I’m tempted to start this column arguing that the Raptors should basically leverage their future for Kevin Durant with: because he’s Kevin freaking Durant. And then say thank you for reading. And then show you an advertisement of some bets to indicate that the column has indeed ended.
But the reality of trading your franchise’s future for a 33-year-old win-now player is always more complicated than that, even if he’s arguably the best basketball player on the planet.
In recent days, since Durant reportedly filed for a trade from Brooklyn three years after his experiment to team up with Kyrie Irving and create a superteam with James Harden, the Toronto Raptors have emerged as a natural landing place for the Slim Reaper. After all, the Raptors are one of the few teams to have enough future first-round picks and good young players to dangle in a trade, while still holding enough core pieces to replenish Durant and compete for the next four years. championships, which is the duration of Durant’s contract.
And while the two situations are very different, the Raptors set a precedent by trading for Kawhi Leonard and winning the championship in 2018, demonstrating that they not only know how to build around star players, but that they are there. prefer to build their teams. through the draft and trade market rather than the free agency. They have remained flexible by prioritizing young players with reasonable, short-term contracts and by preserving all their future picks to put themselves in a position to trade for the final piece of the puzzle when the right situation arises. No matter how much they talk about design and development – which are the core tenets of their philosophy – their endgame has always been more complicated than that, and part of the reason for drafting and developing so many young players is to allow add to the trump chest and eventually consolidate them into one trade. Holding on to all these guys is untenable.
However, it feels like most Raptors fans right now feel that the Raptors should hold onto their chips and wait for a better move – that they should slowly continue to build around their childhood and give themselves seemingly infinite chances to compete for championships. in the future, rather than shorten their championship window to the two to four years Durant is likely to remain at his peak in Toronto. There’s no shame in wanting to build something lasting, especially after losing Leonard and franchise icon Kyle Lowry in recent years and finally landing a franchise player to build around in Scottie Barnes, who loves Toronto in every way and a floor offers many years to build on.
But I’m here to bring bad news. I’m here to say that the Raptors, their front office, their coaching staff and their core players, all – all they care about is winning. Nothing more nothing less. They don’t care about playing basketball ethically, they don’t care about the vibes (unless the vibes help them win), and they don’t care what they look like eight years from now – they care about winning. And if there’s one player who can instantly turn the Raptors from fun, feisty, mid-pack to championship contenders — and maybe favorites — it’s Kevin Durant.
The Raptors should capitalize on their future for Durant as he immediately makes them contenders for the championship and, with four years left on his contract, gives them quite a long period to compete. Yes, Durant will be 34 years old by the time next season starts, but he’s one of the all-time best goalscorers because he’s a 7-footer with a guard’s handle and stroke, and that’s not going away with the age . Yes, Durant tore his Achilles tendon in the 2019 Toronto finals vs. the Raptors, but he has already made a full recovery and is historically very stable throughout his career, having only played under 55 games three times in 14 years. Yes, Durant has lost a step defensively and probably doesn’t have the same outburst of the first step he did before the injury, but he was still literally the best player in the world last season and was the MVP favorite before injuring his knee in a fluky game in mid-January, forcing him to miss 20 games in a row. The idea that he’s not at his best is bananas.
Durant averaged 30 points per game on 57/38/91 shoots last season, along with 7.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists, including a percentage of the best assist of his career. He is the 2014 regular season MVP, two-time MVP of the finals, and a four-time scoring champion likely to end his career as a top-10 all-time player. As Durant once said, “I’m Kevin Durant. You know who I am.”
The Boston Celtics made Durant look human by beating his nets in the first round of the playoffs and keeping Durant at just 26 points per game during 39/33/86 shooting. But Durant is not human. The Celtics had the best defense in the league and possibly in modern NBA history, and their whole plan was to take Durant away at all costs. It wasn’t his fault the rest of the Nets couldn’t do anything around him – probably a big part of why he wants a trade.
The Raptors are probably still a year away from being truly ready to battle around Durant, with players like Barnes (if he were to stay) and Precious Achiuwa needing even more playoff reps before we can confidently say they’re ready to play. to play for a championship. But these things don’t always happen on a perfect timeline, and the risk of holding your chips for the perfect moment is that that moment may never happen. Players of Durant’s caliber don’t hit the market very often – in fact, they never hit the market – so if you have the chance to get such a good player, explore it. And when that player has four years left – giving you the flexibility to work with him for multiple seasons instead of treating him like a one-year mercenary (hi Kawhi) – you use your future to protect him.
Now I don’t want to get into the exact packs I would or wouldn’t trade for Durant, but we all know what they are: Barnes, Gary Trent Jr. and salary filler or OG Anunoby and Trent Jr. and a boatload of guitar picks or Pascal Siakam and a boatload of guitar picks. Of course, some of those are more favorable than others, and some people will draw the line fairly at Barnes. But whichever package you choose, the Raptors would take advantage of a lot of their future for the present, and there are always risks involved. But it makes sense to do because the present would be so good, with Durant perfectly complimenting the team that stays in place.
After all, Durant is exactly the type of goalscorer the Raptors need to save their offense, while a remaining group of Fred VanVleet, Precious Achiuwa and two from Anunoby, Siakam and Barnes would provide the needed shooting, playmaking and defense if complement him. Plus, the Raptors project to have Otto Porter Jr., Thad Young and Chris Boucher will be off the bench next season, which all together is a pretty deep team. Over the next few years, the Raptors could replenish their bank by choosing from a deep pool of ring-chasing veterans who would be willing to take a pay cut to play with Durant. Oh, and something lost here is that the league is as open as it has been in years, with true equality demonstrated across seven different teams that made it to the NBA Finals over the past four years.
The other part of this is about Durant’s willingness to play in Toronto, but Durant has Reportedly We can’t rule out moving north of the border, and the Raptors have good reason to trust that once he gets here, he’ll see all they have to offer and put his best foot forward. In any case, Durant is the perfect superstar for Toronto, because he has all the money, the shoe deals and the advertising dollars. All he really needs is to bolster his basketball heritage. Toronto would give him the best chance of winning in the next four years, while at the same time building a new fan base the size of an entire country. If all goes well and Durant opens up to the Raptors, it would be the ultimate confirmation of everything Masai Ujiri has built in Toronto over the past nine years. In addition, Toronto and Canada would be in the spotlight like never before, with Durant’s celebrity status and entertaining play creating masses of new Canadian basketball fans, while also bringing a worldwide fan base to the Raptors.
In the worst case, the Durant transaction doesn’t work and asks for a transaction after a few years. The Raptors can probably still recover 70 percent of the assets they spend. Suppose he gets hurt and they can’t trade him, the Raptors front office has proven that they can find hidden gems outside the lottery and low in draft, and rebuild in a short time. There are always risks involved in trading your future for a star player, but the Raptors are such a competent organization that they would figure out a way to rebuild it from scratch, perhaps signing a Canadian free agent to things speed along.
I remember being inconsolable the day the Raptors traded DeMar DeRozan for Leonard. DeRozan was my favorite Raptor and the reason I fell in love with the sport in the first place. But I’ve gotten less sentimental in my old age because the more I’ve been in the competition, the more I realized that winning is very, very hard. And that if you don’t have a top-five superstar, it’s almost impossible. It’s undoubtedly fun to build around the youth and watch them grow together, but if you have the chance to win, grab it, because those opportunities are rare in the NBA, especially for a non-glamorous market like Toronto.
Kevin Durant is that superstar player. And if the Raptors want to bet their money and really try to win, they must do everything possible to get him to Toronto.
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