Although the names and teams involved always change, rumors are the one constant of the NBA offseason. Whether a player is viewed as a franchise talent or a marginal role player, no one's name is safe once the summer rolls around.
2012 is no exception to the rule, as there has already been plenty of speculation about potential deals, free agent signings and blockbuster moves. Nowadays, where every idea—no matter how quietly it was whispered—comes to light, it is difficult to decide which rumors are worth paying attention to and which can simply be ignored.
From the sublime to the ridiculous, let's take a look at a few big rumors in basketball circles and the likelihood they prove to be true.
One of the more surprising free agency rumors to surface in the last few days is that the Toronto Raptors are seriously interested in Steve Nash. According to Royce Young at CBSSports.com, the team is looking to use Nash's Canadian heritage as a way to help pique his interest.
From his charity work and frequent visits to Canada to his being named the general manager of Canada's men's national basketball team, the Raptors' location is clearly an advantage they have over other teams trying to sign the two-time MVP.
However, as a ball club Toronto is still a ways away from contending for a championship. They will be adding two solid young players—eighth overall pick Terrence Ross and 2011's fifth overall pick Jonas Valanciunas—but this is a team that went just 23-43 last season.
The team has some decent talent, particularly sharpshooting big man Andrea Bargnani and athletic 2-guard DeMar DeRozan, but Nash will really have to believe he is the missing piece that can push them into playoff contention. The Raptors have Jose Calderon as their current starting point guard, and though he is a gifted facilitator, it goes without saying that the team would look to move him if Nash signs with them.
Toronto has plenty of cap space, can offer Nash a guaranteed starting job and plays a brand of up-tempo basketball that suits Nash's skill set, but it may be difficult for the team to woo him more than a true title contender like the Los Angeles Lakers or Dallas Mavericks.
Odds of Nash signing with Toronto this Summer: 1/8
It's no secret that the Lakers have been considering trading Pau Gasol, so few fans were very shocked when the idea of a trade with the Atlanta Hawks that would send athletic power forward Josh Smith to Los Angeles was proposed. According to the L.A. Times' Mike Bresnahan, the Hawks have been pursuing Gasol since the Lakers were eliminated from the playoffs.
To me at least, this move seems pretty logical for both sides. Los Angeles gets a young, extremely talented player at the 4 who can form a formidable frontcourt with Andrew Bynum for years to come, while Atlanta gets a veteran center and proven winner in Gasol. He could allow Al Horford to slide back to power forward and finally push them past the second round of the postseason.
Smith would bring some much needed athleticism to the Lakers. He is an excellent man-to-man defender and an elite shot-blocker, using his leaping ability, long arms and timing to protect the rim against much larger players. He excels in transition, and when he is locked in, he is a very dangerous scorer thanks to his strength and craftiness.
He needs to cut down on taking long jump shots and contested three-pointers, but it's hard to argue against a player as talented as Smith who can impact a game on both ends of the court.
Gasol is still one of the league's most skilled big men and would give the Hawks a true post presence that can score with his back to the basket, make passes to cutters down the lane and assert himself on the glass. Gasol's soft shooting touch would also help stretch the floor for Atlanta and open lanes up for guards Jeff Teague and Joe Johnson.
Though the Hawks would be getting older and the Lakers would be losing some of their coveted size, this is a deal that would ultimately improve both rosters. Add that to Smith's displeasure with the Hawks organization and L.A.'s need to preserve cap room, and this trade should be happening sooner rather than later.
Odds Gasol and Smith Trade Places: 4/7
Offensively gifted 2-guard O.J. Mayo had long been believed to be a player of interest for the soon-to-be-retooling Boston Celtics. According to A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com, the Celtics are still interested in acquiring Mayo, a restricted free agent this offseason.
The team is reportedly willing to perform a sign-and-trade for Mayo, giving up power forward Brandon Bass, who recently opted out of his contract's final year to become an unrestricted free agent. The team actually pulled a similar move to acquire Bass, sending Glen Davis to Orlando.
With Ray Allen likely departing and Avery Bradley the only shooting guard on the roster, Boston could seriously use some backcourt depth. Last season, Mayo excelled in a sixth man role, averaging 12.6 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.
At only 24 years old, Mayo could be a part of the long-term picture for Boston, which is looking to get younger without completely falling out of playoff contention. Mayo is an extremely athletic guard, capable of taking his man off the dribble and pushing the ball in transition, as well as pulling up and draining perimeter shots.
Plenty of teams will be vying for Mayo's services, but the Celtics have the cap space to give him a multi-year deal for good money, and he will obviously have an important role with the team going forward, something all free agents consider.
Though Memphis has plenty of frontcourt players, Bass is a proven talent, and if the team ends up moving one of their veterans, he could provide some quality production at a much lower cost. Still, Mayo knows the team's system well and is a valuable part of their rotation. They need outside shooters, and he was one of the few they had on the roster last season.
For the Celtics, who need to add as much young talent as possible, the chance to bring a scorer like O.J. Mayo into the fold is something they must jump on. As long as Memphis is willing to part with him—and another team doesn't swoop in with a huge offer—Mayo could very well end up in Boston this fall.
Odds Mayo is wearing Celtic green next season: 1/3
One of the well-documented stories of the 2012 playoffs was Ray Allen's struggles with injuries and acclimating to a sixth man role.
Due in part to bone spurs in his ankles, but also the stellar defensive play of second year guard Avery Bradley, Allen came off the bench for the start of the playoffs, earning his starting spot back only once Bradley's shoulder problems prevented him from playing.
Now, as a free agent, Allen will undoubtedly have his share of suitors. While teams like the Miami Heat, New York Knicks and, of course, Boston Celtics are obviously looking at the deadly sharpshooter, Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Phoenix Suns have entered the fray as contenders for Allen's services.
The Suns are nowhere near contending for a title, especially if Steve Nash ends up bolting for greener pastures, so the idea that Allen would consider Phoenix instead of a true title contender is quite surprising. However, the team has plenty of cap room and can offer Allen a larger salary and a guaranteed starting job, which few other organizations can do.
Though he struggled with injuries last year, Allen averaged 14.2 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists while connecting on a staggering 45.3 percent of his three-point attempts. The Suns could certainly use a proven offensive player in their backcourt, and Ray Allen can still hit shots and light up opposing defenses.
Still, I just can't see Allen going to a lottery team that he has no particular ties to. He is not an Arizona native and did not go to school there. Though he is connected to Suns' President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby, it would be a real shock to see him on Phoenix's roster next season.
Odds Ray Allen spends a year with the Suns: 1/12
By now the Houston Rockets' desire to make a trade for Dwight Howard has been extremely well-documented. The Rockets have been stockpiling assets, making three picks in the mid-first round of this year's draft and also possessing a slew of other young players with high upside.
Houston has been desperate for a franchise big man since Yao Ming retired, and even though Howard has given no indication he would like to go the team or would re-sign with them after his contract expires, they are still considering rolling the dice.
The Rockets could offer the Magic a few of their picks from this draft, whether they want sharpshooter Jeremy Lamb, versatile forward Royce White or the bruising Terrence Jones from Kentucky, as well as any of the team's young talent like Chandler Parsons and Patrick Patterson.
By dealing Samuel Dalembert to Milwaukee in order to move up to the 12th pick and not taking any player capable of spending time at the five spot (John Henson, Arnett Moultrie and Tyler Zeller were available when they chose), it is clear that Houston is trying to acquire size either through free agency or a trade.
For Orlando, if they are truly tired of Howard's antics, they could opt to deal the franchise center and begin the rebuilding process. Houston is offering a very enticing package of high upside talent. Though they may struggle initially, the Magic would have the building blocks of a very solid team.
The Rockets' decision to opt for the best players available instead of drafting for need gives the impression that the team is looking to pull some kind of move. It will be difficult for Orlando to finally pull the trigger on a Howard deal, but Houston has as good a shot as any team of landing him this summer.
Odds that Howard suits up for Houston: 2/9
Since the Nets' season ended back in April, two things have kept the team's name in the headlines: their move to Brooklyn and whether impending free agent Deron Williams will remain with the team.
Williams opted out of the last year of his contract in order to test the market, but as of now, he is believed to have narrowed his choice of teams down to either Brooklyn or the Dallas Mavericks, his hometown team.
Now, according to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, Brooklyn is believed to have the inside track in retaining the star point guard's services. One of the goals of last season's lockout was to help teams keep their talent, and because of this, the Nets have the chance to offer Williams an additional year on his contract and a higher per season salary than the Mavs can.
In their last season playing in New Jersey, the Nets certainly struggled, but with the franchise relocating, the organization is feeling optimistic about the future, as long as they don't lose Deron Williams. The team has promising 2-guard MarShon Brooks, as well as offensively skilled center Brook Lopez, who is a restricted free agent.
Though the Mavericks have certainly had more success than the Nets in recent years, the team has little besides an aging Dirk Nowitzki that is enticing to a free agent. The team has been desperately clearing cap room to have flexibility for the free agency frenzy, but as currently constructed, their roster simply does not have enough to make a legitimate playoff run.
Brooklyn has several quality young players and a slew of cap room that the team can use to bring in another impact free agent or two. The team will also be offering Williams the chance to be a true franchise player and not a second fiddle. He will be the center of everything the team does marketing-wise after their move, unless they can bring Howard aboard in the near future.
If Williams truly is only considering two teams, the Nets make plenty of sense for him both on and off the court. Smart money is on seeing Deron Williams wearing Brooklyn black next season.
Odds Deron Williams Crosses the Hudson River with the Nets: 3/5