For better or for worse, the story of the NBA offseason has revolved around where former Golden State Warriors superstar Kevin Durant will play next year. It was reported that Durant requested a trade from the Brooklyn Nets on the eve of free agency. He then doubled down a few weeks ago in a meeting with Nets owner Joe Tsai, telling the billionaire to choose between his MVP and his decision makers, head coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks.
So far there’s been no resolution, and nothing particularly close to a resolution. Which means we’re nearing a point where one of two things will happen: either Durant will have to decide whether or not to report to camp with a team he doesn’t want to play for, or the Nets will have to decide whether they want to lessen their expectations and just take whatever they can get. Or both.
Those expectations are justifiably high, given that Durant is, by most estimations, a top-five player in the league currently, an all-time great, and under contract for the next your seasons. According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the package that Brooklyn turned down from the Boston Celtics included All-Star Jaylen Brown, defensive pest Derrick White, and a first-round pick. The Nets want more, justifiably. But they might not get it, and then they’ll have decisions to make.
One of those decisions involves what type of offer to focus on, which brings us to the meat of this article. According to Charania, a new team has entered the fold in trade talks: the Memphis Grizzlies.
Well isn’t that juicy.
The Grizzlies became the darlings of the league a year ago, with a feisty, energetic, and gorgeous style of play. They have fun depth. They have strong coaching with Taylor Jenkins. And they have a budding superstar and nonstop highlight reel in point guard Ja Morant, who just made the All-Star and All-NBA teams in just his third season, as a 22-year old.
They also have a blooming rivalry with the Warriors. The teams seem to play each other incredibly closely, and paired up in 2021 in the play-in tournament, which the Grizzlies won, and this year in the second-round of the playoffs, which the Warriors won en route to their fourth title in eight years.
Durant, of course, was a part of two of those titles. Which means placing him on a pesky team that absolutely loves going at Golden State — you’ll remember how tense and dramatic the semifinal series was, from public shots to Dillon Brooks’ horrific flagrant foul on Gary Payton II — would be all-time tremendous entertainment.
It would also be a funny dichotomy. Durant is an all-time great superstar; the Grizzlies play in one of the smallest markets in the NBA. Durant runs a media company, has a podcast, is interested in tech, and hand-picked his last two teams in massive tech-centric markets; the Grizzlies play in Memphis. Durant is demanding a trade and acting a touch entitled in the process; the Grizzlies and their fanbase are perhaps the most blue collar in basketball, with a style built on being selfless and outworking and out-toughing their opponents. You might recall that the fanbase still boos Andre Iguodala mercilessly for not suiting up with the team after the Warriors traded him to Memphis.
It’s a funny but entertaining fit. According to Charania, the Grizzlies have five first-round picks (including the Warriors pick in 2024) to play with, but have been unwilling to include Jaren Jackson Jr. or Desmond Bane in a trade.
Perhaps that will change if they get closer to a potential trade. Perhaps Brooklyn, if forced to trade Kyrie Irving as well, will shift their focus from getting an All-Star in return for Durant, to simply loading up on draft picks.
Either way, don’t expect Durant to end up in a Grizzlies jersey, but it is possible. And it’s all kinds of fun to think about.