Why trading Kevin Durant for Jaylen Brown would be just as risky for the Nets as it was for the Celtics

When a team trades a superstar for a younger player, they usually do so as much for control as for advantage. Superstars demanding trades are almost always armed with the threat of free agency, while younger players, for the most part, have less freedom of movement. A first-round pick can only change teams by pick after their fifth season, but given the financial risks involved, they more often delay free agency until after their eighth or ninth season through a rookie extension. . Of course, having Anthony Davis for a year is good, but having Brandon Ingram for six, it’s much nicer. That’s the logic behind most blockbuster jobs: immediate talent for long-term security.

Which makes a trade rumor between the brooklyn nets and Boston Celtics involving Kevin Durant and Jaylen Brown so interesting is that it essentially reverses that dynamic. Durant is 33, but he comes with four seasons of team control. There is a very realistic chance that he will end his career with the team he will play for next. Brown is eight years younger at 25, but has virtually no team control. His contract lasts two more seasons, but due to some quirks in the CBA, he’s all but guaranteed to turn down a contract extension and become an unrestricted free agent in 2024.

The NBA caps the majority of contract extensions at a 20% increase in salary from the previous season. For most young stars, that’s not a problem. This usually involves jumping from one maximum number to another. But Brown is not like most young stars. He couldn’t negotiate a maximum rookie extension for himself in 2019, and it has huge ramifications for him now. First, only max rookie extensions are eligible for a five-year term. If Boston had paid Brown a bit more, they’d have him under contract for another year, and he’d probably be worth a bit more as a trade asset.

But more importantly, this sub-max deal will guarantee Brown a base salary of $28.5 million for the 2023-24 season. That means with a 20% raise, he would be in line to earn around $34.2 million in the 2024-25 season on an overtime. However, as an unrestricted free agent, Brown could earn anything up to his maximum of 30% of the salary cap.

We don’t yet know what that number will be, but we can make an educated guess. The cap for the 2022-23 season is expected to be $133 million. That would be a nearly $10 million jump from this season’s $123.6 million cap, which itself was an $11 million jump from this season’s $112.4 million cap. the 2021-22 season. Let’s say we factor in another $10 million jump that would bring the cap to $143 million when Brown is a free agent. If he signs for 30% of that cap, his 2024-25 salary would be $42.9 million. That’s nearly $9 million more than he could earn with an extension, and it’s only the first year of the deal. Over the life of the contract, he would sacrifice tens of millions of dollars.

And that, of course, assumes the NBA’s salary structure doesn’t change drastically in the summer of 2025, when a new TV deal is expected to go into effect. The last time this happened, the cap went up nearly 35% in a single offseason. While the general assumption is that the league and players’ association will use cap smoothing to ensure this doesn’t happen again, most star-level players are going to be wary of signing long-term deals in 2024 because the cap could jump so much in 2025. Not only would this open the door for Brown to make a lot more money as a free agent in 2025, but it would also give him the freedom to choose from a wider variety of destinations , because more teams would have cap space.

Ironically, that’s how Durant himself landed at Golden State. The tip gave the Warriors enough room to offer Durant maximum contract despite Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and AndrĂ© Iguodala in place. It’s not hard to imagine a similar scenario for Brown or any other free agent in 2025. If he wants to play for his hometown falconsor maybe pick another younger contestant like the Mavericks Where Grizzlies, this offseason would represent a golden opportunity for him to do so. It’s far too early to tell whether or not such a path would interest Brown, but without any financial incentive to extend, he has little reason not to consider it.

The ABC offers a possible workaround for players of Brown’s caliber. If he makes an All-NBA team next season he would immediately become eligible for a five-year supermax extension starting at 35% of the cap. But in another Durant-related irony, such a contract would only be available to him if he stays in Boston. When Durant left Oklahoma City for Golden State, the NBA created the supermax as a way to keep stars on their original teams. It is therefore only available to players who are part of the team that drafted them or a team that traded them in the first four years of their career. Brown currently meets those criteria as a member of the Celtics. If he’s traded to Brooklyn, he wouldn’t qualify. It’s too bad, too, because as a centerpiece for the Nets, he would likely have a better chance of earning All-NBA honors than as a secondary player in Boston.

It has long been reported that Brooklyn hopes to land an All-Star caliber player in any Durant deal. They could get one in a deal with Brown, but it’s much harder to know if they could keep it. The Celtics have been on the other side of that equation. In 2017, they traded for Kyrie Irving with two years left on his deal. In 2018, Irving himself said that he planned to re-sign with the Celtics, but because his original deal came before the 2016 cap peak, the extension would have limited his earning potential. By the time free agency hit, he had decided he wanted to leave Boston.

Maybe it happens to Brown in Boston. Maybe not. Maybe Boston is only exploring this deal in the first place lest Brown walk away from them like Irving did. But all of this together paints an extremely unusual kind of successful trade. The conventional definition of risk in basketball suggests Boston would make the boldest move here. By trading a 25-year-old for a 33-year-old, the Celtics would significantly shorten their league window with the goal of expanding it in the near term. But the risk to the Nets is just as high. Even if Brooklyn thinks it can build a winner around Brown, the Nets could lose him before they even get the chance.

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