This is how the NBA trade game is played, by sending signals without having to own up.
For the Miami Heat, the latest message could not have been broadcast any clearer, that it’s Bam Adebayo or bust when it comes to where the Brooklyn Nets’ trade line stands with Kevin Durant.
Monday was the latest example of how nothing has to be said for messages to resonate.
Think Boston Celtics president Brad Stevens wants to deal with the fallout if Jaylen Brown is not moved in a trade with the Nets? That could be even stickier than the impending Deandre Ayton reunion with the Phoenix Suns after his free-agency fiasco.
But there is little doubt that Nets general manager Sean Marks couldn’t be more delighted.
The bar is now set after the dueling and closely timed reports from ESPN and The Athletic regarding the Celtics’ willingness to include Brown in a package for Durant.
So there it is, said, without being said, by Marks: Put forward a recent All-Star, and then we’ll talk. Brown was an All-Star in 2021, Adebayo in 2020. Each has worn the designation once.
This is how it’s done, how NBA trade tables are set.
For all the talk of Danny Ainge wanting at least four, five, six or more first-round picks for Donovan Michell, has anyone actually heard him say those words, post them on social media, put them in writing?
And yet the Utah Jazz could not have made it clearer, that either come with draft picks in hand or don’t waste the effort.
Now it is the same with the Nets and Durant and Brown.
What the scoop by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Athletic’s Shams Charania did was amplify Marks’ desires to the rest of the NBA, that he has an offer of a young NBA All-Star in hand.
So do the Toronto Raptors now reconsider with Scottie Barnes, who has been thought to be off-limits? Or put Pascal Siakam (2020 All-Star) into play?
Do the New Orleans Pelicans cycle back with a package highlighted by Brandon Ingram (2020 All-Star), or, dare it be considered, Zion Williamson?
And, yes, Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins (2022 All-Star) looms as a fallback.
Until the revelation with the Celtics’ Brown, there was thought that Durant could be had for less than a dollar on the dollar, particularly considering he turns 34 at the start of training camp and missed the entire 2019-20 season due to injury, having won a single playoff series as a member of the Nets.
Now the reserve price of the auction has been set.
No, some sort of Tyler Herro-Duncan Robinson-picks proposal doesn’t get a deal done for the Heat. And, no Kyle Lowry, at 36, does not fit the definition of young All-Star, 11 years older than Brown.
Although hardly revelatory, yes, the Heat have had discussions regarding Adebayo in a Durant trade. That also is nothing more than the due diligence typical whenever a significant trade piece comes to market, just as it was when beloved franchise pieces Brian Grant and Caron Butler were put into play for Shaquille O’Neal in 2004 or when Eddie Jones was dealt a year later to complete a championship core.
But now it is different than when one specific highly influential member of the franchise recently ruled Adebayo off-limits. That was before the stakes formally were set. Now, that’s what it will take. Because now a party privy to the Nets’ machinations set the bar at Jaylen Brown . . . or better. (Although with Adebayo, there is the sticky situation of not being allowed to be on the Nets’ roster along with Ben Simmons, due to a salary-cap quirk.)
So with the Heat, you start here: Is a core of Durant, Lowry and Jimmy Butler a championship core, or at least better than last season’s core that got the Heat within one game of the NBA Finals?
But then you also go to how much of the future would be incinerated by moving Adebayo and Herro.
With Butler 32, Lowry 36 and Durant to turn 34, you likely would be looking at a two-year window, which coincides with the remaining time on Lowry’s contract.
Then, with Herro, Adebayo and draft picks dealt, there would be no future, instead likely the passing of the Pat Riley torch.
There remains a pathway to Durant . . . at the cost of future shock.
Otherwise, Monday’s revelation regarding Brown made it clear that there likely would be no net (Net) loss for the Heat by moving on to offseason Plan B.