Report: Raptors ‘lurking’ as dark horse trade destination for Durant

Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) looks to move the ball as Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet (23) and forward Scottie Barnes (4) defend during second half NBA basketball action in Toronto on Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021. (Frank Gunn/CP)

Superstar forward Kevin Durant shook the foundations of the basketball world on Thursday afternoon, expressing his desire to be traded from his current team — the Brooklyn Nets.

In the hours and days since then, rumours and trade simulations have run rampant as media and fans try to decipher the most likely landing spot for the 12-time All-Star.

A seemingly unlikely candidate may emerge: the Toronto Raptors.

The team from up north could be a dark horse to acquire Durant, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski proposed on Friday’s edition of NBA Today.

“I think a team that is lurking, and is going to lurk in this is Toronto,” said Wojnarowski. “They have all the kinds of pieces that you would want and their picks to do a deal for Kevin Durant.”

The prominent pieces Toronto could offer include veteran and 2021-22 third team All-NBA selection Pascal Siakam, sharpshooting and ball-hawking guard Gary Trent Jr., prototypical three-and-D wing OG Anunoby, or even franchise point guard and 2021-22 all-star Fred VanVleet. But, without a doubt, the most prized trade chip is reigning Rookie of the Year winner Scottie Barnes.

The Raptors would ideally like to keep Barnes and not have to move their 2021 No. 4 overall pick for any player, regardless of their calibre, Wojnarowski adds.

Toronto has enticing assets, but would president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster commit to such a team and franchise-altering shakeup?

Well, they have done it before.

In July 2018 the Raptors sent franchise icon and loyal all-star DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for forward and 2014 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, even though the San Diego State product had played in just nine contests the season prior and had only one year left on his contract.

“(The Raptors) have an organization leader in Masai Ujiri, who you saw he took the chance on Kawhi Leonard with one year left on his deal,” said Wojnarowski.

That chance paid off as Toronto captured the franchise’s first NBA championship in the 2018-19 season, with Leonard taking home his second Finals MVP trophy.

The requisite pieces may be in place, and Raptors’ brass has a track record of rolling the dice, but does Durant want to go to Toronto and stay long term?

It was reported shortly after the request was announced, that the Miami Heat and Phoenix Suns were among the teams Durant had on his destination “wish list,” according to Wojnarowski, with no such mention of the Raptors.

Durant has expressed some form of interest in joining the franchise, citing the Raptors as his favourite team growing up during his childhood in Washington, D.C.

Though, how much stock can management put into comments made nearly a decade ago about expressed interest dating back to the late-1990s and early-2000s?

Whoever lands the all-time great will need the trade package, the gumption, and potentially an appealing destination to harbour a long-term mutually beneficial tenure.

Upon close examination, it appears the Raptors do have a mix of ingredients to potentially pull off one of the biggest blockbuster trades in the league’s history. The question is, as Wojnarowski put it: “How far are the Raptors willing to go?”

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