Why long Kevin Durant trade saga could benefit Celtics

In the first week of free agency, it’s hard to find an Eastern Conference competitor who’s improved as much as the Boston Celtics. The addition of Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari to Boston’s bench without sacrificing any of the team’s top eight players gives head coach Ime Udoka one of the deepest rotations in the league. Brad Stevens also has the opportunity to make further changes to the roster with plenty of trade exceptions still in play for this season and ample draft capital available beyond 2023.

Until now, it has been difficult to find other exciting additions to other competitors in the East. The Bucks signed Joe Ingles and kept most of their core intact, but Ingles will recover from a cruciate ligament rupture for much of the season. The Heat brought back two veterans in Victor Oladipo and Dewayne Dedmon but lost forward PJ Tucker’s starting power to the 76ers. Those Sixers have attempted to pull off a Rockets-style reunion with Tucker and Daniel House while also making another trade for a wing at DeAnthony Melton, but that’s still a roster with many question marks, especially given the abandonment in the game by James Harden.

For now, the Celtics appear to be neck and neck at least with the Bucks as the top team in the East, and little could change that based on what’s still available in the free-agent market.

The biggest chip in the NBA yet to fall this offseason remains Kevin Durant, who requested a trade from Brooklyn last month. Of course, any team that lands Durant in the Eastern Conference could change the hierarchy in the conference, but suddenly that move doesn’t seem safe this offseason. Both ESPN.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Stadium’s Shams Charania stressed earlier this week that the Nets are in no rush to strike a deal.

While there are no signs that Durant will withdraw his trade request, the team has indicated that they will not move the former MVP until their asking price is met (All-Star Caliber players and a boatload of draft picks, according to Charania ). Part of that could certainly be pose, but the Nets have little to lose by dragging their feet in this scenario. Durant is signed with them for the next four seasons, so he won’t lose commercial value anytime soon. Meanwhile, the catch the Jazz raked in for Rudy Gobert from the trade only justifies them even more in holding on to their high asking price.

The Nets could try to slow game negotiations on the partial hope that Durant, too, will reconsider his position with a fresh start into the year, which Charania says looks unlikely for Durant.

Anyway, the longer it takes here with Durant to find a resolution, the better the news could be for a team like the Celtics, who are unlikely to get involved for now. If Durant stays in Brooklyn, chances remain that this group will reunite with the animosity associated with Kyrie Irving’s contract situation.

Assuming the Nets ultimately trade for Durant, the fact that they prioritize players as much as picks should weaken the chances that their trading partner has enough left over to remain a real contender, especially in the Eastern Conference. Any sort of trade during the season would also be challenging from a player integration perspective as so many players are likely to be transferred for the Superstar. There are also major contractual hurdles for a team like Miami to put together a deal. Meanwhile, an under-the-radar team for Durant like Toronto are reportedly wary of up-and-coming young talent like Scottie Barnes, barring him from finding a home east.

All in all, the lack of a clear destination for Durant in the east bodes well for Boston and keeps them firmly in the top tier of contenders as the drama unfolds around them.

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