The 2023 NBA trade deadline was full of fireworks. The deals made in the last several days could ultimately decide the competitive balance of the NBA for the years to come.
The entire NBA was surprised when the Brooklyn Nets completed the teardown of their roster, sending Kevin Durant (and TJ Warren) to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder, four future first-round picks, and a 2028 pick swap. Durant, who had previously requested a trade before the season started, ultimately got his request to go to Phoenix and team up with Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and Deandre Ayton in another championship-or-bust situation.
What made Phoenix give up a significant package to land the former MVP was that Durant has three more years left on his deal after this season--which is more or less aligned with the entire Suns’ core. The new fearsome foursome in the West can ultimately challenge for a championship in the next several years and try to finally win one after losing out to the Milwaukee Bucks in 2021.
With the Nets dealing away Durant and Kyrie Irving during the trade deadline, this officially marked the end of their championship aspirations. Brooklyn’s Big 3, the greatest theoretical team of all time with three of its All-Stars in their prime, only played a total of 16 games together and were one inch away from making it to the Conference Finals.
While they still had the chance, the Nets dealt away their superstars in exchange for assets and the opportunity to build a championship-caliber roster again. The series of moves they made may seem like two steps in the wrong direction, but this is better than having nothing at all.
It only shows how difficult it is to win a championship and how fast windows close. The Nets were a team designed to win for multiple years. Theoretically, it made sense, but it never fully translated on the court. That’s the risk of going all-in. In the end, the reason why teams make all these deals by the trade deadline is to put themselves in a better position to win it all. That’s what the Suns did in trading for a superstar like Durant. As for the Nets, they did what they could in an attempt to salvage their future.