Warriors' title defense got much bumpier with KD trade to Suns


The Phoenix Suns, shaken to the core after a graceless NBA playoff exit last May, decided Wednesday night to go full throttle this season by reportedly trading for Kevin Durant.

A few hours before the Suns dropped their trade bomb, the Los Angeles Lakers completed their midseason makeover and it’s impressive. They added D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley two badly needed shooters while also bringing defensive-minded combo forward Jarred Vanderbilt. And, moreover, they shed Russell Westbrook.

Profoundly sub-mediocre two months ago, LA has vastly improved the cast surrounding Anthony Davis and 38-year-old centerpiece LeBron James.

And, by the way, the Dallas Mavericks started this whole pre-trade-deadline arms race by trading two starters for Kyrie Irving, the mercurial but undeniably gifted combo guard who has a way of fracturing franchises and burning bridges.

Meanwhile, the defending champion Warriors, themselves active in trade conversations, are cursing the fates and throwing phones in mid-conversation.

And trying to digest the sobering reality that their postseason championship defense, even if all the flag-carriers are healthy, will be considerably more treacherous than it was a few days ago.

The Suns, per the money and minds in Vegas, vaulted to the top of the Western Conference chart the second they added Durant – never mind that the Nuggets have been sitting atop the standings since December and have a 4.5-game lead with 27 games to play.

Denver has the NBA’s No. 1 offense. and center Nikola Jokic is lining up the first MVP threepeat since Larry Bird nearly 40 years ago.

Within hours of being approved as the Suns’ new governor, 43-year-old billionaire Mat Ishbia big-footed the league, getting KD in a megadeal that changes not only all NBA chess boards but also expands the interest and intensity of global audience engagement.

After underachieving most of this season, for a variety of reasons, the Suns have been rising quickly, winning nine of their last 11 games. And now they’re trying the crush the competition, going full revivification by adding Durant to a team with Devin Booker – All-NBA first team last season – productive young center Deandre Ayton and aging but still dangerous point guard Chris Paul.

The Suns gave up a lot, but this is a splendid now-and-later move. CP3 has maybe another year (he’s partially guaranteed for 2023-24, no guarantee in ’24-’25). His NBA future is short. But Durant is under contract through 2025-26, Booker has been identified as their 26-year-old untouchable, and Ayton is only 24.

No matter what the Warriors do, the options pale when compared to the moves made by their friends in Dallas, Los Angeles, and Phoenix.

Won’t trade Stephen Curry because the line of folks eager to stone CEO Joe Lacob in the middle of Thrive City would begin at Chase Center and extend to Fresno.

Can’t trade Klay Thompson or Draymond Green because that would alienate Curry and, well, what about the fabled “championship core?”

RELATED: Warriors reportedly debating trade availability of youngsters

Can’t trade Jordan Poole or Andrew Wiggins because they signed contract extensions in October and are not yet eligible to hit the market.

In short, Dub Nation had better hold on tight because the ride got a lot bumpier.

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