Why the Kevin Durant-for-Jaylen Brown trade will be as risky for the Nets as it will be for the Celtics

When a superstar team replaces a star with a younger player, they usually do so for control as much as they do it for the upside. Bargain-demanding superstars are 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 selection after their fifth season, but due to the financial risks involved in doing so, they often delay free agency until beyond their eighth or ninth season by extending a newbie. Sure, having Anthony Davis for one year is pretty cool, but having Brandon Ingram for six years is a lot nicer. This is the logic that governs most trending trades: the immediate talent for long-term security.

what makes rumored trade Between the Brooklyn Nets and the Boston Celtics which includes Kevin Durant and Jaylene Brown, it’s interesting that they mainly reflect this dynamic. Durant is 33 years old, but comes in with four seasons of team domination. There is a very realistic chance that he will end his career with whatever team he plays for next. Brown is eight years younger and 25, but he’s hardly ever with any group control. His contract lasts two more seasons, but due to some quirks in the CBA, he is effectively guaranteed to turn down a contract extension and become an unrestricted free agent in 2024.

The NBA paid off the majority of contract extensions with a 20 percent increase over the previous season’s salary. For most young stars, this is not a problem. It usually only entails jumping from one number to another. But Brown is not like most young stars. He couldn’t negotiate a junior Max extension for himself in 2019, and that has huge repercussions for him now. First and foremost, only Max Rookie extensions are eligible to run for five years. Had Boston paid Brown a little more, they would have made him on contract for another year, and he would probably be more valuable as a business asset.

But more importantly, this minimal-maximum deal would secure Brown $28.5 million in base salary for the 2023-24 season. This means that with a 20 percent increase, he would be willing to make approximately $34.2 million in the 2024-25 season on extension. However, as an unrestricted free agent, Brown can make anything up to a maximum of 30 percent of the maximum salary.

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

This, of course, assumes that the NBA’s salary structure has not changed radically in the summer of 2025, when a new TV deal is expected to begin. The last time that happened, the cap was up about 35 percent in one season. While the general assumption is that the federation and the player association will use cap smoothing to ensure this does not happen again, most star-level players will be wary of signing long-term deals in 2024 because the cap could jump quite a bit in 2025. It won’t. Not only will it open the door for Brown to make more money as a free agent for 2025, but it will also give him the freedom to choose from a variety of destinations since more teams will have plenty of room.

Ironically, this is how Durant himself landed in the Golden State. The Warriors’ high rise gave the Warriors enough room to give Durant a maximum contract despite the presence of Stephen Curry, Clay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala. It’s not hard to imagine a similar scenario playing out by Brown or any other free agent in 2025. If he wants to play his native Hawks, or perhaps pick a younger competitor like the Mavericks or the Grizzlies, that offseason would present him with a golden opportunity to do so. It’s too early to say 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 CBA offers one possible solution for players of the caliber of Brown. If he makes an All-NBA team next season, he will immediately be eligible for a five-year Supermax extension starting at 35 percent of the cap. But in another bit of Durant’s irony, such a contract would only be available to him if he stayed in Boston. When Durant left Oklahoma City for Golden State, he created the NBA Super Max as a way to keep stars in their home teams. Therefore it is only available to players who are on the team that drafted them or the team that was traded on their behalf in the first four years of their career. Brown currently meets these criteria as a member of the Celtics. If he traded with Brooklyn, he would no longer qualify. It’s a shame, too, because as a Nets hub, he’ll likely have a better chance of earning All-NBA honors than he does as a Boston minor.

It has long been reported that Brooklyn is hoping to get an All-Star caliber player in any Durant deal. They could get one in Brown’s deal, but it’s hard to know if they can keep it. The Celtics were on the other side of this equation. In 2017, they traded for Kyrie Irving with two years remaining on his deal. In 2018, Irving himself said he intended to re-sign with the Celtics, but because his original deal came before the 2016 cap was raised, an extension would have limited his earning potential. By the time free agency arrived, he had decided he wanted to leave Boston.

It might happen to Brown in Boston. Maybe not. Perhaps Boston would explore this deal in the first place only for fear of Brown leaving her as Irving did. But all this together paints a very unusual type of blockbuster. The traditional definition of risk in basketball suggests that Boston would make a bolder move here. By replacing a 25-year-old with a 33-year-old, the Celtics will significantly reduce the tournament window in order to expand it in the short term. But the risk to bed nets is just as high. Even if Brooklyn thinks they can build a winner around the Browns, the Nets may lose it before they have a chance.

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