin Booker and Chris Paul — likely won’t get moved in this deal. However, the team still does have solid assets to give up — including all of their first-round picks for the rest of the decade.

  • Kevin Durant stats (2021-2022): 29.9 PPG, 7.4 REB, 6.4 AST, 38% 3PT

Two players that are likely to be sent to Brooklyn would be forwards Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson. The only problem with that combo of young talent is that the money for the pair does not equal what Durant is set to make next season. And in deals like this, the money needs to match up.

If you add in veteran Jae Crowder — along with several first-round picks — the money does match but is Sean Marks and the Nets brace going to be pleased with that haul for their top player? No. That is why Ayton is a necessary addition to any deal.

The chance of him returning to Phoenix isn’t strong, but not impossible with the market willing to give him a max deal worth $31 million annually dwindling by the day. A deal that includes a very talented player like Ayton, as well as Bridges, Johnson, and a few first-rounders, for Durant and a solid bench talent like Seth Curry or the recently acquired Royce O’Neale seems a lot more logical

Things do get a little tricky due to the Designated Rookie rule. Which would not allow the Nets to have Simmons and Ayton for the max deal that teams that drafted a player can offer. This means that Ayton may have to take slightly less money or years to go to Brooklyn. Problematic but not a deal-breaker.

There is a good chance Ben Simmons is on the Nets next year. So a young core of players — assuming Kyrie Irving is also traded — with a dynamic and strong defensive combo like Simmons and Ayton is a solid long-term starting point for the Nets’ complete rebuild of their team.

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