The NBA Fan Mailbag – Making Sense Of Latest Trade Rumors

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Some teams around the league are still looking to fill out the remaining spots on their roster this offseason, but for almost everyone in the NBA, right now is vacation time.

NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, Nevada concluded recently and as a result, we now wait and count the days until training camp begins.

While the exact dates for the start of training camp are unknown, we can assume that these will start league-wide at some point closer towards the end of September, as that is when it has usually begun in previous years.

Until then though, NBA fans are left with burning questions not only pertaining to the 2022-23 season, but some of the league’s greatest stars.

Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Donovan Mitchell are three sensational, All-Star talents that still find themselves on the trade block this offseason. Will any of them be on the move anytime soon?

This rookie class definitely impressed out in Las Vegas, but who should ultimately be considered the front-runner entering the new year for Rookie of the Year?

I will do my very best to address these questions and more submitted by fans around the league for SI Fastbreak’s latest edition of “The NBA Fan Mailbag.”

1. What team has improved the most through the draft and free agency so far?

It is a very soft answer, but I truly believe that almost every team improved in some way during the NBA Draft… at least those that had a draft pick and utilized it. 

Many teams added the depth they had been lacking or added the potential superstar talent that they needed – this applying to the Orlando Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets with the Top-3 picks.

However, I do have to say that Keegan Murray going to the Sacramento Kings could end up being the best pick in this draft class simply because of the implications that his presence brings to Sacramento. We are talking about a team that has not made the playoffs since 2006 and to make matters even worse, ESPN ran a graphic the other day stating that no active NBA player has ever played the Kings in the playoffs!

That’s bad… I mean that’s really, really bad!

Maybe I am part of a small percentage of people that believe this, but I truly believe the Kings have a real shot to end this playoff drought during the 2022-23 season not just because of Keegan Murray, who should be considered the favorite heading into the new season to win Rookie of the Year, but because of the moves they made in free agency/this offseason.

Malik Monk is a perfect shooting guard for this team to have next to De’Aaron Fox and Davion Mitchell, plus Kevin Huerter is another sharpshooter on the wing that will provide them with key scoring outside of De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis.

Besides the Kings, the Minnesota Timberwolves had some very intriguing free agent signings with Kyle Anderson, Bryn Forbes and Austin Rivers. Look out for the Timberwolves in the Western Conference this year!

Perhaps my favorite free agency and offseason moves came from the Brooklyn Nets, which sounds crazy to say given that they have created a lot of rifts with their two superstars in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Besides the Durant/Irving situations, the Nets were able to bring back veteran Patty Mills, they re-signed both Nicolas Claxton and Kessler Edwards, they brought in T.J. Warren on a minimum-like deal and they traded for Royce O’Neale from the Utah Jazz to replace Bruce Brown in the team’s rotations.

I really like all of these moves the Nets made, especially if Durant and Irving will be on their roster to begin the 2022-23 season.

2. Do you think the Donovan Mitchell trade to the Knicks happens?

Donovan Mitchell was born in Elmsford, New York, he grew up a New York sports fan, his father has worked with the New York Mets organization in the MLB for years and he has had interest in the New York Knicks since he entered the league in 2017.

Based on my experiences with him at the University of Louisville when I was a student manager for the men’s basketball team and based on what I have heard from rival executives I have talked with around the league, it seems very likely that a Donovan Mitchell trade involving the Utah Jazz and New York Knicks will happen at some point this offseason.

When this will happen remains a mystery, but the Knicks have the draft assets and players to get this deal done as soon as possible. The hold up with this deal right now appears to be the draft compensation that New York would have to send to Utah, as the Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves trade has really crashed the trade market.

A package containing Quentin Grimes, Obi Toppin, Evan Fournier and six first-round picks seems like enough to get Donovan Mitchell from my point of view, but at the end of the day, I am not an NBA general manager! I do believe a deal that sends Mitchell to New York though gets done before the start of the 2022-23 season and likely before training camp rolls around.

3. What are the Nets gonna do with Kevin Durant and what was their best offer?

The “million dollar question” around the league right now is right here and quite honestly, nobody has intel or “inside information” on what will happen with either Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving. It is all just speculation at this point, which is fine because it creates a level of suspense we really have not seen in the league probably since LeBron James’ “The Decision.”

Starting with the best offer for Durant, this is a matter of opinion and for me, the Phoenix Suns offered the best deal with Deandre Ayton and a handful of draft picks. I do not know the exact, full layout of what this offer was, but Ayton would have gone to Brooklyn in a sign-and-trade, along with first-round draft compensation and likely Mikal Bridges as well.

I personally view Ayton as a top-tier center in this league, but the Nets wanted no part of Deandre Ayton in a sign-and-trade, likely due to the fact that this acquisition would hard-cap them and they did not want to be tied down to a long-term, near max contract deal with Ayton, which is understandable from the Nets’ point of view.

With this said, the market for Kevin Durant is still very high and multiple teams would love to acquire him, but it is just not feasible right now because of what transpired between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz in their trade involving Rudy Gobert. Getting five players and five first-round picks, one of which being a swap, for Gobert is mind-blowing to me and with this being the case, the Nets should want at least double this for Kevin Durant!

The trade market is ruined right now and the inflation rate on draft picks and assets in trade talks is ridiculous right now, hence why we have not seen a lot of deals made this offseason.

Having multiple conversations with those around the league, the belief I have right now is that the Brooklyn Nets will begin the 2022-23 season with both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on their roster. The only two people who know whether or not Durant and Irving actually still want to be in Brooklyn though are Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

4. Will teams be “tanking” in anticipation for the 2023 NBA Draft?

The great race for Victor Wembanyama has begun and there will be quite a few teams interested in tanking for him during the 2022-23 season.

If you have not seen this kid play, I highly suggest you go watch some of his clips on YouTube because Wembanyama has a chance to be one of the greatest draft prospects of all-time. Standing 7-foot-3 with a near 7-9 wingspan, Wembanyama plays like a guard offensively and is really impossible to stop because his shot cannot be blocked.

This kid is the real deal and while they will be competitive, it seems like the Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs are our two main candidates early on to tank during the 2022-23 season in anticipation of the 2023 NBA Draft.

League sources I have spoken with say the Spurs are already monitoring Victor Wembanyama in France and they would love to end up with the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft, just like the 29 other teams in the league! There will be a few teams looking to tank in anticipation of the 2023 NBA Draft, especially since they know that they have no shot at making the playoffs.

5. Where will Collin Sexton go?

One of the better names available in free agency entering the offseason, Collin Sexton has yet to sign a new contract. He still remains a restricted free agent and the Cleveland Cavaliers have yet to pull their $7.22 million qualifying offer.

The talk at NBA Summer League was that the market for Sexton is nearly non-existent anymore simply due to the fact that the teams that were interested in him have gone in a different direction.

The Detroit Pistons drafted Jaden Ivey, the New York Knicks signed Jalen Brunson, the Indiana Pacers are confident in second-round pick Andrew Nembhard and the Dallas Mavericks do not have virtually any cap flexibility after trading for Christian Wood.

Maybe the Washington Wizards could get involved in a potential sign-and-trade for Sexton, but they signed Delon Wright and traded for Monte Morris to lead their backcourt this offseason.

Many believe that Collin Sexton and the Cavaliers will agree on a one- or two-year deal ahead of training camp and some still believe that Sexton will accept the team’s small qualifying offer before hitting free agency again in 2023.

After all, Sexton is coming off of a meniscus injury that has sidelined him since November. I would be surprised if another team not named the Cleveland Cavaliers came in and signed Collin Sexton at this point.