Kevin Durant
AP Photo

While the Brooklyn Nets were working a sign-and-trade with the Warriors for D’Angelo Russell, Kevin Durant stepped in and flexed his muscles.

Kevin Durant has proven to be one of the most influential stars in the NBA. This summer, he chose the Brooklyn Nets and the Golden State Warriors saw it as an opportunity to snag D’Angelo Russell with a sign-and-trade.

According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, Durant wouldn’t sign off on the deal until the Warriors included a first-round pick in the deal.

“First, Durant initially balked at being traded for Russell straight up, multiple sources said,” Windhorst writes. “He didn’t think it was a fair deal, and in this case, the Warriors had to not just satisfy the Nets, but also Durant.

“Leverage was applied by the player, and Golden State had to include a first-round pick before Durant would agree to sign off.”

Power moves only for Durant. The NBA is in the age of player empowerment and Durant’s ability to squeeze assets out of the team he was leaving is remarkable. The two-time Finals MVP knows he is one of the stars in the league who wields massive leverage.

Had the Warriors refused to include a first-round pick, Durant could have walked away from the deal and simply signed with the Nets without involving the Warriors at all.

The Warriors eventually parted with the pick in order to bring back an All-Star talent in the wake of Durant’s exodus. However, as Windhorst notes, the pick is top-20 protected and if it doesn’t convey, the pick will convert to a second-round pick in 2025 for Brooklyn.

This strange protection gives the Warriors some insurance if they take a step back next year.

NY/NJ hoops reporter (NBA/NCAA) & sports betting writer for XL Media. Never had the makings of a varsity athlete.