Well, that escalated quickly. 

We’ve got bundles of picks being thrown around, crosstown rivals (“rivals”?) making deals and, somehow yet again, new Kevin Durant trade rumors popping up. What does it all mean? We won’t know until after the start of free agency Sunday night, when we see how everything plays out. But that doesn’t mean we can’t toss out some thoughts in the meantime. 

But first, let’s lay out the details of the deals between the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and the Houston Rockets, all via ESPN

  • The Knicks get Mikal Bridges and a 2026 second round pick from the Nets.
  • The Rockets are getting a 2025 Phoenix Suns pick swap, a 2027 Suns first round pick and a Nets 2029 pick swap.
  • The Nets are getting four unprotected first round picks (2025, 2027, 2029, 2031) from the Knicks; a 2025 protected Milwaukee Bucks first round pick whose rights the Knicks owned; a 2028 unprotected pick swap from the Knicks; a 2025 second-round pick from the Knicks and Bojan Bogdanovic, who’s in the deal for salary matching purposes. The Nets are also getting back their 2025 and 2026 first round picks from Houston (which they dealt away in the 2021 James Harden trade). So in total they added seven first round picks (two of which were previously their own), plus a pick swap.

Now let’s break it all down.

Why are the Nets doing this deal? 

This is the easy stuff to analyze. The Nets, a team stuck in the middle, were able to get a “Godfather” offer for a player who no longer wanted to be a part of their organization. Bridges was unhappy in Brooklyn most of last season. He did not like playing for now former-head coach Jacque Vaughn, a feeling that contributed to Vaughn’s midseason firing. And it certainly didn’t help matters that he had three former Villanova teammates playing together and thriving crosstown — and, in the case of Josh Hart especially, constantly trolling Bridges about how much more fun it was to play for the Knicks. 

The Nets can now embark on a true rebuild, and, with their first round picks back under their own control, they can tank and try grabbing Cooper Flag or another top prospect in the highly-acclaimed 2025 draft. 

Also, we now have the full return from their Kevin Durant trade. Not bad, considering the circumstances: 

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Why are the Rockets doing this?

This is also pretty simple. The Rockets want to make a leap — remember, this is a team being coached by Ime Udoka — and they can smell blood in the water (or, more precisely, in the desert).

This report was walked back a bit a few minutes later, and the Suns are already putting it out there that they have no intention of dealing Durant or any of their stars before the season. But the Rockets are betting that the Suns change their tune once the season starts. And if Phoenix does elect to hit the reset button, no team will be better positioned to pounce. 

It’s not just that the Rockets now own some of the Suns’ first round picks. It’s also that they have a roster loaded with talented young players, any of whom can be packaged with those picks for Durant. At some point, the Rockets are going to have to choose between these prospects; there’s just no way to pay Jalen Green and Jabari Smith Jr. and Alperen Sengun and Amen Thompson, nevermind the two lottery picks they have in this week’s draft. Targeting a star under the age of 30 might be a safer path. But that’s not how the Tilman Fertitta-Rafael Stone-led Rockets operate. 

Why are the Knicks doing this?

Now we get to the most interesting part of this series of deals, because the Knicks deciding to cash in all the chips they’ve been collecting for Mikal Bridges is fascinating. For one, the Villanova angle is great, and this team is going to lead the league in vibes:

The question is, what happens now? Because the Knicks have some tough decisions to make over the next few days. 

Most people around the league assume the Knicks still plan on re-signing OG Anunoby. So where will they make up the salary space? It looks like Isaiah Hartenstein could end up being a casualty of the Knicks’ focus on quality wings. 

Hartenstein would be a tough loss for the Knicks, but it’s worth it for the upgrade to Bridges. A wing pairing of him and Anunoby would be lethal on defense, and give the Knicks all sorts of versatility around Jalen Brunson. They’d be over-reliant on Mitchell Robinson in the middle, but their length on the perimeter would make up for it. Julius Randle might struggle a bit finding his way around this group, but a core rotation of Brunson, Bridges, Randle, Anunoby, Hart, DiVincenzo and Robinson just might be enough to give the defending champion Boston Celtics a run.  

Yaron Weitzman is an NBA writer for FOX Sports and the author of Tanking to the Top: The Philadelphia 76ers and the Most Audacious Process in the History of Professional Sports. Follow him on Twitter @YaronWeitzman.

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