(REUTERS) - Kevin Durant and Ja Morant?
The pairing could be a reality if the Memphis Grizzlies are able to turn their reported interest in the Brooklyn Nets star into an official trade.
The Athletic reported on Monday (Aug 22) that Durant's latest, and perhaps strongest, suitor are the Grizzlies, who can underpin any offer with multiple draft picks.
Until Monday, the Boston Celtics had been rumoured to be the front runner for Durant with the Philadelphia 76ers reportedly interested and many others on the "monitoring with interest" list.
Per the report, the Grizzlies aren't inclined to part with Jaren Jackson Jr. or Desmond Bane to acquire Durant but would be open to swopping any and all of their draft picks. Memphis also owns a protected first-round pick from the Golden State Warriors in 2024.
Establishing the appropriate value for Durant, beyond his four-year, US$198 million (S$276.3 million) extension that begins this season, has been a challenge, according to The Athletic.
The Nets are reportedly asking for more than the Minnesota Timberwolves gave up for Rudy Gobert, sending five players and five draft picks to the Utah Jazz.
Durant, 33, demanded a trade on the eve of free agency and doubled down this month with a request to ownership that the Nets make a change at general manager and head coach or set Durant free.
Nets owner Joe Tsai subsequently appeared to back his staff over the player. "Our front office and coaching staff have my support," he said.
"We will make decisions in the best interest of the Brooklyn Nets."
The Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat and Celtics were reportedly the most serious players in the Durant sweepstakes in July.
A two-time NBA Finals MVP and four-time scoring champion, Durant joined Brooklyn as a free agent in 2019 alongside Kyrie Irving.
Durant averaged 29.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists in 55 games this past season with the Nets, who traded fellow All-Star James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers in a blockbuster deal involving Ben Simmons.
Having missed the whole of last season, Simmons has been cleared for three-on-three activities and is expected to be ready for the start of training camp in late September, The Athletic reported on Monday.
Simmons is expected to be cleared for five-on-five activities in the coming weeks, per the report.
His teammate Irving, a seven-time All-Star, picked up his US$36.5 million option, though the Nets are said to be willing to listen to trade offers.
Durant, the 2013-14 league Most Valuable Player, has career averages of 27.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 939 games with the Seattle SuperSonics/Oklahoma City Thunder (2007-16), Warriors (2016-19) and Nets.
Meanwhile, the New York Knicks recently made a strong trade offer for Utah star Donovan Mitchell, The Athletic reported on Monday.
The Knicks put together a package that included Evan Fournier, Obi Toppin, additional salary contributions and five first-round draft picks (two unprotected), per the report.
The deal is not imminent but the Knicks are said to be "motivated" to make it happen.
Mitchell, 25, has four years remaining on a five-year, US$163 million contract extension he signed in November 2020. The three-time All-Star is due to make US$30.6 million next season.
Mitchell averaged 25.9 points, 5.3 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 67 games (all starts) last season.
His five-year career averages include 23.9 points, 4.5 assists and 4.2 boards in 345 games (337 starts) with Utah.