© Brace Hemmelgarn | 2019 Mar 19
Shortly after NBA free agency opened, Kevin Durant announced he was leaving Golden State to sign with the Brooklyn Nets. To get something in return for the star, the Warriors engaged the Nets in a sign-and-trade deal to acquire All-Star guard D’Angelo Russell.
Russell could have been traded straight up for Durant along with some salary compensation, but the two-time Finals MVP reportedly didn’t think the deal was fair and “balked” at the idea of being traded straight-up for Russell, eventually leveraging the Warriors to send a protected first-round pick in the deal as well.
According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the Warriors were forced to meet Durant’s wishes:
The Brooklyn Nets had enough cap space to sign Kevin Durant outright, and there was no specific advantage for Durant to take part in a sign-and-trade deal to help the Warriors out. Nor was it that great an advantage to Nets free agent D’Angelo Russell, who had other teams, including the Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves, vying for him, knowing that the Nets would have to make him an unrestricted free agent to complete the Durant signing.
As a result, there were a series of squeezes put on the Warriors, a position with which they are not at all familiar. First, Durant initially balked at being traded for Russell straight up, multiple sources said. He didn’t think it was a fair deal, and in this case, the Warriors had to not just satisfy the Nets, but also Durant.
Leverage was applied by the player, and Golden State had to include a first-round pick before Durant would agree to sign off. The Warriors begrudgingly gave it up and did so with a heavy condition: If the pick falls within the top 20 next year, they don’t have to send it, and instead will only give Brooklyn a second-round pick … in six years. It’s one of the most unusual pick protections the NBA has seen recently.
The Warriors wanted Russell enough that they sent Andre Iguodala and another first-round pick to the Memphis Grizzlies to clear cap space and make room for Russell’s max contract. It is unclear how much the Nets were involved in forcing the additional first-round pick, but it is obvious Durant felt his former team needed to sweeten the deal for it to be worthwhile for his new team.