The NBA rumor mill is still swirling with Kevin Durant, Donovan Mitchell, Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook possibly all available. The Crossover staff makes its predictions on where each player will be at the start of next season.
When the season starts, where will Kevin Durant be playing?
Chris Herring: Toronto. I still feel like the Raptors have the most promising roster with players who are both young and affordable enough for Brooklyn to want to take on. (Jaylen Brown is great, but do the Nets want to be responsible for paying him in excess of $40 million per year in his next deal two years from now?) It’s merely a question of whether Toronto can stomach the idea of relinquishing Scottie Barnes.
Robin Lundberg: Boston. I had gotten to the point where I believed Kevin Durant (and Kyrie Irving) actually staying with the Nets was the most likely outcome due to the apparent lack of sufficient offers and the years left on his deal. However, the reported Celtics offer based around Jaylen Brown is the most realistic one I’ve seen so if it isn’t Brooklyn I’ll say Boston as of today.
Rohan Nadkarni: Memphis. Durant will be on the Grizzlies because that would be the most fun option. KD could supercharge an up-and-coming squad that happens to be embroiled in a budding rivalry with his former running mates the Warriors. And Memphis has interesting pieces (Dillon Brooks, Desmond Bane) it could send back to Brooklyn in addition to picks. Is this likely? Probably not. But it’s hard to find teams that make sense for Durant, and perhaps the most obvious choice (Phoenix) appears off the table because of the Deandre Ayton signing. The longer this drags on, the more difficult it becomes to construct Durant trades that make sense.
Jeremy Woo: Brooklyn. I can’t say I’m confident in the Nets dropping their asking price or someone else meeting it yet. I could see it dragging into the season without a change in circumstances.
When the season starts, where will Donovan Mitchell be playing?
Herring: New York, which has an abundance of future first-round draft picks and enough young talent to get a deal done most seamlessly. Miami still seems like the other logical landing spot, but the Heat would reportedly need to find another club to help them sweeten their offer.
Lundberg: New York. I’ll stick with the Knicks when it comes to Donovan Mitchell. We’ve seen New York used as leverage in talks before but this time it seems more real because the Knicks have assets to make a strong offer and the interest from Mitchell appears mutual.
Nadkarni: New York. Mitchell will be playing for the Knicks. New York has both the draft capital and thirst required to make this kind of move. I don’t see Utah prolonging the situation if it wants to properly tank this upcoming season. The Knicks can also send back enough intriguing young talent without having to send out RJ Barrett, who the Jazz probably don’t want to have to extend anyway. This one makes too much sense for both sides.
Whoa: New York. From a pure entertainment value perspective, at this point if that doesn’t get done it’s disappointing. Will it actually change the Knicks’ fortunes and get them into the playoffs? Not sure.
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When the season starts, where will Kyrie Irving be playing?
Herring: Los Angeles. The Lakers, who are understandably desperate to upgrade their point-guard situation after the Russell Westbrook experiment went left. Los Angeles doesn’t have much in the way of assets—they dealt most of what they had to get Westbrook and, prior to that, Anthony Davis—but if the Lakers are serious about maximizing whatever’s left of LeBron’s window, they’ll find a way to land Kyrie and get off of Westbrook’s deal.
Lundberg: Brooklyn. To me it is the Nets for Kyrie, especially as long as KD remains in BK. But, considering the Nets clearly are no longer enamored with Irving based on contract negotiations, if Durant is dealt, Kyrie probably wouldn’t be far behind. In that case, I’d have to lean Lakers as they seem to be the only team with strong interest.
Nadkarni: Brooklyn. I don’t see Brooklyn taking on Russell Westbrook’s contract for one Lakers pick … and I don’t see Los Angeles giving up two firsts for Irving in the final year of his deal (or wanting to extend him when LeBron is also entering free agency next summer). I also don’t know any other team in the league who would be willing to take on Irving and the subsequent drama at this point. The Lakers also have other options seemingly, such as trying to swing a move for Buddy Hield. I think Irving starts the season on the Nets roster but sits at home, and he will get moved—maybe even bought out!—once the season is underway.
Whoa: Brooklyn. But will he actually be playing? Who knows. I once greatly enjoyed working from home in Brooklyn as well.
When the season starts, where will Russell Westbrook be playing?
Herring: No clue. This is too complicated of a question at the moment. I do think he’ll end up elsewhere, but no clue where. Whoever trades for him may not be interested in keeping him. Indiana’s been rumored, for instance, but someone like Tyrese Haliburton—one of the most talented young floor generals in the sport—would almost certainly benefit from getting more responsibility as opposed to the reduced ones he’d see in playing with Westbrook.
Lundberg: Los Angeles. Until the other pieces move, Russ is a Laker. If the dominoes begin to fall, his ultimate destination is hard to predict because it is unclear Brooklyn would even want him. Then it may be about a third team like San Antonio (who has been mentioned) who is willing to eat his deal and see what production he brings in a new situation (that is if he doesn’t somehow move again through other means).
Nadkarni: Free agent. I think Russell Westbrook will be a free agent when the season starts. If the Lakers do manage to trade him, the assumption is the team who acquires Russ will buy him out right away. And in that scenario, I don’t see anyone rushing to sign Westbrook right away. Brodie is probably going to need to do some image rehabilitation around the league before he can latch on somewhere. And if he is bought out, I don’t imagine he’s going to want to sign for cheap on any team that’s not a contender. And which contender would want him? For nostalgic reasons I would actually love to see Westbrook back in Oklahoma City in a bench role. But it could take some time before we get there.
Whoa: Los Angeles. His contract and diminishing play makes him … pretty hard to trade. If the Lakers are willing to pony up their own draft picks as a makeweight to shed salary, maybe this gets done. How desperate will they be? We’ll see.
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