The whole reason you play the game is to win a championship... And “have fun” as my grade 5 coach would tell me, but he didn’t seem to have much fun when we’d lose.
Especially in the NBA, or any professional sport setting; the entire purpose is to build a team which can ultimately win a championship.
Some teams take the path of building around a drafted star like the Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo, or Golden State Warriors and Stephen Curry. Some teams sign stars in free agency, like the early 2010 Miami Heat, or also the Golden State Warriors. Then there are the teams who trade for superstars, like the 2019 Toronto Raptors and potentially the 2023 Toronto Raptors?
It isn’t any secret that a superstar is on the loose and ready to be traded out of Brooklyn. Quite honestly, maybe the best player in the league: Kevin Durant.
This is just the type of trade that Masai Ujiri likes to jump on. The Toronto Raptors front office waits for opportunities like these, i.e Kawhi Leonard in 2018 as previously mentioned.
If you follow betting odds, or baseline NBA reporting, you would know that the Raptors are in the running for Kevin Durant. Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) tweeted out a report by Shams Charania on July 5th, outlining the four teams which seem to be in the running to acquire the 2x Finals MVP: The Phoenix Suns, Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors, and Golden State Warriors (wouldn’t that be something).
Report: “Teams like Phoenix, Miami, Toronto, Golden State, those are really among the teams that are going to be at the forefront trying to pursue a Kevin Durant deal.”— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) July 6, 2022
(via @ShamsCharania) pic.twitter.com/3Rc0Laxrf7
When a player of Durant’s caliber becomes available, every fanbase perks up a bit and whips out the ESPN Trade Machine, but only a few team’s hopes remain alive throughout the entirety of the negotiation process. Toronto fans once again, are fortunate to be in that position.
The Raptors organization has done a fantastic job building a team full of young, competitive players, with high upside and win-now potential. I think that it’s fair to say the Raptors have six attractive options (some more-so than others) in a potential Durant trade: Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr, OG Anunoby, and Precious Achiuwa. The oldest of these being VanVleet and Siakam (age 28) who are both all star caliber players.
Since Durant initially requested a trade, Raptors Twitter has trended a little bit like this...
Anyone but Barnes, Siakam and OG are on the table... Anyone but Barnes and Siakam... Anyone but Barnes... JUST ANYONE!
Now the Raptors fanbase is quite divided on this topic, and rightfully so. When you’re trying to work out trades around all stars, and superstars and 20-year-old Rookie of the Year winners, things can get complicated.
That’s why I came here to answer the question which everyone has been dying to know... “Zach, where do you draw the line?”
I think it’s fair to say that the true essence of the Player Empowerment Era started in 2010, when LeBron James chose to depart from the Cleveland Cavaliers, and join the Miami Heat in South Beach.
Ever since that moment, superstars have been switching teams, signing one year contracts, demanding trades, and literally sitting out entire seasons till they get what they want. Because of this, every little hiccup by an organization has the potential to cause a star to find a way out, leaving organizations constantly scrambling to build their franchise around whatever star is moving next.
The days of Michael Jordan winning six championships in seven years with the Chicago Bulls are over. Stephen Curry with the Warriors is the closest thing we’ve seen in the player empowerment era, but that even took three different iterations of the team.
In 2016, when former MVP, Kevin Durant joined maybe the greatest team in league history (the 73-9 Warriors), the entire world was ready to give up on competing. Half of the league was quite literally trading assets to plan for the future when this Golden State experiment was over. It looked like they were going to rattle off championships for the next decade after winning back-to-back in 2017 and 2018, including a 16-1 playoff run!
Guess what? They assembled probably the best team in NBA history, just to win two championships. Yes, the argument can be made that they would have won three if Klay Thompson and Durant didn’t get injured, but injuries are a real thing that you have to factor into building a team to make a championship run.
Or how about the Miami Heat in 2010, the moment that started all of this. When LeBron and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade in Miami, the world was ready for LeBron to win ring after ring. We all remember that famous concert, or show, or whatever it was that the Heatles put on to preview their first season together.
All of this just to lose to Dirk Nowitzki in 2011, and an old Tim Duncan in 2014. Not to mention almost losing to that same San Antonio Spurs team the year prior, but I’ll sip my tea on that one.
I bring up these examples to say this: You never know how long a championship window is going to last! Especially in this current era we are in. You can feel safe one second, and the next, your whole team is blown up. That’s what has caused the entirety of this KD drama.
I bet the Brooklyn Nets felt pretty good acquiring Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden. They were for sure expecting at minimum one championship, with quite arguably the most talented big three we’ve ever seen. Now look how that’s turned out.
If the Raptors traded Scottie Barnes for Kevin Durant, it would be a big risk. They would be mortgaging the future, to join the list of title favourites for at least the next couple of years. Maybe even the full four, which Durant is under contract for.
Who knows if the Raptors will ever get the chance to enter title contention during Barnes’ career. I think Barnes is fantastic, and this in no way is a piece which promotes packing Scottie’s bags and sending him to Brooklyn. It’s just one to open up your minds a bit to see that maybe the swap for Durant isn’t the most horrible idea. Besides, Toronto is going to lose two or three of their young core in a couple years due to contract and the inability to pay all of them.
The place where I draw the line is if Toronto were to trade too many pieces for Durant, that you no longer have a championship team around him. At that point, the trade becomes not worth it.
I would love to have Barnes, Siakam, Durant, and VanVleet all on one team. That team could most definitely compete to bring Toronto their second title, but ultimately, you have to trade value to get value, and that value heading to Brooklyn may have to come in the form of Scottie Barnes.
I look at it like this: Would you rather a for sure window of contention now, or the possibility of contention later?