Buying or Selling Latest NBA Rumors: Separating Fact from Fiction in Mid-January
There are a lot of reasons why many trade rumors amount to nothing. Whether the rumor is based off old information or floated by a motivated party (like an agent), the large majority of rumblings you hear this time of year will never materialize into anything substantial. That's just the way it works.
That doesn't mean that dissecting each rumor and trying to understand the logic behind it is a fruitless exercise. Even if the rumor as a whole is fiction, usually there are little morsels of truth somewhere in there.
With that in mind, let's take a look at five of the most common transaction rumors around the league and separate fact from fiction.
Cleveland Cavaliers Might Not Extend Luol Deng Right Away
The Rumor: According to Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports, "the Cleveland Cavaliers are interested in keeping [Luol] Deng long-term, but also know there is plenty of time to evaluate him and begin extension talks, a league source said."
Fact: It's true that Cleveland doesn't technically need to be in a rush to sign Deng, as it'll be able to do so until June 30. Given Deng's injury history, it's the prudent move to let the year play out. If Deng gets injured as it currently stands, only he loses negotiating power, which shouldn't hurt Cleveland at all.
Extending him now means taking on unnecessary risk. The desire to keep Deng long-term, especially when you consider the assets forfeited for him, makes plenty of sense.
Fiction: The idea that the Cavs are delaying on an extension for Deng to leave the door open for LeBron James feels false. Pipe dream aside, Cleveland will have to renounce the rights and cap hold to Deng in order to clear max space in free agency.
If the Cavs had any indication that James was coming back, forfeiting future assets for Deng wouldn't make any sense, as Deng would have to sign through free agency for a significantly reduced contract to play in Cleveland going forward. It's all very unlikely logistically.
Verdict: Neither side has much incentive to negotiate an extension right now. Deng should want to wait and see if Cleveland can be a successful playoff team, and Cleveland shouldn't want to take on extra risk. I'll buy that this is a negotiation that will be tabled until the season is over.
Increasing Belief Boston Celtics Will Trade Rajon Rondo
The Rumor: According to Chad Ford at ESPN.com (subscription required), there's an "increasing belief" around the league that Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge will seek to trade Rajon Rondo for multiple assets.
Fact: The Celtics are rebuilding, and Rondo's contract is set to expire next year. That alone should be enough to make Ainge uneasy about retaining his star point guard, especially if the losses pile up once he returns to the court.
Fiction: Ainge will shop Rondo because he's the one piece left capable of clearing the books completely and pulling in multiple draft picks, but the timing isn't right quite yet. Rondo is set to return "sooner rather than later," head coach Brad Stevens said, according to Sean Deveney of the Sporting News, but he won't likely have enough time to re-establish his full trade value by showing he's completely healthy.
Given Rondo's public support of Stevens and a lack of trade partners with assets to give up, Ainge's price for Rondo will likely be ridiculously high in any trade. There's a reason why he has taken the stance that he won't be trading Rondo.
Verdict: It's doubtful that Ainge actively sells on Rondo before something forces his hand, and now would be just about the worst time to try to move him in a deal. There's been very little indication that a Rondo trade is becoming more likely. I'm selling this one.
The New Orleans Pelicans Are Exploring Eric Gordon Trades
The Rumor: According to Sean Deveney of Sporting News, the New Orleans Pelicans "remain active in their pursuit of trading guard Eric Gordon."
Fact: Gordon has always been a strong candidate to be shopped and dealt, primarily because of his hefty long-term contract that runs through the 2015-16 season. With no starting center, trying to upgrade from Gordon and adding another frontcourt option next to Anthony Davis makes sense.
Fiction: Gordon has been healthy this year, but he hasn't produced at a level anywhere near his contract. Upgrading in production is going to be awfully difficult in a Gordon trade, as it's hard to imagine that any team would take on his deal while also sending away a legitimate frontcourt player.
Verdict: Again, the timing doesn't feel right. With starting point guard Jrue Holiday and floor-spacing big man Ryan Anderson out for significant periods of time, now wouldn't seem to be the time to trade one of your best perimeter scorers.
When there are conflicting reports like this, usually it's the franchise covering up for a leak and protecting its player. Given Gordon's history of wanting to play elsewhere, though, we shouldn't rule out that this originated from his camp.
Andrew Bynum Wants More Than the Minimum Salary
The Rumor: According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, free-agent center Andrew Bynum wants more than minimum salary.
Fact: Bynum has been rumored to have multiple suitors after being waived by the Chicago Bulls, but teams have reportedly been hesitant to bring him into the mix. Contenders don't want him to spoil any chemistry, and non-playoff teams are unlikely to view him as being worth the hassle.
Fiction: Bynum apparently wants to sign with the Miami Heat or Los Angeles Clippers, but there's good reason to believe he doesn't want to actually play for those teams or anyone else.
Verdict: This one is very simple. I believe that Andrew Bynum wants to squeeze as much money out of this next contract as possible, because it very well might be the last time he can convince a team into signing him. If Bynum had any interest in playing basketball, he wouldn't be in this situation in the first place. I buy that it's about the money more than anything else.
Kevin Love Is Favoring the Knicks or Lakers in 2015 Free Agency
The Rumor: According to Sam Smith of Bulls.com, Kevin Love "is said to be favoring the [Los Angeles] Lakers or the [New York] Knicks in free agency in 2015 when both will have money for perhaps two free agents."
Fact: Love played at UCLA in college, so perhaps there's an affinity there for Los Angeles. As for New York, it's harder to see what the pull is, but both teams are in major media markets and both aren't afraid to spend to build a contender.
Fiction: Are we so sure that the Lakers and Knicks will have cap space in 2015? The Knicks should just by way of losing the big deals of Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani, among others, but the Lakers won't have space unless they pass on a max free agent this offseason or Kobe Bryant retires.
Verdict: It's hard to say whom Love is favoring in free agency right now because all of the contenders aren't known yet. Los Angeles and New York are two of the higher-profile teams with projected cap space, but a lot can change between now and then. We'll tentatively buy this for now, but as LaMarcus Aldridge and the Portland Trail Blazers have shown us this year, a lot can change in just a few months.