NBA trade deadline sees Irving, Durant bolster West teams

Phoenix could end up being more powerful than last season’s squad, which won an NBA-best 64 games, then flamed out with a second-round loss to Dallas

Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant, center, looks on from the bench during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Monday, Jan. 30, 2023, in New York.
Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant, center, looks on from the bench during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Monday, Jan. 30, 2023, in New York.Corey Sipkin (AP)

First it was Kyrie Irving to Dallas. Then came Kevin Durant to Phoenix. The breakup in Brooklyn is rebuilding some contenders in the West. Trade deadline day in the NBA on Thursday featured plenty of moves, with the Suns making the biggest as they chase the first championship in franchise history.

They acquired Durant by sending Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, first-round picks in 2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029, and a first-round pick swap in 2028 to the Nets, who also sent T.J. Warren back to his original team in Phoenix. New Suns owner Mat Ishbia called it a “transformative day” for the team.

“Not only is Kevin one of the greatest and most accomplished players in the history of the sport, but his character also embodies the world-class commitment to excellence we are instilling across every facet of this organization,” Ishbia said in a statement.

Jae Crowder, who didn’t play this season in Phoenix, was moved to Milwaukee in the four-team trade. The Bucks sent Jordan Nwora, George Hill, Serge Ibaka and three future second-round picks to the Indiana Pacers.

Bridges, Johnson and Crowder helped the Suns reach the NBA Finals in 2021, and a return trip looks possible with Durant in their lineup. “It’s a close group,” coach Monty Williams said. “You can imagine that’s a tough blow to the group for the human side of it, but also exciting about what could be.”

A day earlier, the Lakers agreed to send Russell Westbrook to Utah as part of a three-way deal including Minnesota that brought D’Angelo Russell back to Los Angeles. “Just like that it’s a war in the West!” Sacramento Kings guard Terence Davis II tweeted.

The Lakers stayed busy up until the deadline with a couple more moves as they try to build a contender around NBA career scoring leader LeBron James. They added another big man in Mo Bamba from the Orlando Magic for Patrick Beverley, a second-round pick and cash considerations. The Magic said they would not require Beverley to report to the team.

The deadline was 3 p.m. EST, though most of the deals weren’t approved by the league office until much later as teams swapped not only players, but plenty of draft picks.

“I’ll show you how wrong I was,” said Cleveland president of basketball operations Koby Altman, whose team was one of few that made zero moves. “I thought it was going to be a quiet, quiet deadline. But this is the NBA, and the NBA never stops. And, it’s really fragile. It’s a really fragile industry, and you don’t know what’s going to tip one way or the other.”

Phoenix could end up being more powerful than last season’s squad, which won an NBA-best 64 games, then flamed out with a second-round loss to Dallas. The Suns just got Devin Booker back from a groin injury that had sidelined him since Christmas and soon will add Durant to the lineup when he recovers from a sprained knee ligament. That’s on top of Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton.

Phoenix has won nine of 11 and shared the fourth-best record with Dallas entering its game Thursday night in Atlanta.

The Mavericks also may be stronger after acquiring Irving to pair with Luka Doncic. Irving asked out of Brooklyn last week, frustrated by his negotiations for a contract extension, and he was headed West a few days later.

Then it was Durant, who had gone to Brooklyn with Irving in 2019.

“I just love the competition now that we can be in the same conference,” Irving said.

The Lakers are still hoping they can make some noise. They acquired Russell — who began his career with the franchise — from Minnesota, and guard Malik Beasley and forward Jarred Vanderbilt from the Jazz. The deal sent Westbrook to Utah after the 2017 NBA MVP never thrived alongside James and Anthony Davis.

Minnesota got Mike Conley and Nickeil Alexander-Walker from Utah, along with three second-round picks.

The Lakers made yet another move Thursday, sending center Thomas Bryant to Denver and getting back Davon Reed and a second-round pick from the Nuggets. Bryant, who started 25 games and is averaging 12.1 points, could be a good backup to two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokic.

The other team in Los Angeles was also busy. The Clippers landed Bones Hyland from Denver for two second-round picks as the third team in the swap with the Lakers and Nuggets, and acquired center Mason Plumlee from Charlotte for point guard Reggie Jackson and a 2028 second-round draft pick in another deal.

San Antonio added more assets to its rebuilding project by trading center Jakob Poeltl back to the Toronto Raptors for Khem Birch plus a first-round pick in the 2024 draft and a pair of second-round selections.

Poeltl was one of the most-wanted centers on the market. He’s averaged 12.1 points and a team-high 9.0 rebounds for the Spurs, who acquired Poeltl from the Raptors as part of the Kawhi Leonard-DeMar DeRozan trade in 2018.

The Philadelphia 76ers are set to acquire forward Jalen McDaniels from Charlotte and send forward Matisse Thybulle to Portland as part of a multi-team trade that also involves multiple draft picks.

Thybulle twice made the NBA All-Defensive second team but he has averaged just 4.4 points over four seasons with the Sixers. The 25-year-old McDaniels is averaging a career-best 10.6 points for the Hornets in his fourth season.

It was the second move in two days for the Blazers, who sent Josh Hart to the New York Knicks on Wednesday for Cam Reddish and a protected first-round draft pick.

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