Let the rumor season begin.
Sure, the NBA playoffs may be starting, but for every team that didn't make it, the offseason is now underway. While transactions can't officially happen yet, the buzz about which players might leave their teams, be traded or ultimately stay will now begin in full force. Right through the summer, the speculation will be thick.
So, why not get the rumor season started by breaking down a few of the big names recently in the news?
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
Will he stay or will he go now? That's the question surrounding Carmelo Anthony, though for the moment, most people seem to think he'll return, at least according to Sam Amico of Fox Sports:
Anthony himself seemed a bit conflicted on the matter during interviews. Frank Isola of the New York Daily News transcribed some of his comments:
You have to think that Phil Jackson's presence with the Knicks will weigh heavily in Melo's decision, as the Zen Master looks to build a championship roster. That won't be easy thanks to some brutal contracts to contend with in the present, but with Jackson and Melo in tow, you have to think the Knicks could be a major player for free agents down the line.
Expect Melo to stay. Just don't be shocked if he goes.
Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers
Since Gasol was mentioned in Amico's tweet, we'll go to him next. The long-time Laker—who has basically become the most popular name in the NBA during each trade deadline—has always seemed fond of the organization, even through the strife, and Kobe Bryant is certainly fond of Gasol.
But there seem to be more reasons for Gasol to leave than stay, as Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News notes:
The Lakers and Gasol are both lukewarm about reuniting. The Lakers will not pay Gasol near the $19.3 million he made this season. Despite Gasol’s versatility, the Lakers also believe his best years are behind him. Gasol will not return if he fields offers from championship-caliber teams and/or D’Antoni is retained. Still, Bryant’s support and Gasol’s affection for this franchise could ensure he has not expended his nine lives with the Lakers.
And Gasol himself has said he'll be keeping his options open, via Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:
Gasol's time in Los Angeles appears to be drawing to a close. He'll probably be able to garner more money elsewhere on a team more equipped to compete for a title. The Lakers have dangled Gasol for years now—it's time for him to cut the string once and for all.
Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers can offer Kyrie Irving a max contract this summer and, if they are truly committed to him as the franchise cornerstone, likely will do just that.
The question is, would Irving accept the offer? Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal thinks it could go either way:
He was asked again tonight about signing a max contract this summer (by my count the third time it has come up) and he again refused to say he would accept it. But he came closer than ever before.
“It’s a big deal for me and my family if they do offer me that,” he said. “It would be exciting and I’ll make the best decision for me and my family. That’s what it’s going to boil down to for myself. I’ve been a part of this and I want to continue to be part of this.”
I’ve said this at least 1,000 times, so let’s go for 1,001: I have absolutely no idea what Irving will do this summer. None.
But I know the concept of getting him out of Cleveland has been very real since early in his second season. I also know there are those within the Cavs who question whether or not he’s worth a max deal. Add it all up and… anything is possible this summer. Anything.
Irving could sign on for the full five years, he could ask for an opt-out after three or he could reject the deal outright. It would be a huge gamble to reject the deal entirely—no player on a rookie deal has ever done that.
As Lloyd notes, Irving's injury history and occasional attitude issues could dissuade the Cavs from offering the max. On the other hand, this is a two-time All-Star who just turned 22 years old and averaged 20.8 points and 6.1 assists this season. For a team trying to build through the accumulation of young talent, keeping Irving is logical.
But you don't just go throwing around max deals willy-nilly, especially if you have any reservations about a player whatsoever. And if Irving is offered a max deal and doesn't sign it, well, it's safe to say his time left in Cleveland is likely to be short.
This summer could define the next 10 years of Cleveland basketball. There may not be a more important summer to the organization that the one when that LeBron James fella decided to make the move to Miami.
Luol Deng, Cleveland Cavaliers
Sticking with Cleveland, the team could be losing another key contributor in forward Luol Deng. From Amico:
Deng, 28, will be an unrestricted free agent in July, meaning he is free to sign with any team without the Cavs possessing the option to match. The Cavs are expected to make an offer, but after years of success, Deng may prefer to move on. The Lakers and Suns are among those interested, league sources say.
Deng averaged 16.0 points and 5.7 rebounds per game this season, so Cleveland would be wise to keep him, but there will also be enough of a market out there that the Cavs may simply be outbid (especially if they tie up a lot of cap space to a max deal for Irving). Or, as Amico notes, Deng could decide he wants to return to a contender.
Yes, the Cavaliers could have quite a different look come next fall. It isn't easy to be a Cleveland fan, is it?