When swapping future draft picks for star star: Kevin Durant, Donovan Mitchell trade rumors offer valuable history lesson
Kevin Durant. Kyrie Irving. Donovan Mitchell.
Free agency may be cooling off, but trade talks involving a handful of NBA superstars continue to swirl.
And while daily tweets from Woj and Shams keep the NBA world on high alert for any impending deal, all those rumors continue to be just that… talk.
Part of the reason? It appears Rudy Gobert’s trade has set the market with an astronomically high bar for any star dealt this offseason.
While there was no doubt the Timberwolves got the best player on the deal, they parted ways with not one, two, or three, but four first-round picks to acquire Gobert, plus Walker Kessler, a 2022 NBA first-round pick. Draft.
If it took essentially five first-round picks to land Gobert, how many will it take to get Durant? Do the Jazz expect a similar return for Mitchell, that they are now open to trading?
If Durant and/or Mitchell — or Irving, who asks an entirely different set of questions — are moved, it’s safe to assume that a number of first-round picks will be traded. With that comes a lot of risk. Sure, the addition of either of them could give a team the boost they need to compete for a title, but if that goes sideways, there’s their net of security.
Today, let’s put on our optimistic hat and look at four recent examples of teams giving up one or more first-round picks for a star and it works. We’ll save our pessimistic hat for another day.
Note: All trading details are from Basketball Reference.
MORE: Is the Gobert trade a smart bet for the Timberwolves?
Jrue Holiday at the Bucks (2020)
dollars have: Jrue Holiday, Sam Merrill
The pelicans have: Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe, 2024 first-round pick, 2025 first-round pick, 2026 first-round pick, 2027 first-round pick
The thunder has: George Hill, Zylan Cheatham, Joshia Gray, Darius Miller, Kenrich Williams, 2023 first-round pick, 2023 second-round pick, 2024 second-round pick
The nuggets have: RJ Hampton
The Bucks paid a high price to pay for Holiday — two unprotected first-round picks plus two pick trades.
It earned them a title.
Although we are still a long way from knowing the full results of this trade, it is already a victory for the Bucks, who beat the Suns in the 2021 NBA Finals to win the franchise’s first title in 50 years. Holiday isn’t even of the same caliber of player as the three examples featured later in this list — he’s a former All-Star — but his play and perimeter defense have helped Milwaukee turn the corner.
The Bucks aren’t done competing either. Khris Middleton has a player option in his contract for 2023-24, Holiday has one for 2024-25 and Giannis Antetokounmpo has one for 2025-26.
As long as all three are on the same team, the Bucks will have a chance to win it all.
Anthony Davis at the Lakers (2019)
The Lakers have:Anthony Davis
The pelicans have: Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, De’Andre Hunter, Brandon Ingram, 2022 first-round pick (became Dyson Daniels), 2023 first-round pick, 2024 first-round pick
Wizards have: Isaac Bonga, Jemerrio Jones, Moritz Wagner, 2022 second-round pick (became Kennedy Chandler)
Yes, having no first-round picks to show for their miserable 2021-22 season stung, but trading for Davis helped the Lakers achieve their ultimate goal of pairing LeBron James with another star and winning the No. 17 title. , tying them with the Celtics for most all-time.
Davis was legitimately awesome during Los Angeles’ championship run, to the point where we ranked him the third-best player in the NBA at the start of the 2020-21 season. Injuries have held him back in the two seasons since, but Davis is still just 29. If he can stay healthy – a big if admittedly – his best years could very well be ahead of him.
And again…as bad as things look going, the Lakers won a championship they otherwise wouldn’t have by making this trade.
Kawhi Leonard at the Raptors (2018)
The Raptors have: Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green
Spurs got2019 first-round pick DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl (now Keldon Johnson)
It will go down as one of the most memorable and important trades in NBA history.
While there was some risk for the Raptors at the time — Leonard was coming off a season in which he appeared in nine games and had just one year left on his contract — it did. driven to win their first title in franchise history. Leonard took Toronto to heights DeRozan couldn’t and Green was an important piece of the team’s championship puzzle.
The first-round pick the Raptors parted ways to acquire Leonard turned out to be Keldon Johnson. Johnson is a great prospect, but he doesn’t regret the Raptors when it comes to making the trade, even though Leonard and Green were only in Toronto for one season.
James Harden at the Rockets (2012)
Rockets have: James Harden, Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook, Lazar Hayward
Thunder has: Jeremy Lamb, Kevin Martin, 2013 first-round pick (became Steven Adams), 2013 second-round pick (became Álex Abrines), 2014 first-round pick (became Mitch McGary)
The Rockets don’t have a championship to show for, but the Harden trade went pretty well for them anyway.
Harden went from sixth man in Oklahoma City to one of the greatest players of all time in Houston. During his eight seasons with the Rockets, he averaged 29.6 points, 7.7 assists, 6.0 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game. Those numbers earned him eight All-Star selections, seven All-NBA selections, three scoring titles, one assist title and, of course, an MVP award.
The Rockets have made the playoffs in each of those seasons and likely would have made the Finals in 2018 if they hadn’t missed – I’m not kidding – 27 straight 3-pointers in Game 7 of the Conference Finals. West.
Of the three picks the Rockets gave up to get Harden, only Steven Adams carved out an NBA career.
The jury is still out on…
Paul George at the Clippers
The Clippers have: Paul George
Thunder has: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, 2021 first-round pick (became Tre Mann), 2022 first-round pick (became Jalen Williams), 2023 first-round pick, 2023 first-round pick, first-round pick in 2024, first in 2025 -round pick, first-round pick 2026
Even if you see this through the prism of trade, landing the Clippers both George and Leonard, who signed with the franchise as a free agent and wanted to play with George, is a lot of choice. Yet George and Leonard are still under contract for at least two more seasons, and the acquisitions of Norman Powell, Robert Covington and John Wall make the Clippers one of the busiest teams in the league.
Of course, Los Angeles’ championship hopes hinge on the health of George and Leonard — another big if — but there’s always the chance that George’s trade will help them get to the top of the mountain.
Gilgeous-Alexander is certainly one of the NBA’s most intriguing young stars, but even with his potential, he’s yet to make an All-Star team and isn’t necessarily a franchise-changing talent even. if it continues to become a perennial. All Star.
Is there a world in which SGA plays second fiddle to Leonard, expanding the Clippers’ window even further while retaining their picks? Yes. But he’s not on the same level as George – at least not yet.